Streaming means we can tune into breakfast shows, travel bulletins and local gossip on every continent – and revel in radio’s ability to create a sense of community
I’d missed the joke about the three-legged chicken. It was causing a stir.
“That one about the chicken with three legs you told yesterday,” said a presenter on Ireland’s Midwest Radio’s afternoon show, “apparently Ronald Reagan told it first.”
“Did he, now?” the co-host replied.
“Yes. You stole a joke from Ronald Reagan.”
“Jeez, I’m going as red as a tomato here.”
The conjunction of tripedal fowl, the 40th president of the United States and two men in a studio in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, will never make a list of great radio moments but it was enough to coax me from between my four walls, even if it was via the imagination.
Radio has never been more popular: it’s seen off challenges, from television to the internet, to become stronger than ever. In 2017, according to industry ratings body Rajar, nine out of 10 people in the UK listened to the radio every week. Perhaps it succeeds because we have to conjure up our own pictures of events and places beyond our immediate surroundings. As a bored, lonely boy growing up in an anonymous south-east London suburb, I’d spend most evenings in my bedroom jamming a coathanger into the back of an old radio and scanning the airwaves, awestruck by the range of languages and music bursting out of the night through skirling static; each voice sending tantalising reassurance of a world beyond the dispiriting confines of my own.
We’re living through a different kind of isolation these days but radio is again a valuable form of escape. If we can’t go to the world then it has to come to us and, thanks to its radio stations, is available at the touch of a screen. Streaming has made global radio local and I can eavesdrop on continents through their breakfast shows, travel bulletins and drive-time programmes on a range of devices.
A good way to navigate the crowded airwaves is through the Radio Garden app: a portal set up by Dutch national broadcaster NPO in which a tide of little green dots washes across the surface of the planet, each representing a different station. Alight on any of them and be transported somewhere different, somewhere exotically local.
Read the rest of this feature HERE at The Guardian website.