Letters to America

Authors: Karathanasopoulou, E.

Conference: The Radio Conference 2016: Transnational Radio Encounters

Dates: 5-8 July 2016


Broadcast radio has been hailed as the intimate medium. This intimacy has partly been accredited to radio’s live nature. The phone-in has been described as a genre that can use liveness to create a sense of intimate conversation between presenter and caller- an intimacy that extends to other solitary listeners. Broadcasting live on the Internet has meant that such shows are able to reach a global audience. However, it may be argued that the kind of intimacy that the phone-in creates, lends itself better to communities of listeners within specific national boundaries.

This paper will argue that there is a new locale on which new transnational intimacies are now flourishing. These can be traced in podcasts originating from the USA but listened to globally. Here, new communities are forming through the ways in which these podcasts connect to their listeners. For example, ‘Love + Radio’ invites listeners to call in and share secrets on their hotline; the podcast ‘Strangers’ invites the audience to ‘tell a story’ which they can record and send online; RadioLab has embedded in the introduction to every show, phone calls from different listeners around the world, reading out the show’s credits. Calling in and leaving a message to a podcast, seems to be doing something remarkable: while retaining the confessional element of the phone-in, this connection is no longer live, yet it remains extremely intimate. This paper argues that these podcasts bring back something wonderfully old-fashioned: writing-in. Only today, one can write-in from across the world.

Source: Manual