Interview of Michael Socolow

UNESCO is pleased to make the audio and text of this interview available copyright-free for the celebration of World Radio Day 2018. Radio stations are especially encouraged to broadcast the interview, either in its totality or by extracting the answers and announcing the questions themselves.

Unesco spoke to Mr Michael Socolow from USA. He is a media historian whose research centers upon America’s original radio networks in the 1920s and 1930s. He is the author of Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016). He is also a former broadcast journalist who has worked as an Assignment Editor for the Cable News Network and as an information manager for the host broadcast organization at the Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney Olympic Games.


Michael, what do you make of sports broadcast and here, I am talking specifically about radio?

Radio broadcasting of sports has always been a terrific way for audiences to get excited and participate in the events that they listen to, dating all the way back to the Berlin Olympics of 1936.

How do you see the evolution there after?

They will always be a place for radio in the media of the world because radio is relatively inexpensive to produce and broadcast. And listening is such a powerful medium because in our minds, we engage ourselves and we participate. It is very exciting to listen to radio especially sports on the radio because the announcer really transmits a lot of excitement and there is a lot of passion about the sport and it really involves the listener to participate so I think radio sports broadcasting has a terrific future.

Why do you think there is such a low number for women broadcasters around the world?

I think there is such a low number of women broadcasters around the world because frankly, there is a bias against women. And I think women are more willing generally to listen to men on the radio but sometimes men aren’t as willing to listen to women’s voices on the radio and I think that’s a real problem. I think it is a bias problem but I think it’s one that we can overcome with education and by placing more women’s voices on the airwaves.

What do you think of US broadcasting because one of the known broadcaster Sarah Spain, she was talking about how she was trolled?

Yes, I think that is one of the saddest part about radio broadcasting and the media in general that there is this bias against women. They are held to a different standard and the bias is not applied to men equally. There have been fantastic women sports broadcasters. Here in America, people like Donna de Varona and others and they are just not treated the same way as men are. I think that’s a cultural bias, it’s a prejudice and I think it’s something we all need to work on overcoming.

Why do you think that there needs to be diversity in sports coverage?

It’s a great way to bridge cultures and societies – we all don’t love necessarily the same sports. For instance, what cricket means in the British Empire does not mean the same in the United States and what Hockey means in Scandinavia and Canada does not necessarily mean the same in Africa. By placing more of these sports and explaining them and making them exciting and engaging global audiences, we can create bridges amongst people and we could bridge cultures and languages, we can all enjoy things! A great example of this would be the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the Olympics, there was an example where the whole world pulled together and cheered on a group from the Caribbean, which does not even have snow to do well at the Winter Olympics. That kind of things really is helpful in terms of building friendships and global bridges between cultures.

What would be your message for the World Radio Day?

My message for World Radio Day is Radio is still a vibrant, wonderful, terrific, participatory medium that is useful around the world and it bridges cultures, bridges societies. Yes, on World Radio Day, I think we should celebrate the fact that radio is a democratic medium that it is easily accessible, that it is oral and people can listen to it. It is from that spoken tradition that goes way back, it is spoken language; it is not reading language which makes it much more accessible to billions of people around the world!