Radio Week: The frequency of radio – a friendly companion

From the imagination inspired by serials and soaps to the banter brought on by office jams, radio is a classic Kiwi companion. StopPress chats to radio listeners about what keeps their hearts and minds tuned in.

In a world of incredibly diverse media and content options available, one of the oldest mediums is still a favourite in New Zealand. For many, young and old, the reason is a simple one: the immediate and personal connection we feel when listening. Radio is a companion.

Radio is unique in that it offers human voice and human choice and retains the ability to surprise while keeping you in touch with the real world. “It strikes our minds and hearts quickly and powerfully. As humans we are social animals, so the sound of humans is a comfort,” says Dr Peter Hoar, a Senior Lecturer in Radio at Auckland University of Technology.

Listening to radio is part of Hoar’s job, but it’s also his go-to for entertainment, information and most of all company. “The old Reithian trident of inform, educate, entertain still informs and motivates my listening. I’ve always enjoyed the way radio goes straight into the mind and imagination,” he explains.

Radio is imagination

It’s this ability of radio: to emotionally connect with us, Hoar says that makes the medium so powerful. “People listen to talkback for the voices and opinions even if they never call in – it’s the entertainment and the connection that makes radio so personal. The sounds go into our minds quicker than images and radio stimulates the imagination more because you have to picture things. The theatre of the mind as the cliché goes,” he says.

A sentiment shared by 65-year-old Geraldine Travers, a District Councillor for Hastings District, whose first memory of radio was being aware of the need to be quiet while her mum listened to ‘Portia Faces Life’ and ‘Dr Paul’. “Stories like ‘Diana and the Golden Apples’ are forever etched in my memory,” Travers enthuses.

Growing up in the Waikato, the Travers’ station of choice was 1ZH and later 1XH. “My father was a dairy farmer and he always said the cows milked better when he had music from the radio playing,” she laughs. For her, radio was omnipresent; a breakfast staple that would inform and an after-dinner escape that would inspire the imagination when listen to serialisations. “Travelling to school on the bus on a Tuesday, the main topic of conversation was the previous night’s episode of ‘Life with Dexter’,” she says.

For Jackson Ogle, a 27-year-old Quantity Surveyor from Auckland, his relationship with radio has evolved from bitesize snippets to more connected engagement. “I remember listening to news and breakfast shows while getting ready for school, as my father always had it on for breakfast. And then to and from school [and later Uni]. Growing up, I listened to mostly Top 40 music stations such as The Edge and ZM as they discussed current events that I was interested in,” Ogle explains.

Since entering the working world, radio has become more of a companion and conversation-starter for Ogle. “I still listen to radio in the car on the way to and from work but also during my time at work, first as a builder and now in the office as a quantity surveyor. I have radio on throughout the day in the background. I feel it breaks the silence and creates conversation or even debate which can be quite invigorating throughout a working day,” he adds.

According to GfK Radio Survey 1 2020, 74 percent of people 18-34 listen to the radio each week. Hoar suggests that these numbers support the notion that people of all ages still find comfort and companion in radio. “It’s comforting to hear other voices. Radio has the spoken word at its heart – the oldest form of rational human communication. It’s almost primal.”

As for Travers’ current listening, with more choice she has found a companion in independent radio journalism which she suggests is less agenda-driven and more in tune with her thinking. With more choice comes more reason for staying tuned. Ogle says that he listens to different radio stations for different reasons. “I listen to Radio Hauraki for the hosts, they all have a similar sense of humour to myself.” But, when it comes to his music preferences he is tuned more towards The Breeze or The Sound, “as I now prefer that music compared to the new release music we are getting today,” he says.

“Our most powerful tool is language and that’s what radio depends on. Words [in talk and song]persuade, cajole, seduce, irritate – and that’s what radio does so well as it’s a conversation and it plugs straight into our imaginations,” Hoar concludes.

This story is part of a content partnership with The Radio Bureau.

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