DITSONG: Museums of South Africa celebrates ‘World Radio Day’

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DITSONG: Museums of South Africa celebrates ‘World Radio Day’

By: Abraham Mohale – Junior Curator, Communition, Sighting and Survey, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History



World Radio Day is an international event, which is celebrated each year on 13 February. This day was proclaimed in 2011 by member states of the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as World Radio Day, and the date was endorsed by the United Nations’ General Assembly. The date also celebrates United Nations Radio, which was established in February 1946.  2024’s World Radio Day was celebrated under the theme: “A Century Informing, Entertaining and Educating.”

Following a request from the Spanish Radio Academy on 20 September 2010, Spain proposed that the UNESCO executive board included an agenda item regarding the proclamation of World Radio Day. The executive board added the item in its provisional agenda for the proclamation of the World Radio Day on 29 September 2011. UNESCO started an extensive consultation process in 2011 with diverse stakeholders such as broadcasting associations, non-governmental organizations, United Nations (UN) agencies, foundations, and bilateral development agencies, as well as UNESCO permanent delegations and national commissions. UNESCO is a UN organ responsible for contributing to peace and security by promoting international cooperation in education, science, culture, communication, and information. One of its key responsibilities is to promote knowledge sharing and the free flow of ideas to accelerate mutual understanding and more perfect knowledge of each other’s lives.

The pioneer of radio

Guglielmo Marconi (born April 25,1874, Bologna, Italy – died July 20,1937, Rome), an Italian inventor and electrical engineer first developed the idea of radio or a wireless telegraph in 1890. His ideas took shape in the 1890s, when he sent a wireless morse code message to a source more than a kilometre away. In 1909 he received the Nobel prize for physics, which he shared with German physicist Ferdinand Braun. From as far back as the mid-18th century industrial revolution to our present-day 4th industrial revolution, radio has always been with us, as a friend, an enemy, a confidant, an informer, advisor and in most cases an entertainer and educator. Radio has always catered for the poor, the rich, the educated and the uneducated people around the globe. Radio has been there for the urban dwellers and for the remote rural communities. It is the cheapest, most effective, and fastest mode of communication people prefer. Radio communications around the world continue to generate billions of monies in terms of marketing and advertising. The industry continues to develop internationally as the most commercial business with a massive value chain wealth. The industry still continues to hire and develop the careers of academics, engineers, technicians, broadcasters, content and brand managers.

The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA)

The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was established in July 2000 after the merger of the telecommunications regulator, the South African telecommunications regulatory authority (SATRA), and the independent broadcasting authority (IBA). It is an independent regulatory body of the South African government. In 2005 with the amendment of the Broadcasting Act, the postal industries were also incorporated in ICASA. ICASA acts as a watchdog of the telecommunications, broadcasting, and postal industries. The mandate of (ICASA) is to make regulations, impose licence conditions, receive and resolve complaints, to plan, assign, control, enforce and manage the frequency spectrum, and lastly to deal with ethical communication and to maintain and uphold its principle standards. The prime mandate of this organization is to curb propaganda, misinformation, misrepresentation, and unethical behaviour. The horrible Rwanda genocide and ethnic massacre of 1994 were influenced by hate speeches by rebel groups from the Hutus against the Tutsis. The national radio station was taken over by insurgents to fuel the cruelty. It is important for agencies of governments, lawmakers, and associations of broadcasters to regulate and maintain ethical standards and good communication practices, to enforce and uphold the good use of radio. During the dark days of apartheid South Africa, radio was used as a revolutionary tool to keep people informed of the struggle and the crime against humanity. Radio Freedom, a South African radio arm of the African National Congress (ANC) was used to curb propaganda of the regime, and update South Africans about programmes and plans of the liberation struggle.


Figure 2. Abraham Mohale, a junior curator at DISTONG: National Museum of Military History being interviewed at the Museum by Dr Moloko Mashamaite a presenter of Thobela FM on World Radio Day (13 February 2024).

The DITSONG: National Museum of Military History (DNMMH) has more than three hundred early types of radio related equipment, instruments and technological appliances that were used to support the functioning and working of these early objects. Most of them are World War 2 military designed radios, wavemeters, transmitters, switchboards, remote control units, power supply vibrators, tuners and much more.

DITSONG: Museums of South Africa’s (DMSA) Public Programmes, Marketing, Core Functions and Curatorial sections, organised this year’s World Radio Day event, held at the DNMMH. DMSA decided to invite Thobela FM, a Sepedi medium language radio station located in Polokwane, Limpopo Province and two secondary schools from Soweto to celebrate the day at the DNMMH. It was an educational entertainment event, and Thobela FM broadcasted live from our Museum premises. Next to the makeshift studio, was a temporary military radio display, which explained the history and the importance of radio communication. We displayed a selection of radios and communication equipment used as support during World War 2. Examples are generators and detectors for broken radio cables. Scholars were also given an opportunity to meet the broadcasters for career guidance in radio, and some were interviewed about their knowledge about radio and World Radio Day.


Figure 3. World Radio Day display at DNMMH.

Radio around the globe and here in South Africa continues to play a crucial role in fostering democracy and expressing our diversity. The media such as radio continue to shape opinions and perceptions and influence public discourse. Radio plays an important part in framing narratives on several issues and has a great power to influence people. In a post pandemic environment, radio, like other media had a role to play in contributing towards social cohesion, nation building and peace. Radio stations around the world are among the key stakeholders of governments, as they disseminate key information about government programmes of action and opportunities that the public can use, to improve their lives and its stakeholders. We all have a duty to appreciate the industry for its unique role in promoting the identities of all world nations across cultures, languages, as well as fostering peace domestically and internationally.


Radio has proven that any technological advancements can’t replace its relevance. It has become such an irreplaceable and essential platform to access important news for people and communities. Many of us have witnessed how radio has broken many barriers, how it addressed socio-economic conditions, and how it became the main source of information during our domestic and international news occurrences. Most of the World Radio Day themes are well thought, considering how many communities have been empowered with educational content that has in many instances saved life changing decisions. Neil Armstrong once said, “radio remains the most intimate and accessible medium of mass communication”. “Radio is the theatre of the mind; television is a theatre of the mindless” concluded Steve Allen.


“World Radio Day, what will you do?” Radio info 15 January 2012, Retrieved 28 May 2012.

UN General Assembly file http:// www.un org /gal search/ view doc. Asp? Symbol=A /RES/ 67/124

UNESCO (10 July) “13 February proposed as World Radio Day/ UNESCO, Retrieved 28 May 2012.

UNESCO Session 187 EX / 13. UNESCO.26 August 2011 Retrieved 28 May 2012” Director-General submits for approval of the Executive Board, the feasibility study for the proclamation of World Radio Day.


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