The radio is one of the oldest kinds of popular media, widely available since the early 1920s. Today, however, television is the most popular form of broadcasting. Despite this, radio has many advantages over TV which are easily overlooked.
The Cost of Watching Television
The first of these is obvious: cost. On top of the price of a good-quality television set, viewers are obliged to pay a yearly fee for the privilege of watching TV. This is not a subscription to satellite or cable channels; it is a legal requirement to pick up TV signals and must be paid every year. If a person attempts to dodge this, they can be prosecuted and fined. A good digital (DAB) radio can be purchased for much less than this amount, with entry-level digital radios priced at around $30. This is a one-off payment. There is no fee for listening to radio. An analog radio (FM/LW) is even cheaper, but is lower-quality and picks up fewer stations.
In addition to these initial expenses, TV viewers are more subject to developing technology than radio listeners. After VHS, the recorded film became available on DVD. Then came high-definition and Blu-ray. Now, an even more expensive generation of TV viewing is up for grabs: 3D. To keep up with these advances, viewers are forced to re-purchase their entire collections of film. And there is the cost of extra TV channels, which are available by monthly subscription.
Radio Has More Variety
At such rate of expense, it would seem that TV must have significant advantages over the radio. This is arguably not the case. A common complaint of viewers is repeated programs, and despite hundreds of channels, a lack of variety in viewing choice. Many programs are merely spin-offs of others, following the same basic story-line. Not so for the radio: the majority of stations do not broadcast repeats, instead offering a “listen-again” feature accessible online. Many stations also make their programs available as free downloads in the form of podcasts.
Radio caters to a wide variety of tastes, from literature to gardening to all genres of music. For the low cost of a digital broadcast versus the various expenses incurred by television, the quality of the radio is relatively much higher than what is available on TV. It is informative, intelligent and highly entertaining — an art form in itself.
Additionally, the larger radio stations do not intersperse their programs with advertisements. Many of the smaller stations which do, such as Classic FM and Planet Rock, keep their advertisements relevant to the program (for example, news about upcoming concerts).
Radio is Safer Than Television
One obvious drawback of radio is that it cannot provide visual information. However, this is not necessarily a disadvantage: a radio program allows the listener to carry on with other tasks safely. For example, it would be hazardous to watch television while driving. Listening to the radio is unobtrusive and does not impinge on the driver’s observation, making it no less safe to listen to the radio while driving than listening to a favorite album of music.
Is Radio Really Better Than TV?
Radio is an entirely different medium to television. In some ways it is more demanding: for example, listening to a radio play requires a far greater use of imagination than watching the same performance being acted out. This will not suit everyone: for a person who is used to being presented with constant visual information, radio programs will be something of an acquired taste. Fortunately, almost all radio programs are available online for free, making it possible to explore this media without any extra financial outlay. It’s worth exploring as a cheaper, safer, and more satisfying alternative to watching TV.