Monday Musing: Reading Through Radio

I make no secret of how much I depend on radio. Since moving to the US, in particular, my favourite BBC radio programmes are on regular rotation as I try to stay as connected as possible to my home. While many of them are on my schedule for nostalgia’s sake, I’m also continually impressed by the content that good radio services are able to put out into the world every week. I’ve always turned to radio – and particularly Radio 4 – for its amazing adaptations of different literary classics. Anyone who enjoys audiobooks will understand how powerful it can be to hear your favourite novel read out loud by an excellent cast. While it is surely the case that almost anyone, regardless of their life condition, can find a way to pick up a book, it is also a fact that many of us struggle to process this kind of visual information with the same ease as ingesting it aurally. Fortunately, in this world where little comes for free, radio continues to be a incredible global resource that is accessible to us all.

While, for most of the West, radio has been relegated to short car journeys (and, even then, consists largely of ads), radio continues to represent an incredible, mostly untapped resource for the world’s readers. You can tune in to Radio 4’s Book of the Week or the A Good Read review. Go to the Desert Island Discs archive and you can find episodes recorded with so many favourite authors – Marlon James was one of their most recent episodes. Radio is one of the most globally democratic institutions that we have available to us. International programming – of which the BBC is the most notable – reaches corners of the world repressed by autocratic rule or struggling to educate their populaces. It comes at no cost, nor does it depend upon the ability to buy $400 smart phones or laptops in order to have a listen. As we shift with even greater fervour toward a profit-centric world in which public services become increasingly redundant – or otherwise picked apart by governments in order to reduce national debt – it is so important that we continue to prove the utility of globally-available resources by consuming them. Reading through radio is surely one of the greatest services that we can provide for future generations, as we work to ensure its continued relevance to both entertainment and education across the world.

Anthony Doerr

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