Thousands of radio listeners in the United States heard the airwaves buzz with news and views about the United Nations on Thursday when the Organization’s Headquarters in New York served as the venue for daily broadcasts by popular radio talk shows.
As part of “Talk Radio Day,” organized by the UN’s Department of Public Information, delegates to the world body, as well as UN officials and staffers, gave numerous interviews on issues of the moment – from aid in Myanmar and the Darfur conflict in western Sudan to peacekeeping, climate change and the global food crisis.
Ahmad Fawzi, Director of the News and Media Division at the UN, said this was the third time the event has been held. “We have been looking for ways to connect with the American public, wherever they are – middle America, East Coast, West Coast – to reach the American heartland,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to reach many sectors of the American public with information about what the UN does – what it means to them – information about the issues and the crises they hear so much about, and the role of the United Nations,” he added.
The talk radio presenters, from across the US political spectrum, included the well-known activist Al Sharpton, as well as hosts from Air America, Fox News Radio, ABC Satellite Services, Radio America, Westwood One, the Hispanic network HILTN, and CBS Radio Network.
Among the interviewees were the permanent representatives of Canada, Grenada and New Zealand and staffers from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Jack Rice, who broadcasts out of WCCO Radio in Minneapolis for the CBS Radio Network, told the UN News Centre that many Americans were not well informed about the UN.
“I want people to understand what the UN is designed to do, what it tries to do, what it successfully does, and sometimes what it fails to do, and all of those things are valuable,” he stated.
He said the majority of callers to his shows are sympathetic to the UN, though the negative voices are sometimes louder. “I think there are more people who feel positive because it’s the concept of multilateralism generally but what you will see is some people who are very anti-UN who are extremely vocal about it… who scream from the rooftops.”
Mr. Rice recently travelled to Sudan and met with UN workers in Juba in the south of the country.
“You realize the work that some of these guys do and it really is incredible. There’s nobody around to talk to them, nobody sees this, it doesn’t make headlines, but it’s really quite impressive. They’re risking their own lives, they’re putting themselves in incredibly difficult situations for people, and nobody will ever hear about it,” he said.
“There are some really remarkable people who do this job and I think it should be acknowledged.”
Broadcasting from the lobby of the UN Secretariat building in New York, the radio shows ran from early morning into the evening.