Ten years ago when I first started doing media presentations in schools, I’d ask the students, “what is media?” and they would talk about TV and films. Sometimes a student would mention news media or even video games. Today when I do the same presentation, all students can think about is social media. Times have changed.
According to the Oxford dictionary, the term “media” is the plural of “medium”. The definition of medium is “an agency or means of doing something.” Literally, “medium” is a conduit – think of your science class when you learned about heat conductors. In Catholic theology we speak about sacraments as “media” in the sense that they mediate something else.
But the term “media” is not used to mean water or sacraments; it is used, specifically to mean communication media, or rather mass media of communication. So, anything that is used to communicate something to the masses is “media”.
And the Church has been using media to communicate the Good News as early as St. Paul. In fact, the Church was the champion of media as it used art, music, theatre and then print to spread the Good News.
But a book can only reach a few thousand people. A newspaper, perhaps could reach tens of thousands. It was not until the advent of Radio, at the beginning of the 20th century, that we could begin speaking about mass media. All of the sudden it was possible to reach millions with just one broadcast. And from that moment, the Church has been using radio to spread the Good News. In fact, it was in 1931 that radio-inventor himself, Guglielmo Marconi, who set up Vatican Radio under Pope Pius XI. The rest, as they say, is a fascinating history.
I think it’s fair to say that even today, with all the technological advances and the Internet (despite the fact that for students it's all about social media), radio is still the most popular media. Radio is a very inexpensive medium, specifically suited to reach remote communities. It is also a great medium to freely reach some of the most vulnerable populations: The illiterate, the disabled, shut-ins and the poor. I remember while growing up in Panama, going out in the interior of the country and even in the most remote locations, everyone had a radio. Radio allowed them to know what was going on in the rest of the country. And who doesn't listen to the radio in their car? Radio allows everyone, regardless of their education level to participate in public discourse. Radio also has a strong and specific role in emergency communication and disaster relief (especially in remote communities), and radio is extremely intimate: When you listen to the radio it's as if it's just for you. Radio allows everyone to be on the same playing field. It is a great medium of equality. However, despite the fact that they say radio reaches about 95 per cent of the world’s population, according to UNESCO, up to a billion people in the world, still do not have access to radio today.
This is why in on November 3, 2011, UNESCO approved the creation of the World Day of Radio. The day is celebrated every year on February 13th and aims to raise awareness about the importance of radio. The day also helps to facilitate access to information through radio and enhance networking among broadcasters.
This is why, Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation, recognizing the importance of radio and the need for Catholic radio in Canada, in 2009 partnered with the Archdiocese of New York’s The Catholic Channel (Sirius XM 129) to produce the Salt + Light Hour, a weekly radio program. The SLHour started from a small idea and with limited resources. It has become a leading Canadian Catholic audio program and podcast that offers quality music and interviews with artists and authors. Over the last four years the SLHour has featured most English-speaking Catholic artists. Among them, Fathers David Delargy and Martin O’Hagan of The Priests, John Michael Talbot, Matt Maher, Sarah Hart, Steve Angrisano, Jesse Manibusan, Critical Mass, Susan Hookong-Taylor, Audrey Assad, Sarah Kroger, L’Angelus, Janelle, Fr. Rob Galea, Chris Bray and many, many others. Some notable authors that have been on the program are Ralph Martin, Peter Kreeft, Fr. Scott Hurd, Lino Rulli, Elizabeth Scalia, Shawn Carney and Mother Dolores Hart, to name a few.
The program continues every week. As producer and host, I hope to bring you the best of Salt + Light: Inspiring messages, insightful interviews, interesting commentary and music; plus news updates with Alicia Ambrosio, Saint of the Week with Andrew Santos and diocesan updates from Canada and abroad, as well as great segments from our contributors. As I write this, the SLHour is not only carried on The Catholic Channel, but also on the Spirit Catholic Radio Network, which owns five FM Stations in Nebraska and parts of Iowa and South Dakota, and on WJTA 88.9 FM Holy Family Radio in north-eastern Ohio. For those of you outside of those broadcasting areas or without Sirius XM, you can stream the program or download it at our website: www.saltandligttv.org/radio or as a free podcast off iTunes.
And if any of you are managing English-language Catholic Radio stations, let us know if you’d like to carry the SLHour. Stay current with the Catholic Church in Canada and the world, and nourish your faith with the SLHour.
Happy World Day of Radio and visit us on Facebook.