I presume not many of you are familiar with the 1979 Buggles song, and even fewer familiar with the fact that it was the first video ever shown on MTV, on August 1, 1981. The song’s theme was the promotion of technology, while worrying about it’s possible negative effects.
In the 70s and 80s, it was taken for granted that as new technologies were developed, it spelled the demise of existing ones, as well as the people who depended on them for a living. We assumed TV would kill radio, online media would kill TV, and so on. Is/was that the case?
The rise of digital communication in the late 20th century made it possible for media organisations to deliver text, audio, and video material over the same wired, wireless, or fibre-optic connections. At the same time, it inspired some media organisations to explore multimedia delivery of information.
This digital convergence of news media, in particular, was called “Mediamorphosis” by researcher Roger Fidler, in his 1997 book by that name.
“Today, we are surrounded by a multi-level convergent media world where all modes of communication and information are continually reforming to adapt to the enduring demands of technologies, “changing the way we create, consume, learn and interact with each other”.
For the purposes of this conversation, let’s distinguish between radio the service, and radio the device, and TV, the service, and TV the device. All that’s happened is that the devices – mediums by which the service is delivered, have evolved over time, with no discernible change in the service. My grandfather listened to music via his gramophone in the 60s – 70s, my father listened to music radio in the 70s – 80s, and I’m streaming via the internet in the 90s – 21st century. The mediums through which the service is transmitted, have evolved greatly, but the core service has remained the same. If anything, the technological development has acted as an enabler, making these services available to an even wider audience. In 2011, the number of radio listeners in the UK reached a record high.
Video, it appears, did not kill the radio star.