February 13th marks World Radio Day, celebrating the legacy of this extraordinary medium in bringing the world closer together and bolstering democratic discourse.
As we move into 2022, we are living in a time of unprecedented technological achievements, but there is still something timeless about the radio. For every generation, every age, it is intrinsic to moments of nostalgia.
I remember weekends into my grandparents’ house, the smell of boiled vegetables and cigarettes accented by Newfoundland-Irish music buzzing out at AM frequency. My poppy humming along and hitting the main notes of the songs near and dear to him, instilling in me a love for the genre which continues to this day. My nan with VOWR in the background while she made a hearty pot of pea soup. Better yet, the “all 90s kids will remember” joy of waiting for the weekly top 40 on Magic 97 or OZFM so you could throw in a tape and hit “record” on your favourite songs.
My parents reminisce on sitting around “the radio” – said in a singularity and reverence we used to attach to “the TV” or “the computer” – having their imaginations run rampant to weekly audio plays, bonding over and booing at hockey games, or hearing an expert on nothing and everything call in to give VOCM their take on the day.
Go back even further and people will tell you about flicking on a radio to hear news of wars beginning and ending, empires crumbling and powerful figure’s lives cut tragically short. Or, on a lighter note, when American soldiers set up shop in the province and they got to hear Elvis and The Beatles for the first time. It’s not as good as the 90s hit singles, but, I mean, what is?
Speaking of Newfoundland and Labrador, we have our own role to play in this legacy when Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal here in 1901.
Did he know then he was setting the stage for all those Irish-Newfoundland shows, 99.1 top 40s, audio plays, sports games, open lines, and the free flow of up-to-date information that we take for granted? Or did he just think it would be a great way to remember the phone number to your favourite pizza place or the slogan of a cherished local business? If a jingle just entered your subconscious then, low and behold, the power of radio advertising in its purest form.
Today, radio offers podcasts on every subject imaginable and a plethora of satellite channels to choose from, but many still go for K-Rock in the shed, indie deep cuts on CHMR, the DJ banter to accompany their daily commute and the weekly countdown of the biggest hits (recording optional). I myself love to go for some cool jazz on the Coast and may or may not go with New Country 930 every Saturday. But will the dials of radio continue to be a soundtrack to our lives generations from now?
We’ll have to tune in and find out.