While many people were celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend, another big holiday was going on that for anyone in radio is pretty special.

Most people do not know that February 13th of every year is World Radio Day. 

Yes, radio has its own day and each year the holiday celebrates one of the most powerful forms of media.

The day was first proclaimed by the member states of UNESCO in 2011, but was later adopted internationally by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

According to the Assembly, the aim of World Radio Day is to promote the medium, increase accessibility, and encourage more people to use it.

This past Saturday the global event celebrated over 110 years of radio and even motivated Pope Francis to tweet his support by writing, “#Radio has this beautiful trait: it carries the word to the most distant places. #WorldRadioDay.”

It was last Friday that the Vatican celebrated Vatican Radio’s own 90th anniversary. In his social media post, Pope Francis had also thanked the staff who hail from 69 nations, for their work and for “the love you put into it.”

“It is important to conserve the memory of our history, and to be nostalgic not so much for the past as for the future that we are called to build,” he added.

2021’s World Radio Day was divided into three main sub-themes: 

EVOLUTION: The world changes, radio evolves. This sub-theme refers to the resilience of the radio, to its sustainability. 

The next theme was INNOVATION: The world changes, radio adapts and innovate. Radio has had to adapt to new technologies to remain the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone. 

The last theme was CONNECTION: The world changes, radio connects. This sub-theme highlights radio’s services to our society—natural disasters, socio-economic crises, epidemics, etc.

Radio is one of the 20th century’s greatest and most important inventions. While it may not be as popular today as television, perhaps it was the first electronic gadget to ever play an important role in people’s lives.

It was the radio that first broadcasted that Britain had declared war on Germany. It was the radio where actor Orson Welles fooled society into thinking aliens were attacking in his “War of the Worlds” series. It was also the radio that played orchestra music for the first time and then later rock and roll, sparking an evolution of music. 

“Radio really became a way of broadening one’s personal world,” says Cynthia Trope, Associate Curator at Cooper Hewitt. “You could link to the rest of the world through entertainment broadcasts, news broadcasts… almost instantaneously.”

The COVID-19 crisis of the past year has really highlighted how radio as a medium has made it possible to ensure learning and provide information across the globe.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of its added value: with a penetration rate of over 75 per cent in developing countries, radio remains the most accessible medium”, UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay, said, citing that as a reason why it has been “a key tool” in responding to the crisis. 

“It has helped to save lives by making it possible to relay health instructions, make reliable information accessible and combat hate speech,” she added.   

Local radio even turned into a support network and a place for people to chat all across the world. For example, the U.K.’s BBC, the state-funded broadcaster, launched its Make a Difference campaign in March of 2020. It had taken over 300,000 calls and texts from listeners, helping integrate communities who were left distant due to lockdown and helped them stay connected.

Today, radio is more than just a sound medium. It is now an adaptive service that can be listened to anywhere and can play almost anything. It has also proven to be a support network for many. 

Especially with introducing podcasts, more listeners now are tuning in than ever. All you need is a microphone and an internet connection, and you have a podcast where you can talk about anything. Half of Americans above the age of 12 have listened to podcasts, which represents 144 million podcast listeners according to Edison Research.

“Radio thus remains an essential medium that proves its resilience daily, along with its capacity for innovation” said Azoulay. “With the creation of Internet radio, podcasts, smartphones and new technologies, it is truly blossoming in its second youth.”