Audio-visual Literacy

With the advent of electronic media, including radio, and later, the moving picture as well as television, the landscape of literacy evolved from classic literacy into a new form called “audio-visual literacy” (Erdem, Bağci, Koçyiğit, 2019). Today, when digital literacy dominates and various types of media production exist, it would be a mistake to underrate audio.

Audio matters!

Why? It provides relevant information to the listener.

Audio immediately sets the tone, time and even location of the programme if the music, sound effects and voice casting are thoughtfully designed (Musburger, 2013).

Any video needs good audio, otherwise the story can’t develop.

Main components of sounds in video:

  • Dialogue
  • Voice over
  • Ambient sounds
  • Music & soundtrack

Audio should be considered at the beginning of any production and not added as an afterthought once all the visuals have been determined (Musburger, 2013).

Check out this short video to learn how to record quality sound for your videos.

Power of Radio

Speed, mobility and accessibility. These three key features make radio unique. Be it a car, portable or kitchen radio, it sends you an instant sound message and allows you to interact with radio hosts or other listeners. 

When access to the Internet is blocked and phone lines are cut, people can still search the airwaves for trustworthy sources. Radio Free Europe (RFE) was originally started during the Cold War with a single broadcast to communist Czechoslovakia out of New York City in 1950. Now, 70 years later, they broadcast in 21 countries using 28 languages(CJFE, 2011).

Even with advances in technology that stimulated the emergence of TV and the Internet, radio remains the most powerful tool of information in the South. It is cheaper and easier to set-up and you don’t need a TV or satellite dish to receive the message (UNICEF, 2015).

In turn, community stations are concentrated on the local life and issues of a certain group of people. Such radio stations are often small, non-profit, low-budget stations that are mainly run by volunteers and owned by associations, trusts, foundations or NGOs (J. Gustafsson, 2013). Community media are often distinguishable from commercial media and state media by their provision of vital, accessible and participatory alternatives (J. Gustafsson, 2013).

Pushing the limits – the rise of podcasts

It would be erroneous to think that radio’s time is over, as it has steadily evolved to keep up with current technology, with satellite and streaming Internet stations gaining popularity ( If you miss a radio show, there is a chance you can find it online later. But listening to audio gets even easier with podcasts, as you can download and listen to them whenever you want.

Many radio stations, starting with the BBC, air morning shows which are later available in podcast form on their website. Podcasts are on the rise, as they are accessible and you can choose when and what information you want to hear, even without ads and with your favorite hosts.

This is why radio stations are becoming more aware of the need for digital distribution of their content and the importance of accommodating several generations and listener habits. No one knows for sure how the two mediums will evolve, but podcasts are seen as a big part of the future of public radio.

Young Voices

The term youth radio refers to radio programming that is produced by or for young people (M. Shipler, 2006). So why should youth workers care about training necessary skills for radio reporting?

Learning to research, interview and broadcast boosts young people’s confidence and builds communication and critical thinking skills. Experience in radio reporting and broadcasting translates to a usable skill set with a wide range of real-life applications, from the classroom to their future workplace (UNESCO, 2013).

Being on the air and having access to microphones is exciting, but what is necessary for the set up of an Internet radio station?

Here is the list of basic recording equipment:

      Mixing desk – the hub of any radio station. It takes in different audio channels and pushes them together ready for broadcasting online

      Highly sensitive (condenser) microphone that can be adjusted for height and direction. 

      Microphone processor – gives extra-presence or punch to one’s voice

      Studio headphones – must be comfortable to wear for long periods of time

      Computer with a few USB ports to connect the mixing desk

      Sound Card – offers multiple channels through a single USB connection

      Audio cables to connect the equipment together

If you want to encourage young people to get out of the studio, take interviews outside or make vox pops on the streets. Please check out this short video on field recording.

Is there a “Radio Language”?

Another issue youth workers need to keep in mind is the way they communicate, as radio programmes are immediate. According to, writing for the ear/for the audio means writing to be heard, not writing to be read. Journalists need to learn to write so that when their words are spoken, they are effective. Such language has to capture the attention of the listeners and evoke certain experiences or emotions. It can be really hard, as the average attention span is limited to several seconds. 

Some general tips whilst writing for the ear are:

  • Write short phrases. Keep it short, punchy and direct. Use only one idea per sentence.
  • Round off complicated numbers and write them in words.
  • Try to humanize statistics, facts and figures.
  • Use verbal signposts such as “and,” “but” and “so” to show structure in longer chunks of speech and to help listeners know where they are.
  • Paint pictures with words. Remember, listeners have to use imagination to visualize what is happening.
  • Write as if you are talking to only one person and create a connection with listeners using personal words like “you” or “we”.
  • Use contractions like “can’t,” “won’t” and “we’ll”. They will make the story sound more natural (B. Balya, FES 2008/2009).

There is a wide range of practical exercises, such as writing a cue or a script, which can be included when setting up a youth radio project. The following skills can be developed:

  • Listening and hearing
  • Storytelling
  • Interviewing
  • Commentating
  • Making public service announcements and jingles
  • Creating audio dialogues
  • Planning and recording a live magazine show (Children’s Radio Foundation, 2016)

Called “the pedagogy of disruption”, youth radio production transforms the consumers of popular culture into producers and critics of the culture (S. Greene, K.J. Burke, M. K. McKenna, 2016). In this way, on air discipline, learning through listening and speaking out about concerns are therefore the essential competencies developed with help of radio.


Photo of Mila Corlateanu
Mila Corlateanu

Freelance journalist based in Chișinău and a strong believer in the power of informed societies where media and education both play a crucial role. Since 2016 she is DW Akademie coordinator of projects such as introduction of media literacy in school & university curricula as well as non-formal activities in this field in Moldova.