media notes #5: The Roles of Radio by Harold Mendelsohn

Radio functions as a “diverting companion” and fills the void during routine and boring tasks as well as consoling feelings of social isolation and loneliness. It can also add an “adult” voice for those starved of such, like mothers of young children.

“Radio serves as a reliable, nonthreatening, pleasant human surrogate” that keeps listeners “in touch” with social “realities.” The wide variety of stations make radio adaptable to the listening “mood or psychological frame of mind.” This mood function serves to both sustain and create.

Radio listeners do not tire of listening to the same news over and over again, whether new details are added or not. News radio provides a sense of vicarious participation in “the great events of the day.” “In a world of overwhelming complexity where the role of the individual in shaping events is becoming ever more remote, ‘keeping up’ with the news easily becomes a substitute” for involvement.

“Radio allows the listener to “participate” psychologically in the news events of the day” and “share with others a wide variety of events of common interest.” The “talk” content of radio is “social lubricant” as it provides listeners with subjects of conversation. In this way, casual communication between people is made easier.

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