Radio for Children

© Michel Delorme - Radioenfant.ca

Children are good at radio. Radio is good for children and listening to children on the radio is good for everyone. They are articulate, interesting and funny.  So how is it that children have been forgotten in radio programming? In Canada, they represent roughly 20% of the population, yet less than 1% of broadcasting concerns them. In developing countries, children make up around 40% of the population, but there is practically no radio programming created for them at all. Everywhere radio is centred on the tastes of adult audiences. Programming addresses people aged 15 and older while children are ignored. Neither authorities nor the media have reflected seriously on the concept of radio for children.

Despite the declaration of rights or laws, we do not respect children in matters concerning radio.

Even in countries with progressive rights and legislation, children are often forgotten in radio. The Canadian Broadcasting Act is clear: “through its programming [it should] serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children.” The indifference of the media encourages the authorities not to respond to the issue of compliance with the Broadcasting Act in respect to children. The question is completely ignored!

My many years of experience in radio production with children confirms that radio is a medium that is easily accessible to children and that it possesses great development potential — much more than writing or television. Radio is the universe of sound, speech and music. Children will happily step to the microphone to express themselves and to ask questions. Young people are avid radio consumers, but they are also excellent content creators. It is up to us adults to ensure that they are given a voice on radio.

A High Potential for Enlightenment and Communication!

From a very young age, radio can introduce children to infinite worlds that are both fun and educational. Providing a place on the airwaves for children’s songs, their music and literature will no doubt reach a wider audience. Children's radio must be open to a variety of musical genres and artistic content. It cultivates imagination, nurtures dreams and encourages play. Children's radio offers specific information that helps young people to learn about and to be active in their environment. As is the case for adults, radio teaches children what they need to know in order to live within a society. It promotes socialization. Radio for children motivates and arouses curiosity.

Radio creates dialogue, it is interactive: one listens and speaks. A youth radio community takes shape as dialogue and engagement are encouraged. The radio is a way to learn, it is a school without walls. Local radio strengthens local culture. Children's radio is fun and it makes us laugh through stories, tales and riddles. For children, this is a game that creates dreams and nurtures the imagination.

Radio is underused in education and its potential as a learning tool is often underexploited. When radio equipment is installed in a classroom, it becomes an opportunity to experience communication. Among other things, it facilitates language development. In the school environment, radio is a powerful educational tool that can help children reach academic goals. Radio education is not strictly didactic, but can also be communicative and enjoyable. Accessible and well rooted in their experience, music and song is popular with young people as a reflection of their universe. New web technologies allow radio to expand its educational function to a wider audience. This new form of radio is an effective and economically feasible opportunity for young people to express themselves, to exhibit their knowledge, their interests and concerns. The desire to communicate is at the centre of educational radio and interaction with the audience feeds this expression.

Communication is a major driver of development, especially for children. In our world, communication has become increasingly dependent on media. Technologies such as television, video games and the internet are omnipresent in the world of communication and making it more sensational and less participatory. Exchanges were once on a local scale, community-based, and in an immediate environment with traditional channels of communication. The challenge of modern communication for children is how to incorporate the local reality in their world-view. New technologies coupled with the miniaturization of radio equipment make radio increasingly available to young people. Children excel quickly in the use of these new media. It is possible to imagine radio services whose main content comes from young producers (aged 4 to 18) supported by technical guidance from respectful and responsible adults. In this scenario, young people could produce and receive excellent programming via a network of interconnected school and community based radio.

Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 13

“The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.”

Radio is an excellent medium for children, and we must recognize and respect their right to accessible programming. Every large city with over 250,000 inhabitants should provide children with access radio content that is both educational and entertaining.

- Michel Delorme

About the Author

Michel Delorme has dedicated the past 15 years to the creation of radio for children. He has produced radio with students from over 500 schools across Canada and, most recently, in Haiti. In 2007, UNICEF Madagascar called on his services to produce educational and entertaining radio programming. He is currently working to establish a youth radio station in Haiti under the direction of UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Haiti Michaëlle Jean.

A pioneer of community radio in Canada, Michel Delorme was at the origin of Canadian, and Quebec community radio associations, and of the first international assembly of community radios held in Montreal in 1983. He was elected president of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (Association Mondiale Des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires - AMARC) from 1988-1992. “Think globally, act locally.” It is with this idea that he has pursued the development of radio for the service of the community in Canada including Quebec and Acadia, Vietnam and throughout Africa and helped to unite them under the international association AMARC, a partner with UNESCO.

Michel Delorme authorizes radios and other users to use some or all of this article to celebrate World Radio Day.

Disclaimer

The designations employed in this paper and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO and do not in any way commit the Organization.

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