If I Ruled The World: Melanie Withnall

If I ruled the world I’d do all the things you would do, like try to eradicate poverty,  ensure social justice for all, and take care of the environment. But I run a radio station, so what I’d pay special attention to is media ownership and a diversity of voices in the media.

We complain about a lack of media diversity in Australia, but compared to other places, we’re not doing too badly. At least in radio, we have three really vibrant media sectors in Australia which are able to provide choice for listeners as to where they get their information and entertainment from. But we’re really lucky that we have such a thriving community broadcasting sector which allows access to community members to participate in media production, and also helps maintain at least some diversity in media ownership.

The problem is that compared to commercial radio or the ABC, community media is underfunded, so the first thing I’d do is fix that.

I’d then expand community radio throughout the world, because I believe that Radio can actually save lives by improving people’s health and education. Having a vibrant independent media can also help the democratic process, and bring greater understanding of the issues facing us today.

I’ve seen the difference that community radio can make in remote areas of  Papua New Guinea first hand, and if I ruled the world, I’d harness the power of a radio transmitter to aid in development.

Compared to other media, radio is relatively cheap, and it’s able to travel long distances with very little infrastructure. The studio, the transmitter and the receiver can be solar powered, so it makes it ideal for places where there’s little or no electricity. It also works on the most basic level of communication – it’s  just a conversation between two people, and that’s the power of radio. In development terms, you can share health messages, stories, news, ways to improve farming, and you can also listen to it while you’re doing something else.

While I was looking at the developing world, I’d also try and improve the western media. I love hearing about the Kardashians, as much as the next person (in fact probably more), but the increasing amount of media time that celebrity and other ‘non stories’ occupy really bothers me.  Surely politics, academic research, the arts and culture, international affairs, history and science can be just as sexy as Angelina Jolie’s right leg?

Sadly for my dictatorship, a free well funded media encouraging a vibrant exchange of ideas would probably lead to revolution – but perhaps that would be the point.

Melanie Withnall is the Managing Director of 2SER 107.3.