Friday, November 26, 2010

CBC in MN Vintage Vault

I been digging out old tapes in the loft again to add to the stream of nostalgia on the web. I have always been struck by the connection between radio and transport, especially trains. Many of my friends in broadcasting have an interest in trains - especially steam. So while at a conference in Canada in 1998 I took the tour of the CBC English service in Ottawa, and learned how trains have been important to the start of national radio in that part of North America. It turned out to be important to me too. I went out to the airport to catch the KLM flight back to the Netherlands. I then discovered that there was no plane. It was a bus to Montreal. Where did the bus leave from? The Canadian National railway station opposite my hotel.

This show also contains news on the book series about the great manufacturer of portable radios - Zenith. Why am I doing all this? Because I have a feeling no-one else is keeping these stories of radio's slow evolution to digital.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No DSLR cameras for Christmas Please!

why? Because I'm waiting for the one I want.

I need a new camera to replace my ageing Sony HD cameras that rely on tape. I have done quite a lot of research into the use of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) stills cameras for video work. And for that "cinema" look (shallow field of depth), I have been very tempted.

Until I went to the Panasonic stand at IBC 2010.

Now that the PR hype around the show has finished for this year, time to reflect on what I really saw. I am helped in this video by Christina Fox, who is a brilliant trainer and camera specialist. She runs an excellent site at, where I see she is also changing the line-up of cameras she trains on. If you want a great briefing on video journalism, then Christina is definitely the one to hire. She's run several workshops at IBC and always manages to keep them fresh, practical and relevant.

Looks like this new breed of video cameras will turn up in January 2011. Hope my Sony lasts out until then. Sadly, when it comes to this next step in camera design, Sony seems to have lost it.

Radio's Hybrid Future on the Phone

I cornered Nick Piggot at the excellent Radio Festival in Salford, UK. Because, as a follow-up to his excellent explanation of radio's hybrid future at IBC he was wandering around with a Sony Ericsson phone and a rather super radio app on it. We escaped into a side room of the Lowry building which was slightly quieter for a quick mobile update on Radio DNS.

Note that Nick is using the FM radio built into the phone, so this kind of hybrid future for radio can start today - you don't have to wait for digital networks when and if they come. Of course the full functionality of RadioDNS works with digital radio. But making better use of existing networks also sounds like a good idea.

Make use of what you've already got!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Movidius Moving Fast with 3D Mobile

Movidus is the best news out of Ireland in a long time. I know the place is dominated by the Euro crisis at the moment. But that has nothing to do with these guys who are working on an exciting future for mobile phones. I think 3D has more of a chance on this platform than in the living room.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Google TV - Not quite

This promo demo reveals the rather complicated menu structure of Google TV. Kinda surprised they didn't adopt the lessons learned from Time-Warner Cable experiments in the 90's. What they have made is great if you know what you want to see. But its not a very good way of browsing TV least not yet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Different Angles of Media City UK


These two photos were taken not far from each other at Salford. One is taken from the back of the Imperial War Museum North looking across the canal to the new BBC Media City. The other was taken infront of the Imperial War Museum where you can just see the same BBC tower - behind the Russian tank infront of the IWMN. Great scenario for a piece of fictional drama. Traditionally, those organising a coup have usually headed to the national radio or TV station.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chi Surprise


It is not often you see musicians coming to say thank you to broadcasters, especially pirate broadcasters. Yet, that's exactly what American pianist, singer, & songwriter Chi Coltrane did this afternoon, delaying her trip back to the West Coast to greet participants at the Radiodays meeting in Amsterdam. She gave us a superb impromptu mini-concert and in her on-stage interview with Herbert Visser of 100%NL. she was particularly grateful to offshore broadcaster Radio Noordzee Internationaal. They played a lot of her music in the early 1970's and that triggered producers at TV stations. Interest in her music was reason enough to move to Europe during that period with plenty of gigs in The Netherlands and Germany. Now back in the US, she recently relaunched her music career. The years have been kind to Chi, she's lost nothing of the power in her voice, nor her ability to write memorable songs. Bought her latest CD, Yesterday, Today And Forever, which also entitled me to get the photo and play the fan. Worth every cent.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Influencers and how to find them

As a writer I am often contacted by PR agencies especially around the time of the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam. Why? Because in my sector I influence a lot of people's decisions on what strategy to take or what equipment to purchase. To do so means keeping a healthy distance away from the sales department, not taking advertorials and not being lured to give up my independence.

I have been struck by how naive many public relations agencies are. I get call from someone who thinks I am looking for access to their CEO and that I want to travel 1000 miles to sit in a room for a press conference. Their success is the column inches they get on my blog - which means they are usually disappointed because I'm making more video these days. Luckily, these PR agencies disappear like the autumn mist once the conference is finished.

So it was with some relief that I talked with Jonny Bentwood who is one of the team working on the social media strategy for the global PR agency, Edelman. And guess what - it's all about relationships again. I hope this is the future of their profession. Have a look at tweetlevel​ for more info.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks on Cost Cutting

You need to fast forward this video to the second half, around 50 minutes in. I think he's right that some of the services at BBC World Service have accomplished their mission and the emphasis needs to shift to other areas. But the cuts being imposed are savage - and the first thing to disappear at times like these are creativity. Hope they take time to make considered choices.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Communities where Radio isn't needed

The area of Eastern Congo is of interest to me personally because it seems to be recovering without the intervention of community radio. Their community doesn't need to broadcast a message outside the area - indeed the hills on many sides would probably get in the way. This serves as a reminder to listen to how a community communicates with itself, before deciding whether a radio station would help or hinder.

I've been meaning to post this video for ages. Alexander Petroff looks a little uncomfortable in a suit. That's because I interviewed him outside a lecture theatre in Central London where he'd just been talking to students. Go to their website, and you discover that Alexander has spent most of his time in the last few years realising a dream in Eastern Africa.

The Ruzizi Project is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika, and across the border from Rwanda and Burundi. Home to some of the most fertile land in the world, the Ruzizi Valley was known as, "the rice bowl of Congo" before 8 years of war from 1996 to 2004 destroyed its farms and infrastructure. There is a map here:
Alexander founded an organisation which has helped a local team in Ruzizi build a 10 acre farm that's well on its way to becoming self-sufficient. He points out that the single plot of land never provides enough, but the mega-farms full of machinery don't do much to help the locals. A one-acre plot that is farmed by hand will produce, at the very best, $1-2,000 per year for the farmer. The average African labourer on a mega-farm can expect to make about $1 per day. A farmer working 10 acres, on the other hand, can generate $10-20,000 per year.

Whereas others are just talking about sustainable organic farming, Working Villages just gets on with the job. Alexander is a man with a vision and an economic plan riding on the shoulders of giants, and I wish others in the development community would follow his example.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Colalife - Logistics where there's no postal service

I made this interview with Simon Berry of a little while ago. I just revisited their website and see that the number of Facebook followers has grown substantially since Simon spoke with me and there is a fund-raising and awareness event on December 1st 2010 at the British Film Institute, Belvedere Rd London, United Kingdom.

They have decided to do the first set of trials in Zambia, and their website gives all the details of the simply problem the cola pods solve in rural Africa. I think this is a brilliant idea. I wonder whether rural radio stations might use the Cola network to distribute USB sticks of radio programmes between broadcast centres. Fine for the feature type of programming which doesn't date quickly.

Victor Keegan's Poetry of Location

Had a chance encounter with author, artist and poet Victor Keegan at the Forum Oxford meeting in October 2010. He gave a fascinating talk about his ambition to make a different kind of application for the iPad and iPhone, one that puts poetry into its proper location. He argues that poetry really comes alive when you read it in the location which is being described. I would argue that there's a great opportunity to take this idea even further by adding an option to hear the audio. Victor is also testing the business model for the iPhone apps. Will people pay a modest sum for a collection of great cultural material put into a logical context? I think they probably will. More information at Victor's website. Born storyteller this man. Always enjoyed his articles in the Guardian.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Radio's Hybrid Future

This is the first in a series of short videos made at IBC-2010 to explain Radio's connected future, or perhaps "hybrid" is a better description. In this segment, Nick Piggott explains the bridging function that RadioDNS will provide and the problems it will solve for the global radio industry. I think the great thing about RadioDNS is that the concept is simple, it is already implemented in some countries and it works with any kind of FM or digital radio.

To me it is the equivalent of the decision in 1963 to adopt a 19 kHz pilot tone to switch on the "stereo" indicator on an FM radio. RadioDNS deserves the same instant global hit (and therefore rapid adoption). See for more information.

Boost to the Broadcast Industry - instant mobile sites

I've been following the progress of a Norwegian mobile technology company based in Trondheim, Northern Norway that keeps coming up with ideas that bridge the mobile space with creative broadcasters. have built template-based software which allows journalists and copywriters to build websites that look good on smartphones. The challenge is that most standard websites look great on a big screen - lousy on a small one. Broadcasters are finding that advertisers are interested in mobile sites (more so than banner ads) but they want to see results before they sign anything. That reminds me of the radio ad business where creatives spent hours in the studio writing dummy ads simply to impress the client. Oystein Skiri was at IBC 2010 in Amsterdam and the recent WAN-IFRA conference for editors and publishers in Hamburg. I asked him to explain the problem they have solved.