Video can’t kill the radio star

Published: March 9, 2011

In the 1950s, the radio reigned supreme as the only major source of in-house entertainment.

I was talking to a friend about my favourite means of entertainment and told him I prefer reading books and listening to the radio. To this he said that television and the internet have made the radio obsolete.

Despite all my attempts to convince him otherwise, he failed to accept the radio is a mainstream means of entertainment.

How many people listen to the radio these days?” he argued. “About 100? Two hundred, at most?”

Though his ignorance astounded me, it made me think: is this really what people think about the radio today?

In the early 1950s or so, before the advent of television, the radio reigned supreme as the only major source of in-house entertainment.

My dad tells me how, as a child, he would sit with his shortwave radio and tune in to stations from Australia and the US. He fondly relates anecdotes of how the entire family would anxiously gather around it whenever a Pakistan cricket match was being played and eagerly listen to the ball-by-ball commentary of Richie Benaud and his contemporaries.

I have always been fond of the radio and listen to it whenever I can. But this hasn’t blinded me to how its importance has hit rock bottom over the past decade whilst TV viewership has skyrocketed.

In 1979, the English band The Buggles touched upon the same topic with their hit song, Video Killed The Radio Star, as did Queen in 1984 with Radio Ga Ga. At that time, it was songs like these that highlighted the ailing state of the radio and how it was slowly being lowered into its grave by newer, more visual, forms of entertainment.

In their track, Queen explicitly refers to how the radio now risked becoming little more than “background noise, a backdrop for the girls and boys’’ as TV usurped its throne at the top of the entertainment hierarchy.

And as if this wasn’t enough, the internet took the world by storm in the mid-1990s, opening a new chapter in the history of music and its distribution. The introduction of the worldwide web inevitably entailed the rapid proliferation of websites such as Youtube, Vevo and MTV Online, making music videos more ubiquitous than ever. I suppose the radio never really stood a chance.

But even with such fierce competition around, the radio has managed to survive even today and still garners genuine listeners from all over the world – certainly more than a 100!

Though other options are plentiful, I too still prefer the good old radio over all of them- especially when my song is playing:

I’d sit alone and watch your light,

My only friend through teenage nights.

And everything I had to know,

I heard it on my radio.

………

Let’s hope you never leave old friend,

Like all good things, on you we depend.

So stick around, because we might miss you,

When we grow tired of all this visual.

-Radio Ga Ga (Queen)

 

Zain R Mian

Zain R Mian

An aspiring aphorist; often attempts writing. A kid with all the airs and pretensions of a proper writer though unpoetically deprived of the skills of one. Likes to read, write and listen to music. Tweets @ZainRMian and blogs at zainrmian.wordpress.com.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

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