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Evaluation report

Global 1998: Finding the Right Frequency: UNICEF and Radio in the Twenty-First Century

Author: Mead, F. ; UNICEF NYHQ

Executive summary


The stated aim of UNICEF's communication policy (Ref: E/ICEF/1998/10) is "to create a global ethic of 'children first'.. .based on the recognition that all children have inalienable human rights as proclaimed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child". This is to be done by "influencing the attitudes and behaviors of all members of society, so that the scope and meaning of children's rights are understood, internalized and acted upon." The primary issues are these: given the increasing influence of television around the world, how much attention should UNICEF pay to radio? And will radio be an important tool for the organization in the next century? Can radio make a significant contribution to this process?

Purpose / Objective

The following report has three broad aims: to assess UNICEF's current use of radio round the globe and to explore the best ways of tapping its full potential; to consider how UNICEF can maximize its news coverage on the medium, based on feedback from the broadcasters themselves; and to see how the latest technological trends in radio might impact on UNICEF's communication policy.


To answer these questions and to establish a comprehensive policy for radio, UNICEF's Division of Communication commissioned a structured survey of both Field Offices and National Committees. The following analysis is based on detailed questionnaires returned by the two different arms of the organization. 72 questionnaires were returned out of a total of 110 sent out, giving a return rate of 65%. A second questionnaire-based survey was carried out with 30 radio broadcasters, including local, national and international stations.

Key Findings and Conclusions

Radio is considered a more important medium than television in a majority of UNICEF Field Offices. The reverse holds true in UNICEF National Committees. Overall, radio and television are rated about equal in significance when responses from UNICEF Field Offices and National Committees are put together.

There are still many more radios than televisions in the developing world. Radio often reaches remote and rural areas that television hasn't penetrated. Radio is cheaper to access and broadcast than television and has more airtime available. Radio has great potential as a medium for fund-raising efforts by UNICEF and can add a fresh element to campaigns that have been running on other media.

The audiences for radio tend to be more fragmented and localized. This makes it harder sometimes to get messages across a whole country or region via radio.

Most radio broadcasters, whether international, national or local are interested in principle in giving news coverage to UNICEF-related issues. Many stations, though, say stories have to have a news peg to be covered. In the US this often means finding a way of linking the story to a localized American concern. While international and public broadcasters are valuable outlets for UNICEF, popular local news stations like New York's 1010 WINS are important to target, as well as the influential, syndicated AM talk-radio shows which reach 40% of American adults. 34 million Americans commute in their cars for two hours every day.

Radio is an extremely important tool for development communication worldwide. Highly successful UNICEF-sponsored projects include the Sara and Meena radio drama series in Africa and Asia, the New Home, New Life radio soap opera in Afghanistan and the Oral Rehydration Therapy campaign in Nepal. Radio makes a very substantial contribution each year to the International Children's Day of Broadcasting.


In response to strong demand from Field Offices, more media training of UNICEF staff should be carried out. This would provide more media-friendly interviewees and increase the number of stories covered by radio.

Resources should be found to extend media training of journalists in specialized children's issues. The Global Communication Support Fund should be looked to as a source of funding.

In view of radio's very large contribution to the International Children's Day of Broadcasting, UNICEF should strengthen the framework for radio in the ICDB. It would be worthwhile reviving efforts to establish an international prize for radio broadcasters, to go alongside the Emmy for television.

UNICEF should devote greater efforts to using radio as a news medium and target popular AM radio as well as the other main national broadcasters.

The huge reach and coverage of the major international radio broadcasters should be tapped by cultivating extensive co-production projects.

UNICEF should closely monitor the demand for specially tailored audio material on the Internet. UNICEF should also keep track of developments in digital radio broadcasting.

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