Today, Feb 13th, International Radio day, we would like to ask, especially in the context of sport – did video really kill the radio star? (As the Buggles wrote in their song written 1979)… did live broadcast really replace the way we consumed sport?
This World Radio Day is a chance to look at the radio as another way of educating people, spreading information and promoting freedom of speech and expression across the world. As we celebrate the power of the radio, Maccabi World Union wants to honor the role that radio has played in the sports world.
Radio is arguably the most important form of mass media to the sporting community. Everything from high school athletics to Olympic races are covered by the airwaves, and radio broadcasters often have a unique, special relationship with their listeners. Radio gives athletes a chance to speak their mind and have their voices heard, reaching more audiences than possible over television. Someone could tune into a game or interview from the gym, in the car, at work, et cetera, passively consuming their favorite sports moments.
In recent years, there has been an explosion in radio stations dedicated to sports-specific content. Early on, 3 sports dominated mass media: boxing, baseball and college football. The biggest radio event was the World Series, produced and shared by a finite number of major communications companies. Live broadcasting was not available in the early years of radio, with the era of commercial radio beginning in 1920.
The relationship between athletics and the radio has not been without its issues. Major League Baseball team owners and university officials in the 1920s and early 1930s had issue with the fact that radio was impacting game attendance negatively, as fans could sit at home and get the same play by play. Some teams even banned the broadcasting of their home games in their own cities. In fact, New York City, America’s largest media market, did not have daily game coverage until after 1938.
Some of the most iconic names in sports are radio broadcasters: Graham McNamee, Ted Husing, Mel Allen, Bob Costas. These voices defined sports for generations of fans, showing the immense impact radio has on athletic consumption.
Today, sports-only radio stations covering both sports news and game coverage are everywhere. Satellite radio companies have long-term agreements with sports associations, and major broadcasters have made radio a huge focus for sports content.
Whether a fan wants to listen to a game as it is played, wants to hear their favorite athlete get interviewed or listen to broadcast hosts discuss old highlights, the radio is an integral part of sports enjoyment.