I gave my stage 3 speech at Vox Populi Toastmasters last week and I’m so delighted to have it over and done with!
I really struggled to come up with a topic for the speech – and the objectives of this particular project were to present a general and specific purpose. I kept putting off Radio as a topic because it’s something I do every day of the week and I thought – People won’t be interested in that! But once I wrote the speech and stood up at the top of the room, I realised that most people don’t think about Radio in this way.
So without further ado – my stage 3 speech…
Sitting on a shelf or in a car dashboard, it’s merely a box full of wires and silicon chips. It may not look handsome, or technologically advanced and its outward appearance fails to portray the magic it contains. But the radio is clearly one of the most ingenious devices ever created.
Radio holds a special significance for us here in Ireland. The first Irish radio broadcast didn’t take place in an RTE studio – oh no – it happened during the 1916 Rising when the rebels broadcast a call to arms from the General Post Office. You see, radio was actually used as a nationalist tool, not just for propaganda but also to distinguish us from UK in News, Sport, Language and Music. In fact, the first legal station in Ireland began broadcasting in 1926 and was called 2RN, named after the song, “Come back to Erin”. This station eventually became RTE Radio One. In 2006, RTE Radio One celebrated 80 years of continuous public service broadcasting – making it one of the oldest stations in Europe. In 2011 a whopping 85% of us are listening to a wide range of national, regional and local stations on any given day.
So, in an age where technology is advancing at a startling rate – how is the radio still thriving? I’ll tell you how – its continuously available. You can hear it anywhere you like – at home, in the car, in work, in a shop, in a cafe, on the internet or on your phone. And you can listen to it while showering, driving, shopping or flicking through a newspaper. It’s also a medium that allows for dipping in and out with constant updates and continuous playlists. Why would you turn to any other media? It’s been well documented that Television is bad for us – so if you could drag yourself away from that flickering screen – I’m going to outline why Radio is a much better choice.
First off, it’s the only form of mass broadcasting that speaks to ONE PERSON – you. In fact, one of the first things you learn as a radio presenter is never to address your listeners as a group or refer to them as “all of you”, “you listeners” or “the audience”. Instead, presenters connect with us on an intimate level by saying “Hello and welcome to the programme, I hope you’re well” or “We’d love to hear from you – text us now on 55555”. It is the presenters JOB to bond with the listener. Studies actually show that listening to the radio is usually a solitary activity – and that people think of presenters as undemanding friends who are there for company but don’t need complete and utter attention. There are many examples of this kind of personality in Ireland – including Gay Byrne and the late Gerry Ryan, both of whom commanded an extremely loyal following. Oh it tries…but Television just doesn’t have that level of intimacy.
Radio deserves the top spot because it gives listeners access to up to the minute information. There’s no waiting for the lighting to be right, getting a presenter to makeup or setting up a camera – with radio – once that red light comes on you’re live and breaking news can reach your listeners first. Even with social networking sites developing at breakneck speed – radio has become a point of confirmation and analysis. Take for example the death of Osama bin Laden last week. Millions of people read the news on Twitter but a great deal of those people then went to their radios for confirmation and conversations on the topic.
I’ll give you another example, I was working for Tom McGurk’s show on 4fm during the Eamon Lillis Trial. Lillis was accused of murdering his wife Celine Cawley and the jury weren’t due to return a verdict until Monday. It was Friday evening and only a skeleton staff were running the station. Luckily I was glued to twitter. A journalist in the courtroom tweeted “Verdict coming NOW” at 5 minutes to 6. Even our news desk was shocked! The next tweet said “Manslaughter 10 votes to 2” and after confirming with a courts correspondent we were the first station to broadcast the result. Television doesn’t broadcast news bulletins on the hour or half hour – for up to date information – radio is your medium!
Another way that radio trumps TV is that it is extremely responsive to listeners. YOU CALL IT ANSWERS. Theres a feeling that if you call the radio station – the presenter will answer (and in some cases that happens!) Just look at phone-in shows like Liveline – which has 404,000 listeners! There’s a great sense that if you Talk to Joe on the radio your problems will be solved.
I experienced this first hand working on Newstalk’s Tom Dunne Show recently. A man text in to say that his father had died and that he had wanted his ashes be spread at Cheltenham during race week. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make it over to the UK. So Tom put the call out to listeners and sure enough – someone was kind enough to bring the ashes to Cheltenham and scatter them. Now, if that’s not responsive – I don’t know what is! There’s something less impromptu about Television – TV presenters may read texts, or they might scroll on the bottom of a screen – but it rarely brings people together like that.
Probably my favourite thing about Radio is it’s role as the ultimate storyteller. It can take the mundane and make it into something magnetic. When someone tells a story on the air, there’s a quality in their voice that gives you so much more information than if you were watching them on television. Also, you can’t see them – so you’re hooked into the piece wanting to know what comes next. This brings to mind the 1938 dramatic broadcast of War of the Worlds narrated by Orson Welles. The piece, broadcast on Halloween used a series of simulated news bulletins to dramatise an alien invasion on earth. Following the production, there was widespread panic as some listeners thought the invasion was real. If you haven’t heard it – google it – it is truly one of the great masterpieces of broadcasting. Other great radio storytelling can be found in National Public Radio’s This American Life programme – which is available to download as a podcast. The show takes all kinds of stories from the everyday to the sensational and brings them to life in short acts. When I listen to these stories, I cant help but react physically by laughing out loud or becoming visibly upset – they are truly inspiring.
So to hammer home my point: Radio IS the ultimate medium for news, sport, features, comedy, music and stories. Why watch television when the radio is so much more personal, responsive, instant and imaginative? I’d like to conclude with a quote: “Radio is for the mind, television is for the mindless”