How Is FM Radio Still Relevant?

By Roy L Hales

In a world where even television is being eclipsed by the internet,  recent polls show that close to 80% of the American public still listens to FM radio at least once a day. More Americans listen to AM/FM radio each week than use Facebook. The statistics are similar for Canada. How is FM radio still relevant?

How Is FM Radio Still Relevant?

“Radio has always been a more intimate medium to get information from people … I worked in radio probably fifteen years and did, back and forth, television, radio and documentary films … When you interview people for radio they forget there is a microphone in front of them. It becomes a conversation. It is very friendly, whereas when you point a camera at someone’s face [and] suddenly they become all self conscious …” said Jeanne Landry, former CBC employee & now Executive Director of the Association Francophone de Campbell River.

She added, “For me, radio will always be the best medium … It is also easier to edit. You don’t have to do cut aways or covering footage for when you want to cut part of an answer … You can also listen to radio while you do something else.”

When Disaster Strikes

FM Radio could also play a significant role when disasters strike.

The Canadian Radio Television and telecommunications Commission recognizes that if the grid goes down during a disaster, small scale broadcasters like Cortes community Radio may be “the primary, or only, source of local information to their audiences”

Amanda Glickman, of Cortes Island Emergency Communications, used an anecdote from the Syrian Civil war to illustrate the invaluable role that both FM radio and ham radio can play.

“There is a pile of amateur radio operators in Syria who have been putting up FM broadcast stations on the fly. Because of those stations, the public is being informed where to go and where not to be. [Twitter, Facebook, cell phones, televisions, the internet etc] do not work when the repeaters and stuff get blown up … They require a lot of infrastructure … When a tower goes down or a repeater site goes down, you have to wait until the company comes to deal with it.”

Is Radio Relevant For The Next Generation?

Is radio relevant for the next generation?

“I know some of the older kids listen to Cortes Radio and some of the younger ones do because because their parents do. I think if kids are connected to FM radio now, it is probably through adults, for the most past. Now they can stream anything they want. When I think about my connection to radio and me listening to AM radio in Winnipeg [when she was growing up], it is a different connection for kids right now.”  – “Jonesy”, Producer of CKTZ’s Mixtapes and a teacher at Cortes

“We  have a generation where they listen only to what they want to hear. I come from the generation where the radio came on in the morning …, ” says said Jeanne Landry.

She added that the next generation, “are going to podcasts” such as the one you see at the top of this page.

(There is much more detail in it.)


Originally broadcast on Cortes Community Radio, CKTZ 89.5 FM on Wednesday Oct 20, 2017.

Top Photo Credit: Alan Douglas (1995) Radio Manufacturers of the 1920s, Vol. 2, Sonoran Publishing, USA, ISBN 1886606005, p. 3 on Google Books. Source credits it to Radio World magazine, 1922., via Wikipedia (Public Domain) 

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