Today’s the 10th anniversary that World Radio Day has been marked. It was set up by UNESCO to celebrate how the medium keeps communities connected. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel that this is as important as ever.
Whether on a local, national or a worldwide scale, radio has been innovative and evolved to allow a diverse range of voices to be heard. Evolution, innovation and connection are very appropriate themes for this year’s event.
“Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium.
This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.
Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations.”UNESCO
I was at a conference run by the Community Radio Association at the University of Salford, about eight or nine years ago, when a guest speaker talked about communities around the world that would otherwise have not had access to the medium. By listening to radio there was a connection felt, by those invisible waves travelling through the air.
The talk had a profound effect on me – how a radio station’s content has the ability to directly impact people’s lives. Examples of this happening over years are endless and every station will have its own. Access to radio itself is the first step to this feeling of connection. For instance, Trevor Baylis’ invention of a wind-up radio relaying information to communities around the world that had limited access to electricity and / or batteries.
Then there are the calls to action that can be elicited by what’s broadcast. The most recent example of many that I can recall from the station where I work happened during BBC Radio Cumbria’s ‘Make a Difference’ campaign this week.
A volunteer from Silloth Community Hub, a shop where people pay what they can afford for food, had been speaking on Mike Zeller at Breakfast. Listening on his way to work was the manager of a local supermarket who was put in touch with the hub and agreed to make regular deliveries of food donations.
Radio has evolved to survive, listening today will sound very different to that of a decade ago, as the medium moves along to reflect the lives of the audiences that are served by it. It will sound different again in 10 years’ time too. Innovation is as apparent as ever currently, as stations adapt to keep broadcasting while staff work from home during the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to do so.
Happy World Radio Day! #WRD2021
I was delighted to be invited to speak to journalism students at my former university, UCLan in Preston, about how I work from home for BBC Radio Cumbria. Also, how the broadcast industry has adapted to the changes we’ve seen this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve been working from a back room in my house for more than seven months due to underlying health conditions. In keeping with the topic of the talk, it was delivered via video call to the students who were watching in their own homes on Microsoft Teams. An enjoyable session with about 40 people watching, who asked excellent questions at the end. Some of the salient points of the discussion are included here.
As a key worker, it’s a privilege to continue to contribute to the radio station throughout the pandemic in an important role. There’s a wide range of things you can do in the broadcasting industry, while working from home. I mostly produce items for the breakfast programme but can also record and edit reports as well as broadcast live, using specialised apps and software.
Here’s political correspondent, Paul Rowley, doing exactly that on BBC Radio Cumbria. Even with disruptions, it turned out to be a memorable moment and Tweet!
Without a commute of over an hour each day, I have a lot more time. I’m able to read for pleasure a lot more than I used to. There’s also more time to spend with family and pets… Even if my cat does seem to know when I’m on an important phone call because that’s exactly when she’ll meow for Dreamies! For parents, arrangements can be flexible to allow for childcare and appointments.
Technology has increased our connectivity; people from across the organisation can connect in an instant with the likes of Zoom. That’s something I do weekly for a diversity and inclusion steering group that I’m part of. I’ve had training sessions, without the need to travel or meet face-to-face, and even taken part in a Pilates session during a lunch break.
One of the main aspects I miss is the social side of going to work. Those ‘water cooler moments’ where you get to know colleagues personally in the little chats in the kitchen or corridor. Bouncing ideas around with others and having a banter in the office is great… it’s not quite the same over email! Our weekly team Zoom call to catch up with each other is something I look forward to.
The amount of screen time has, understandably, increased. Usually face-to-face meetings provide a break from this, but not so on a video call. It can be tempting to avoid taking breaks and just plough through but it’s actually even more important to do so when working from home, to prevent eye strain. Try to move around, rather than stay completely sedentary, too.
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when there’s no commute to provide a mental break and a chance to assimilate all that’s happened. My tip is to try to have a separate workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you only have something like a dining table to work off don’t sit in the same place to eat as well. If you use a laptop, pack that away once you’ve finished using it.
When the computer is only in the next room it can be tempting to “just do a little bit more” work – something I have been guilty of on occasion! Set boundaries so that you will only work the same amount of hours as you would, if you were physically in the office.
Our ability to work from home will probably be with us, long after this pandemic. It would be a shame not to take the positives of what has been learnt to become more effective in future. Without the need for as much travelling, it gives us more productive time in the day – and it’s better for the environment too. Our homes are now the equivalent of district offices.
As broadcasters and journalists working in the media, being adaptable is what we do. It’s how the industry has developed into what it is today and we shouldn’t fight this. We’re currently in a period of great change at the moment anyway, but the possibilities of what can be achieved when we put our minds to it are still limitless.
A recent example of how working from home has become a ‘new normal’ was evident in how the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing was broadcast. Showbiz reporter, Betty Redondo, Tweeted that it was actually directed by crew members from home. You wouldn’t have known any different while watching the show live on Saturday night either:
Finally, you can claim tax relief of £6.00 a week for job expenses, while working from home. More information is available HERE.