Quake Disasters and Radio: Its Role as Valuable Source of Information Should Continue

Radio is a reliable source of information in times of disaster and it showed its strength in the aftermath of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. Although the business environment of radio stations is harsh, it is necessary to maintain its function as a medium that is strong during times of emergency.

In the areas affected by the Noto quake, power outages have lasted for a long time, making it difficult to view television and use the internet. Newspapers and radios have been useful as a means of getting information.

Portable radios can be used for an extended period until their batteries run out. Radios that can be recharged with hand crank generators are also popular as disaster-survival supplies.

Immediately after the earthquake, many affected people chose to stay in their vehicles, fearing intermittent aftershocks. Many of them likely listened to the car radio that gave them information.

A survey conducted by the research institute of the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association asked about broadcasts and telecommunications used by those affected during evacuation of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake and the Hokkaido earthquake in 2018 that hit the prefecture’s eastern Iburi region. Many answered that radios were a useful tool.

Radio received the highest rating compared to TV and social media, particularly in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the eastern Iburi earthquake in Hokkaido.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, temporary disaster broadcast stations operated by local community FM stations and others opened one after another. One of the advantages of local radio stations is that they are closely connected to local communities and can provide information tailored to their daily life.

However, the business environment of many radio stations is tough, in part due to young people turning away from radio. Two stations in Nagoya and Niigata shut down in 2020.

NHK plans to maintain AM radio broadcasting, but many stations are aiming to switch from AM broadcasting, for which facilities are expensive to maintain, to FM broadcasting, which is more cost-effective.

Radio stations in various areas began this month to suspend some AM broadcasts under special measures set by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and have their listeners listen to FM broadcasting in place of AM broadcasts to examine the effects.

AM broadcasting can cover a wide area, and even if local broadcasting facilities are damaged, it is possible to receive signals from distant areas. The ongoing switch to FM broadcasting, which has a limited range, should not create areas where radio waves cannot reach.

Radio is a medium that stirs people’s imagination. There must be many listeners who laugh while tuning in to late-night radio broadcasts and enjoy music on the radio.

Affected people during evacuation may be comforted by the voices of familiar presenters talking on the radio. An effort should be made to convey the appeal of radio to those who do not normally listen to it.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 20, 2024)