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The Power of Radio in a Global Pandemic

How radio stations and broadcasters around the world are adapting to COVID-19 

With many people in quarantine and the need for social distancing and isolation as a result of coronavirus, statistics show a rise in the listening of radio, especially online streaming. In a recent survey by Nielsen out of the United States, 83% of media consumers say they are listening to more radio now than before the pandemic. Despite the various media options there are in 2020, a large number are turning to radio while in isolation... In a time of heightened uncertainty and disrupted routines, consumers are turning to radio as a trusted source of information and community connection, mirroring patterns observed during past regional and national disasters and weather events,” said Brad Kelly, Managing Director, Nielsen Audio.

As individual’s schedules change what remains clear is the need for radio in a global crisis. It is evident that radio is considered a tool for strengthening communities, providing information and giving reassurance to all - the friendly voice of radio! Here are some examples of radio stations offering support during this crisis.

The United Nations Peacekeeping radio stations have always been used to build support for the peace process, however in the midst of COVID-19, these stations are providing important information to vulnerable communications. A majority of these communities are in conflict-affected countries and therefore, the stations are playing a vital role by sharing information. For example, Radio Miraya is a station out of the UN Mission in South Sudan. The station has been responsible for providing the community with valuable information as the majority of people in this region do not have access to internet, TV or newspapers. The station uses songs by popular artists which include best practices to stop the spread of the virus - like handwashing and social distancing. 

In Australia, many changes have been made to broadcasting schedules over the last few weeks to adapt to changes as a result of coronavirus. Fitzy & Wippa of Nova Entertainment, Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, John & Ross and Kyle & Jackie O have all started remote broadcasting their programmes, presenting from their respective homes.

Many other shows are also working towards creating home studios for their presenters to keep show running while protecting their staff. In addition radio station events and promotional activities have been postponed or cancelled, as the need for social distancing remains of utmost importance.

ABC Radio has also introduced "coronacast" to keep people up-to-date on coronavirus information. The podcast answers questions about the pandemic and provides latest news and research. Initiatives like this can be seen all over the globe, as the need for information grows everyday. 

The United Kingdom has seen a rise in online streaming for radio. While schedules have changed, people continue to turn to radio for news. Global UK confirmed that online radio listening has risen by 15%, while the BBC says that streaming of its radio stations has risen by 18% in the last week.

BBC Radio and Education director James Purnell said: "People turn to us during significant events for our news and analysis but also for music, entertainment and companionship".

Another iniative out of the BBC has been the giving away of free DAB radios to the vulnerable people aged over 70. To ensure this group have access to news and information during this isolation period. The BBC teamed up with manufacturers, retailers and charities to make this possible.  From March 30, anyone can nominate another individual for a free radio by completing an online application form

The nature of radio has changed in this climate, with programmes adapting to the demand for information and the need to bring the community together. In an initative which came out of the Netherlands, Dutch radio presenter Sander Hoogendoorn of 3FM, asked DJs from all over Europe to play Gerry and the Pacemakers’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ simultaneously, to ‘show unity in a time of crisis.’ The song was played across Europe, with radio stations in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Spain, Romania, Latvia, Slovakia and Estonia supporting the initiative.  The UK's BBC also took part in this movement. Since then, radio stations have had ‘survival bangers’ on high rotation, constantly reinforcing the power of building a sense of community in these times.

Remote Radio is now the norm in many parts of the globe, responding to the need for social distancing while still prioritising the desire for music and entertainment, as well as, the sharing of news and information. Community stations and those without the ability to adapt to home studios will be impacted by these changes, but not forever. 

Radio is an industry that can adapt to change and bring the world together in a time of crisis!