“Video Killed the Radio Star…”

I’m listening to a lot of radio these days. I also just finished studying at the Singapore Radio Academy – a wonderful opportunity where I learned some techniques of the airwaves and saw what DJs do and how they do it. There are several reasons why I chose this course, and because you are always in my thoughts, I’m distilling some information on the frequencies that connects between this media and the mind.

Radio Connects and Informs

Drawing from a quote by Confucius, Thomas Edison (and various others to which it has been attributed), my trainer said that for 19 years he’s never worked a day – because he loves being a DJ, so it feels like fun, not work. And what is the key to this ‘love’, I asked? It was connecting with people – sharing, listening, perhaps adding a bit of joy or laughter to a listener’s day. Mass media takes our jobs as human communicators and multiplies the effort multifold.

This power can be wielded in different ways – positively to inform, inspire, connect… and can negatively affect listeners as well. Another Chinese quote, roughly translated, expressed “A step in the wrong direction can be taken back, a wrong word spoken and the damage is done.” Personalities on radio are aware of that rule and aim to guide their words with that in mind. As DJs to those in our daily interactions, we need to remind ourselves of this critical fact – our words and actions can influence how others feel about themselves or how they label themselves, their abilities (or inabilities) which may have a ripple effect on others as well.

Radio Uses Its Limitations

Radio (up to this point in time) is not visual like television. It lacks the shelf-life of print media. In this way it has some individual strengths. It has a quick turn-around time – it is relevant to the moment – it is a very ‘present’ media. Usually the first to make available information on fast-breaking news stories, radio transfers quickly.

Looking at it from a hypnotic point of view, the lack of visual stimulus can be an advantage. Individuals need to use their own mental imagery to fill out the disembodied voices that float on these sound waves. Emotional words and stories can become personalised by people listening, due to their own subconscious power to fill in missing details. In many ways, radio forces people to use cerebral muscles to complete what isn’t there.

Radio is Intimate

One of the first technical points highlighted by successful DJs is that radio is different from talking in a crowd – it’s not “hello EVERYBODY”, but “hello (implied YOU)”. DJs just talk to the mic as though they are talking to one person – a friend, confidant, even ‘family’. In acting and speaking reciprocally, a ‘soul connection’ is made that not only brings listeners back to their favourite show, but also provides a constant and connected human being who can be available as and when the radio is turned on.

Looking at the isolation of commuters, the loneliness of urban disconnection for many around the world, and even the personalising of music systems (earplugs limit noise pollution but cut people off  from interaction amongst each other) radio personalities fulfil a need to have a ‘voice’ in an individual’s ears and life. Sharing viewpoints, ‘inside’ jokes and favourite music builds this relationship – an amazing thing to do on a grand scale. You might want to listen to the radio to find out some of the ways they connect with emotions, tap into or build on a personal relationship with ‘you’, and use stories to fill in the whole ‘picture’ – very hypnotic.

Radio – a Media on it’s Way Out? (Transform or Die?)

With a glut of information on all fronts, radio in its traditional form is taking hits in popularity. For information, newspapers and television (online or off), ‘google’ searches and more can be accessed easily (and some silently). As in other industries, this has forced radio to look for different options, keeping in mind the benefits people draw from radio in the first place. It may be a non-DJ-ed constant loop of music (larger and more up-to-date collection than my iPod), going digital (a trend that is being taken up in many countries more quickly than Singapore – interesting – comfort in change in technological formats is different for different people), or transforming interactions to a more grass-roots level (location and content that touches people more personally).

Interestingly, this transformative question is one that we as individuals can benefit by asking ourselves. Whether it is finding a better way to be a spouse or family member, to do our job/vocation, enhance our abilities in an area of interest… our reinvention must not only benefit ourselves but the various levels around us to be a worthwhile evolution. Change is the only constant and when we look at the minute and broader implications then, and only then, can we find a context that we may need to take that step forward.

The lines are now open to take your views…

Take care (and do write us at [email protected] with your thoughts),


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