United Nations Radio

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"UN Radio" redirects here. For the Colombian radio station, see UN Radio (Colombia).
United Nations Radio
Type International public broadcaster
Availability International
Owner United Nations
Launch date
Official website

United Nations Radio is the international broadcasting service of the United Nations. The radio broadcast is part of the World Radio Network. In the United States of America, the broadcast can be heard on Sirius Satellite Radio/XM Satellite Radio via the World Radio Network (of which UN Radio is a member).

The radio station is the voice of the United Nations, and its purpose is to promote the "... universal ideals of the United Nations, including peace, respect for human rights, gender equality, tolerance, economic and social development and the upholding of international law."[1]

UN Radio broadcasters produce content that includes weekly and daily radio programmes, newspots, features, interviews, sound bites and raw audio for some 400 clients around the world. According to the website, UN Radio produces about 1,200 features per year. UN Radio content is distributed around the world via the internet, FTP, ISDN and telephone lines.


In the UN Calling Asia program, the broadcast is expanded to the Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, and Urdu languages.[10]

All programs are available via podcasts[11] and RSS[12] feeds.


The League of Nations' "Radio Nations" broadcasts began in 1929, first via the transmitter of the Dutch station PCJJ and beginning in 1932, from the League's own transmitters, HBL and HBP in Switzerland. "Radio Nations"' last broadcast was in 1939.[13]

UN Radio began broadcasting in 1946 from makeshift studios and offices at the United Nations Headquarters in Lake Success, New York, where it transmitted its first call sign: "This is the United Nations calling the peoples of the world."[14]

UN Radio was established by a UN General Assembly Resolution on February 13, 1946. Resolution 13 (I), mandating the Department of Public Information to establish UN Radio states “the UN cannot achieve the purposes for which it was created unless the peoples of the world are fully informed of its aims and activities”.[15]


Founding partnerships[edit]

In 1946, the International Broadcasting Division of the United States Department of State began transmitting the entire proceedings of the Security Council and the United Nations Economic and Social Council on shortwave to the rest of the world. News bulletins and feature programmes were broadcast in the UN’s then five official languages - Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish - for 9 to 12 hours each day. Arabic was added in 1974.

Lacking its own broadcast facilities, UN Radio initially made arrangements with leading broadcasting organizations to relay its programmes to different regions, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's International Service (1946 to 1952), the European Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (1953 to 1985).

Shortwave broadcasts[edit]

Beginning in 1960, UN Radio started transmitting its own programmes via short-wave transmissions. UN Radio initially leased shortwave transmitters from France, Switzerland, Italy and the United States. In 1963, transmission facilities were obtained with considerably greater reach and effectiveness and were able to reach Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of South East Asia.

By 1984, UN Radio was producing a total of 2,000 hours of programmes a year in 25 languages and serving 167 countries and territories. Its shortwave programmes accounted for some 759 hours of air time annually.[16]

Shortwave broadcasts were temporarily suspended in 1986 due to the sudden rise of transmission charges. UN Radio then sent out its programmes on cassette tapes. This delivery grew from 110,000 per year in the late 1980s, to 205,000 cassettes per year by 1997. Since then, the number of cassettes delivered has decreased dramatically since electronic delivery has become possible in many areas of the world.

Live program and new formats[edit]

Live Program[edit]

On the occasion of the UN General Assembly's Millennium Summit, UN Radio launched live radio broadcasts in the six official languages from UN Headquarters in New York.

The 15-minute daily current affairs broadcasts consisted of news, interviews, background reports, features, updates from peacekeeping missions and coverage of activities of United Nations organizations around the world. These live broadcasts were distributed by satellite and telephone feeds and were broadcast by national and regional radio networks in most parts of the world, as well as through UN Radio's website. Short-wave service was relaunched for the live transmission to reach audiences in the Middle East and North Africa, but was again suspended in 1997 due to the decrease in shortwave audiences in these regions.

New format[edit]

In 2007 UN Radio's Spanish service changed its programming format, moving from the fully produced 15-minute programme to disseminating via its website news and features throughout the day, supplemented by a daily 3-minute news bulletin. Another example of short format is the Portuguese Unit which broadcasts a daily 5-min-bulletin in Portuguese for Africa and another one in Portuguese for Brazil.

While other language services continue the 15-minute daily news programme format, these services—in Arabic, English, French and Russian—now also provide individual news and feature stories through their respective websites as well as access to unedited audio from meetings, interviews, news conferences and special events to enable journalists in newsrooms around the world to cover UN activities.

Web and social media[edit]

UN Radio currently distributes its content and materials to hundreds of stations around the world via the internet (until more recently, also by FTP, ISDN and telephone lines). Broadcast-quality MP3 files can be downloaded from the website. All UN Radio programs are available via podcasts and RSS feeds. UN Radio is also present on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook.


In December 2013, UN Radio programmes were made available via a call-to-listen platform operated by AudioNow. Users call a local number to listen to the audio feed, which also includes live audio from the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council. Starting in the United States, the service is currently available also in Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Mobile apps[edit]

In September 2014, UN Radio's parent office the United Nations Department of Public Information released two mobile apps, including UN Audio Channels (for Android and iOS), also in cooperation with AudioNow. Similar to the call-to-listen service, app users can listen to UN Radio programmes as well as the live audio feeds from the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

UN Radio's Anti-Apartheid Programme Section[edit]

In 1977, the UN General Assembly established an Anti-Apartheid Programme Section (AAPS). The goal of the AAPS was to counter the broadcasts of the government of South Africa and to help bring about the end of apartheid. The AAPS implemented this goal by producing radio material for direct broadcast into South Africa, Namibia, and other countries in the region. The daily programmes were initiated in March 1978. Originally seven, 15-minute scripts in English were translated into the five South African languages (Zulu, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Sesotho, and Setswana). Many personalities not only from South Africa, but also around the world, including the United States, who participated in the international campaign against apartheid, were interviewed.

The AAPS was restructured in 1988, and beginning in 1989 the programme was changed to "One South Africa." The UN General Assembly, in its Resolution 49/38, decided "following the establishment of a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa, to discontinue United Nations information efforts in support of the eradication of apartheid".

UN Radio and peacekeeping[edit]

UN Radio first produced radio and television programmes related to a peacekeeping mission in 1989, for Namibia.

In 1992, UN Radio establishing its first broadcasting facility on the ground as part of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, UNTAC. The main task of Radio UNTAC was to clarify its mandate and support the peace and electoral process under way in the country.[17]

Radio stations in UN peacekeeping missions now include those in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Sudan (in Khartoum and Darfur), Haiti and Timor-Leste.


In 1997, "The Child Sex Trade", a four-part-series exploring the global problems of commercial sexual exploitation of children, won the Silver Medal at New York Festivals International Radio Programming competition. In addition, two other UN Radio programmes, "Female Condom" and "Teenage Reproductive Health and Namibia", were finalists in the same competition.

In 1999, the UN Radio programme "UNESCO" Funds Documentary on Links between Calypso and High Life Music", was awarded a bronze medal in the New York Festivals International Radio Programming competition.[18]

In 2007, Silver Medal was awarded to the feature “200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.” The programme was also given a certificate for "Honorable Mention" by the Association of International Broadcasters (AIB).

In 2008, the UN Radio series on Climate Change was a finalist in the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) Awards.


External links[edit]