Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Trevor Baylis - a lifetime of inventions

Trevor Baylis interviewed in 2014 by BBC News
I'm delighted to hear that the British inventor Trevor Baylis has been awarded another New Year's honour for his untiring work to defend entrepreneurs and inventors in the UK. Trevor is still active, helping entrepreneurs from a his latest venture - check out and support the TBB website.

Many of us still remember Trevor and his wind-up radio which first hit the headlines in 1994. I organised a conference for Radio Netherlands at the International Broadcasting Convention IBC between September 11-14th 1995. We decided to celebrate the fact that we were 5 years away from a new Millennium by looking at the technologies that would carry us forward. That included a look at different codings for DAB, a reality check on radio by Sri Lankan broadcaster Victor Goonetilleke and a special performance about the Clockwork Radio from Trevor Baylis, the British inventor who turned up in Amsterdam and charmed the audience with his frank, funny and brilliant introduction to the concept of wind-up radios. 

A few weeks after the conference we produced a special CD for those who took part. This is a copy for those who missed it. It's double the length of a normal Media Network, just over an hour.

Despite the apparent success of Trevor's wind-up radio and several follow-up products employing similar technology including a torch, a mobile phone charger and an MP3 player, Baylis says he received almost none of the profits. Due to the quirks of patent law, the company (Freeplay) he went into business with to manufacture his radios were able to tweak his original design, which used a spring to generate power, so that it charged a battery instead. This caused Trevor to lose control over the product. More about the challenges he faced here.

By the time 1996 started, Diana Janssen was firmly established as the co-host of Media Network. I had enormous fun putting the show together each Wednesday evening. In fact this was one of the few editions where I didn't co-present (on a family holiday). But the programme was in capable hands. Smart Lady.

This edition covers modifications to the Baygen clockwork radio and features an interview with Trevor Baylis. There is also the first airing of Media Race 1996. Radio Vilnius hires a radio transmitter in Juelich, Germany. HCJB and Radio Norway announce expansion and VOA tests its new site in Sao Tome. America 1 signed a joint venture agreement to distribute public radio across Europe - remember this is well before Internet audio is good quality was available to the public. 

More Vintage Radio Memories with Jonathan Hill

Great to find a specialist book like Audio Audio by Jonathan Hill still in print after 20 years - and just a few pounds more than when it was published in 1995. This was a follow-up book to the popular book Radio Radio which is illustrated below. This Media Network programme kicks off by interviewing the author and asking him what's the fascinating of Vintage audio. This edition of the programme also includes news of changes at BBC Monitoring from Chis Greenway as well as developments in the Spanish service of Radio Netherlands. The jamming situation has changed in Asia - we have a report from Victor Goonetilleke. And the programme concludes with a profile of Radio TV Hong Kong. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


This was the first of several visits we made to the VERON amateur radio news station, which operated at that time out of a tower in the Sikkens (now AKZO) paint factory in Sassenheim. You could see the antennas as you passed by the factory on the A44 motorway. The news service from the VERON still exists, and can also be followed on line via Youtube. Again, remember this is all 10 years before the Internet was invented. So the only way to exchange news about ham radio was by radio or in a printed bulletin. The VERON did both.

MN.13.01.1983 Malta

This edition of the Media Network programme started with the news that tensions were rising between Poland and the UK over press freedom. Then it moved to an off-air recording we made in Hilversum on mediumwave. In fact, I remember Malta because Deutsche Welle built a relay station for North Africa on the island, which was later nationalised. Malta started getting closer to both Algeria and Libyan. In this programme we interviewed the new station manager of the "Radio Mediterranean". The aim was to give Malta a voice in the world.

In the official story of the Broadcasting Authority of Malta, there's a passage indicating that these government agreements for stations like DW and Radio Mediterranean were set up directly by the Maltese government.

Although the contractual relationship that existed between the Broadcasting Authority and the Rediffusion were also operative with the Telemalta Corporation (when the latter became responsible through its broadcasting division, Xandir Malta) the same cannot be said for those stations which operated under direct licence from the Government. At the start of 1979 these included the Central Mediterranean Relay Station; the British Forces Broadcasting Service; the Deutsche Welle Relay Station; TiveMalta Ltd.; the Voice of Friendship and Solidarity (later Voice of the Mediterranean operating under joint management provided by the Maltese and Libyan Governments); and Radio Mediterranean (a joint venture between the Maltese and Algerian Governments) – all these were not contracted by the Authority

Thanks to Mario J Cachi for the photo of Valetta. Never been to Malta myself , but one day...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

MN African Safari 1981 Capital Radio Transkei et al

This is a very early Media Network magazine documentary about broadcasting in Southern Africa, when apartheid South Africa had stations operating from the various "homelands". We had no internet, only cassettes - and the link to the late Frits Greveling who had presented and produced the previous DX show to this one, DX Juke Box. He returned to Johannesburg to work for several South African radio stations. Although the style is totally out of date, the information about broadcasting in Southern Africa in the early 1980's remains fascinating.
I note that there's a site dedicated to the memory of Capital 604 Transkei. You can find most of the jingles they used here.

You may also find the video interview with David Smith to be interesting. He also had adventures with Capital Radio which he explains below.

Capital Radio Transkei - the Afritude story from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

The interview with David prompted these interesting comments from Nicholas Ashby

The station's early planning sessions back in the late 70's give an idea of how the integration of black and white staff was envisaged, as well as music etc, and how it would be projected over the air. To measure how this was first manifest one can start at 604's early programme schedule's.
Facebook link 1 and link 2
With the growth in CR's FM power in Transkei in the early 90's, and what was then being reflected by the station - about a decade on (best illustrated in a picture of the almost all white on-air staff compliment eleven years after the station's launch) the logic of Smith's idea seems clear. But his conclusion wasn't entirely before it's time; more like a fantasy close-ish to what the station should have become by 1991 had it lived up to the intentions of some of its founders. And Smith's transformation had to be handled by someone who could do it. In this regard some subtext in his Canadian pre-publicity-fax-machine story is informative.
Inability to effectively implement vision was a problem most of CR604's leaders encountered ever since the time of Bruce, Moody, KD Matanzima and Bukht, whose stated intentions were that the station should achieve quick profits and in time a mix of presenters more representative of the local demographic in its main on-air programming components. It never achieved either.
What they did was shatter the frame of the SABC's reflection to us.
As for the effect of 604's contribution to the anti-apartheid push, by several accounts the station's news gave further scope to understanding the forces at work in the county. The SA military spy establishment was clearly alarmed by it. They intercepted signals carrying ANC interest in the station - all sorts of legends have been spun out of that; one can be heard in this video. As a crude, broad measure of what the station achieved one can make the case that the white minority chose an anti liberal, pro-apartheid parliamentary opposition by the end of Capital's (and 702's) first decade. This is not to dis the 604 news teams' work under hostile circumstances, (a matter which should be looked into more seriously.)
The implementation of Smith's idea was complicated by how little favour local music had been given at CR 604, which couldn't have made his job of indigenizing the playlist easy.
In 1979 it had started promisingly when an SABC-banned tune by Jaluka - Afrika - became CR604's first SA number one. Some local dance music from the station's discotheque roots was also being played early on. And yes, some other good stuff.
But Capital was always going to be pulling from an uncompromisingly overseas aesthetic fund of sound. In terms of opening SA to both old and new in popular western music, as CR604 was launched the west was offering a compelling choice led by new albums like London Calling, and M Jackson's solo debut, Off the Wall. (At least one of those records was also banned by the SABC) Of the previous decade there was the music trove that had inspired Jackson and the Clash ... and as evenings darkened and the station's Top 40 formula fell away, with the signal leaping up the continent and across oceans, first Tshabala then Pierce opened it up and brought you places ...
Smith should have been listening and taken notes. He would have learned some art in good time cunning, like how to make Enoch Sontonga's anthem of the struggle an alternative radio station's most play-listed non top 40 song.
“..under apartheid one had to hide one’s meaning and hope that it will still be discovered.”
- Eric Miyeni
This kind of thing was an old tradition on local radio according to some current research

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.29.09.1983 AM STEREO

Here we are 32 years after this programme was made and some people still hope that AM stereo (now renamed HD Radio and moved to a digital radio format) is going to work. Frankly, I think the conclusions we drew in 1983 apply now. It isn't going to happen. But it is still fun to discuss why. Enjoy this vintage edition of Media Network.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Singing Carols on Shortwave way down South

The folks at the McMurdo research station in Antarctica have been sharing carols with each other. Hark the Herald Angels Sing transmitted from South Pole Station 24 December 2014 2300 UTC.on 7995 kHz USB from MacOps McMurdo Station, Antarctica. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Vintage Radio Genius - Gerry Wells 1929-2014

Sad to note that the Curator of the British Vintage Wireless & Television Museum, Gerald Wells, passed away on December 22 2014.

At the end of the 1960's Gerry gave up his job as an electrical contractor. He could see wireless sets being discarded and felt there was a need for a "Vintage Wireless Museum". The Museum for Vintage Wireless came into existence in 1974 and was later expanded to include Television.
I made a couple of half hour documentaries with Gerry in 1986/1987, hearing the stories of how radios were built and got their names. Other documentaries focussed on his life as a lifelong radio engineer.
I remember visiting the UK's Vintage Radio Wireless Museum in Dulwich, South London as though it were yesterday. It's just an ordinary terraced house from the outside, but inside its a celebration of the tube (Valve) radio, especially in the era 1920-1950. What's more, Gerald Wells, was one of the world's experts on valves - and had a flood of stories about the famous names I heard second-hand as a child. Did you know that Vidor Batteries were named after the manufacturers two daughters? And what were the better brands of radios.
Enthusiasts in the UK have since made a DVD about Gerald which I can recommend. Part Two of this programme was made in Dulwich one year later is also here on this blogpost. I am sure you could visit Gerald 1000 times and still take away new and different stories about this era of broadcasting. Anyone restoring early iPods? Thought not.

Southgate amateur radio news posted two links to other documentaries and sources.

1994 Channel 4 TV documentary about Gerry Wells

In the meantime, BBC World Service commissioned and broadcast an excellent portrait of Gerald on August 20th 2010.

More information from the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum, West Dulwich, London

Merry Christmas Message on Very Longwave Indeed

There will be a transmission using the Alexanderson 200 kW alternator on (Very Low Frequency) VLF using the frequency of 17.2 kHz. The Morse code transmission originates from Grimeton Radio, Sweden today, Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24th, 2014.

The message transmission will take place at 08:00 UTC (09:00 local time). The transmitter will be tuned up starting around 07:30 UTC (08:30 local time).  There will be also be activity on amateur radio frequencies with the call SK6SAQ on any of the following frequencies:
  • 17.2 kHz CW
  • 3755 kHz SSB
  • 7035 kHz CW
  • 14215 kHz SSB
  • 14035 kHz CW
The transmitter site today (source wikipedia)

QSL Reports on SAQ are requested by e-mail to:  or by snail mail to

Alexander – Grimeton Veteranradios Vaenner
Grimeton 72
The Radio Station will be open to visitors today. No entrance fee.

More details are on the

Until the 1950s, the Grimeton VLF transmitter was used for transatlantic radio telegraphy to a station in Long Island, New York, USA. From the 1960s until 1996 it transmitted orders to submarines in the Swedish Navy.
In 1968 a second transmitter was installed which uses the same aerial as the machine transmitter but with transistor and tube technology. The Alexanderson transmitter became obsolete in 1996 and went out of service. However, because it was still in good condition it was declared a national monument and can be visited during the summer.
On July 2, 2004, the Grimeton VLF transmitter was declared a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. It continues to be used on special occasions such as Alexanderson Day to transmit Morse messages on 17.2 kHz. Its call sign is SAQ. The Grimeton/Varberg site is still used by the Swedish Navy, transmitting on 40.4 kHz using call sign SRC using the vacuum tube transmitter. Since the naval transmitter uses the same aerial as the Alexanderson mechanical transmitter, a simultaneous operation of both transmitters, which would require an expensive high power diplexer, is not possible. Therefore the special transmissions from that machine transmitter are very rare.

Wireless Telegraphy Lives Again

Grimeton Radio Station uses technology for wireless telegraphy that was developed by Swedish-born American Ernst Alexanderson. Today, with its alternator and multiple tuned antenna for longwave transmission, Grimeton Radio Station is unique as the only radio station remaining from the time prior to high-power radio tubes, i.e. before shortwave transmission gained prominence.

Grimeton Radio Station (call sign SAQ) began operating in 1924, primarily to facilitate telegraphy with the US. After experiencing severed cable connections during WWI, the Swedish Parliament decided in 1920 to erect a large-scale radio station on the west coast for wireless telegraphy that used longwave transmissions. This would prevent any similar disruptions to communications by making Sweden independent of other countries' cable networks. For precisely this reason, Grimeton Radio Station experienced a boom during WWII. Cable connections had again been severed and wireless telegraphy became Sweden's primary means of communication with the world.

Dutch Long Wave from Kootwijk

In the Netherlands, they built an alternator transmitter too, located in the village of Kootwijk. We made it the subject of a special edition of Media Network in 1988.

Here's the edition in question.

In this programme we tell the fascinating story of the Kootwijk transmitter built in the centre of the Netherlands on the heathland. In the early 1920's the main goal of the station was to maintain contact with Indonesia, then called the Dutch East Indies. It was pretty amazing bearing in mind they were using the wrong frequency band because the existence of short-wave radio was as yet unknown. The listening site in Eemnes mentioned in the programme is still there, although I believe the station is part of the monitoring network used by the military. The original airing of this programme was on March 3rd 1988. We went back at the end of the Millennium for the close of the station - those shows have yet to be re-released. It was a great story to make, even though its about a "utility" station not a broadcaster. In fact, the same place was used for a short period after the Second World War for longwave broadcasts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MN.06.01.1983 Dutch UNIFIL Radio

In 1983, Media Network broadcast a series of features on forces broadcasting. At the time, the Dutch were part of a UN peace keeping mission in Lebanon. It was also the era of FM pirate radio stations in many cities in the Netherlands. So, infact, Dutch forces radio had its origins as a pirate radio station. Infact the story of the Dutch forces is now brilliantly told at the new Dutch National Military Museum, which opened on December 13th 2014 on the grounds of the former American Air Force base in Soesterberg.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.05.05.1983 BFBS Profile

In 1983, Media Network ran a series of thematic features on Forces Broadcasting. This was the final part, which featured the British Forces Broadcasting Service. Apart from an FM transmitter in the South of the Netherlands, BFBS was heard widely on the cable radio systems in many cities across the Netherlands. FM signals could be picked up from neighbouring Germany by the aerials on the top of the cable head ends. But propagation was not reliable enough to hear FM signals from the UK. So, no BBC Radio 4. Remember this is 5 years before we saw the launch of SKY television. The photo is of BFBS in Hamburg in 1946, which is referred to in the interview.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bonkers ham commercials

My father just pointed out a ludicrous piece of advertising from Emmett's ham. The cover of their current catalogue shows a range of very expensive cooked  meats strewn out over bales of wheat straw. Not sure when the advertisers were last on a farm, but bales of straw I've seen are full of bugs breaking things down. Presumably they sterilized those hams before selling them? What a poor example of food hygiene.

And I wouldn't think about putting hams costing 39 quid a kilo on the ground in the woods, would you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Skiing at night to promote Philips Amberlight TV

So how do you sell a television in 2014? Sony tried coloured balls back in 2010.

Now Philips is skiing down hills using LED backpacks. This is the backstory....

that made this final result:

This is infact a short version - the original is 12 minutes.

Great visual effects - but the story is lost on me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Content is power - which is why The Grid intrigues me

It's almost like a DIY Kickstarter project.

What if websites could design themselves? That's the promise of The Grid, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to take everything you throw at it - videos, images, text, urls and more - and automatically shape them into a custom website that's unique to you. As your needs grow, it evolves with you, effortlessly adapting to your needs.

Their algorithms apparently analyze your media and apply color palettes that keep your messaging consistent and unique. The Grid also detects color contrasts, automatically adjusting typographic color to maximize legibility.

What's possible when an AI does all the hard work for you? You can get things done, even on the go. Drag-n-drop builders don't play nice with fingers on phones, but AI works perfectly, anywhere.

Never again change your content to fit your template or the latest hot mobile device. The layout changes as you add content, and adapts to look great and work flawlessly no matter where your users find you.

It’s as easy as that. Actually, it’s incredibly complicated, but The Grid figures it out, so you don’t have to.

Joining the evolution has a price - 96 dollars up front - but that works out at US$8 a month for the first year. Sign-up is at Follow for the latest. Hope they make it. I signed up and I'll be reporting my experiences warts and all. But personally, I just hope they are going to be saving me a whole bunch of time.

Small Empires Season Two

Delighted to see the return of Small Empires and to see that they've been visiting the top Innovation Districts in North America. Europe in Season 3?

Episode 1 visits Open English in Miami, a company that started in Caracas.

Episode 2 takes us a brewery platform in Connecticut

Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

Post by NOS.

I was impressed with the video that the NOS made to illustrate the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Swimming Robots seen in Stuttgart

A team led by Prof. Peer Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany ] has developed an artificial micro-swimmer, called “micro-scallop”, which can swim through viscous fluids by opening and closing its shells at different rates. Doesn't work in water. But these tiny "scallops" can swim in blood.

Mystery behind Amsterdam Mist - Bert Monroy

Click to Explore | Powered by Piqsure

The art of powerful storytelling

I'm currently looking at how different professionals around the world pass on their skills to interested members of the public. I feel that many of the standard "master class courses" are flawed, especially in my sector of broadcast storytelling. Screens have replaced chalk, but rather than "show" people what is possible, there is still a lot of "telling". And because things have become very formulaic, we're repeating too many of the old ideas which don't work in a world where sharing has replaced shouting. I note that trainees from many "developing countries" are more developed than we are.

I've long been a fan of the TWIT network, founded by radio broadcaster Leo Laporte. He has grown his "deep-dive" network of tech shows into a modern equivalent of what we were trying to do in Hilversum from 1980-2000 with Media Network. But although I like the pundit shows like This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly or This Week in Google, I must confess that the hour-long in-depth interview programme "Triangulation" is the show that I set aside time to watch on an iPad. A recent case in point is the discussion with hyper-realist artist Bert Monroy. Born in New York City, he now lives in Berkeley, California.

Bert on the power of sharing

While we were messing around in Europe with the early Mac's in 1984 to see what they could do for radio guys, Bert was starting a new digital career, looking at the possibilities of MacPaint, which turned from being a toy into programs like Photoshop, Pixelpaint, Illustrator and Imagestudio which modern artists rely on today. 

Bert is different from many artists in that he shares his techniques, encouraging others to apply them in their own works. A lot of the knowledge is given away. Which leads people to inexpensive digital master classes on the excellent knowledge site He doesn't need to be afraid of imitators - I know of few people who put so much time and effort into their work.This recent edition of Triangulation caught my eye because of Bert's discussion of his latest digital work called Amsterdam Mist. It's a digital creation based on a simple, rather blurry image he took on Radhuisstraat, a rather non-descript bridge on the West side of Amsterdam near the Westerkerk church. I've been over the bridge many times in a tram but never really paused to look down the canal at that point. Perhaps that explains why I don't have my own picture to hand, even though I have hundreds of pictures of the city.

The bridge on the Radhuisstraat via Google Maps

The same bridge in summer via Google Maps

Around 41 minutes into the Triangulation program, Bert starts explaining the making of Amsterdam Mist. You're invited to explore and as you zoom in, so the mist clears and the incredible detail becomes clear.

Bert points out a few Easter Eggs - his first book in the bike basket, there's a logo of on the same bike, many of the license-plates on cars reflect the travels of the artist.

Hidden Easter eggs on a remarkably clean bicycle
License plates have a hidden meaning

His website also explains the impact that Google maps had on the work. 

My Amsterdam Mist is the culmination of twenty-two months of work. Every element in the image was meticulously created pixel-by-pixel using Adobe® Photoshop® and Adobe® Illustrator®.
It is the first piece to be inspired by the shot rather than the scene itself.

Each tree took an average of ten days to create. Extensive research was done to ensure the authenticity of the scene. The reference for the trucks, cars and bicycles was done by doing a Google search for European models of each. The boats were boats that appeared in other images taken by me during the visit to Amsterdam. The original shot had very little detail. The day was overcast and the shot was done with a hand held point-and-shoot camera. All the details were nothing more than a blur.

One of the more unusual facts about this piece is how the details of the buildings were researched. The scene was photographed while walking from one place to another. In Google maps, the two locations were plotted allowing me to determine the precise place where the original shot was taken (middle figure). Using Google Street View, details of the structures were researched by strolling up and down the streets on either side of the actual canal.

Be careful, you can spend hours absorbed in this picture - especially if you put it on a large monitor. But it may encourage you to try to experiment yourself.

I have also been using Google Street View to capture stories from people which otherwise would not have been rediscovered. Contact me if you're interested in how it's done.

In the meantime, thanks to Bert for creating an adventure just round the corner.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Daniel Erasmus - we have a leadership problem not a climate-change problem

Daniel Erasmus has run a digital thinking network for several years and through his work I got introduced to people like Douglas Rushkoff as well as Brewster Kahle of fame. Curious to find out what the young leaders in the Nudge network decided - did they adopt more ambitious action goals that adult negotiators?

Meanwhile Norwegian broadcast NRK has broadcast a weather forecast for the country for 2050, assuming a global warming of 2 degrees Centigrade.

Forecaster Bente Wahl has received a storm of reactions after NRK published her forecast for 2050. A few are also puzzled by the project: - How can Wahl give an accurate weather alert for the year 2050 when she can not even give an accurate forecast for the next few days?

Tony Fadell on the challenges of rolling out NEST in Europe.

Personally, I think the Dublin Web Summit has grown too fast. From 400 to 22,000 attendees in just four years. It's a marketing triumph, which is great for the founders who I met in Paris around the time they were starting out, and LeWeb was number one.

But now, it means a lot of sales pitches to sift through to find the interesting talks. They have also cut the length of the interviews so much that no-one really goes in to depth. I think that's a shame. Quality not quantity, especially because the main attraction of the summit is not the commercial keynotes - it's the live networking with start-up companies which you cannot do from home.

The interview with Tony Fadell was interesting. I note that he doesn't really talk about his early days at Philips. He didn't stay long trying to persuade them to make a personal music player. Instead, he went to Apple, who brought out the iPod. Now he's the person behind NEST, which is turning out to be much more than an intelligent thermostat. In the interview he describes the challenges of trying to role out to other countries - there are a myriad of standards. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Best Interactive Ad for 2014

In March I mentioned this ingenious use of a raspberry pi computer. It was for a shampoo. Here's a re-run of the post. But there's more to come - and it is really worth watching.

A very clever piece of interactive advertising has been dreamed up by the Stockholm advertising agency Åkestam Holst from Sweden, working with production company Stopp for Apotek Hjärtat’s Apolosophy products.

Stopp says the ad was scheduled to be run for one day only, but it was so popular that the company which owns the screens asked for it to run for the rest of the week “as a way for them to show the opportunities their screens can offer”. It turns out the billboard is driven by a Raspberry Pi computer which is still powerful enough to drive a full HD digital display and can be hooked up to respond to real-world inputs. Thanks to the Raspberry Pi blog for the tip.

Now the update, courtesy of theLocal in Stockholm

Early in October 2014, another Swedish advertising agency Garbergs snapped up the idea, hoping it could be used for the greater good. It created an eye-catching Cancer campaign and the first advert was installed in Stockholm's underground in the beginning of October. The installations were only there for two days, but a YouTube clip of the campaign (below) has had a much longer life. In less than a week it has attracted 300,000 hits. By November the number was over 2.5 million.

The focus of the project is 14-year-old Linn. As a train passes the billboard, the wind makes her hair blow so violently that it flies off her head.

That's when it becomes clear that this is not a copycat-ad. Linn was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair because of it.

The billboard then displays a message explaining that one child is diagnosed every day from cancer, and urges people to donate.

"The world shares the film not just because they think it's beautifully made, but because they think the message is beautiful," Garbergs' copywriter Sedir Ajeenah told The Local.

It is a touching message - and one that also inspires hope.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

MN.26.08.1987. Nicaragua & New Radios in Berlin

This was a new edition of the programme covering the strange move by President Reagan to use clandestine Radio Liberation broadcasting from El Salvador. VOA Spanish is much better received in the target area of Nicaragua. We also learned that Radio France Internationale has decided against putting a relay station in Sri Lanka, looking at the island of Reunion instead (later dropped when they discovered the island is prone to very high winds). Mark Deutsch at BBC World Service explains their expansion plans for satellite coverage of Europe. People are not watching the new Superchannel service because there are no subtitles on the programmes. Radio Lebanon has been off the air because of a heat wave in Beirut. We also covered the Berlin Audio and Video Fair. Sony has launched a radio with a fax receiver built in SR6768. We learn about EuroMac and why Philips believes DAT will not take off as a consumer tape standard. Wolf Harranth reports on an Italian station broadcasting to Slovenia. Enthusiasts in the Netherlands have discovered a way to make free international calls via Denmark.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.01.09.1983. Zimbabwe & Satellites

This was an early attempt to do longer investigative features. We start the programme looking at the challenges facing the satellite broadcast industry (remember this is well before the launch of SKY television). Richard Ginbey also did a marathon overview of the history of broadcasting in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. I think the off-air recordings are rather unique - not sure that much has survived. He put this togther using cassette tape recorders - must have taken ages. And the programme ends with tuning suggestions from Andy Sennitt and Arthur Cushen.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.23.08.2000 Offshore Radio Revivals

A nice summer edition of Media Network in which Diana and I looked at a revival of Radio Caroline in the Netherlands, organised by Sietse Brouwer from Harlingen. Land-based pirate stations have been meeting in London. Bob Tomalski reports on one of the biggest booze-ups in 35 years. Bob laments that the old passion has gone. Audio quality is not what it used be. Bryan Clark reports from New Zealand on the reappearance of American Forces stations on shortwave. And that includes Diego Garcia. We also looked at the future of radio design, highlighting some work going on at the University of Twente.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.08.04.1988 The Indonesian Journey

This was a documentary I made about Indonesian radio broadcasting, based on a holiday trip I took in 1988. I recall taking an ICF2001D and a Walkman Professional so as to capture sound effects of the train journey.
The tape of this documentary did not survive well - some print through because the tape was in poor condition and not complete. But I have processed it so it probably sounds better than it did on shortwave back then. The sounds of RRI in English, especially on the local stations was something out of a living radio museum.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Radio South Atlantic May 1982

Radio South Atlantic was a short-lived clandestine radio station started by the UK Ministry of Defence with programmes aimed at Argentine troops on the Falkland islands. This programme was broadcast from a transmitter on Ascension Island which was temporarily taken away from BBC World Service.

Background (from Wikipedia)

The Falklands War (SpanishGuerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for "South Atlantic War"), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: theFalkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday 2 April 1982 when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands (and, the following day, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had long claimed over them. On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

The Station

This is a studio copy of Radio South Atlantic. In May 1982, the British government decided to set up a Spanish language radio station targeting Argentine troops. This was probably in response to an Argentine radio station (nicnamed Argentine Annie by the UK press) which appeared on shortwave some weeks earlier using the Beatles theme "Yesterday" as a signature tune.

I was editing the Media Network programme at the time. We could hear Radio South Atlantic using our shortwave radios in Hilversum - but the signal was very weak because it wasn't beamed in our direction.

So I rang the British embassy in the Hague and asked if it would be possible to get a studio copy of the programme to use in a documentary feature we were making. A few days later, a courier riding a large motorbike arrived at RN's reception and asked for me. I went down to the front-desk to sign for the tape. "But you can't keep this tape. You can only listen to it" was the message from guy in the helmet. "I have to take it back to the Hague in about half an hour". I said I'd look for an empty studio, gave the guy a large coffee and wandered casually round the corner. Then I made a mad dash to the fast copy-room used to make tape copies of RNW transcription programmes for other radio stations. It had a machine that could copy tapes at around 8 times faster than normal. Luckily, Jos, the guy in charge, saw my challenge, set up the machine immediately and 15 minutes later I was back in reception to return the tape to the messenger. And I had this copy.

It seems the British dropped leaflets over the Falklands to try and spread the word that this shortwave radio station existed. And we later analysed the programme. It was classic Sefton Delmer (Black Propaganda), although rather poorly presented. Bit like calling up Vera Lynn if the British had a dispute with France.

But this is one of the few surviving recordings of Radio South Atlantic. You be the judge of how effective it all was.

Would be interested to hear from others who know who was involved in the production.

There are two Media Network programmes which date from the same period which might be worth listening to.

The one broadcast on May 5th 1982 looked at the BFBS service to the Falklands Task Force - a programme hosted by Sarah Kennedy.

The second programme was broadcast at Christmas 1982 in which we looked back on the various news stories of 1982 and analysed the Radio South Atlantic tape released above.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Air New Zealand keeps you safe again

definitely the most memorable air safety demos ever made. Brilliant. I guess they were all filmed at the same time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

MN.02.10.1987. Europe No 1 & Citizen's Radio

We're postponing a series of features until the satellite link with Madagascar is resorted after maintenance.
Europe-1, a commercial network in France, has been heard on a Radio Caribbean on 1210 kHz 05 UTC. It seems it's the start of a major expansion plan.
We tell the story of Atlantic 252, which apparently was an idea from Luxembourg. More than 4 million pounds has been invested in the project. Radio Tara was the project name.
We explain the Stickers on the Move contest.  Radio Nacional Venezuela is being heard more regularly.
Paris KISS-FM has started a station Tahiti. We were clearly intrigued at how the signal got to the Pacific. Radio Finland has started using a new higher power transmitter on 963 kHz.
Japanese cordless phones are being monitored on shortwave radios in India because they are so poorly made. We take the situation to its illogical conclusions. Ben Kobb explains that Citizens Band radio didn't start on 27 MHz but infact began in 1947 in 460 MHz.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.02.07.1987. Iranian Clandestines

We start this programme with news of a two-in-one RS-10 and RS-11 amateur radio satellite launched by the Russians. Pat Gowan reports. Radio Moscow has started a summer programme for the tourists to the capital. Radio Danubius in Budapest is doing something similar. Poland objects to a new Israeli relay station for VOA (never built). India is upgrading its time signal station. Philips says its solved the problem of poor resolution on LCD displays. We also discuss radio broadcast radiation and it's danger to humans. Wim van Amstel explains.
We also discuss clandestine broadcasting to Iran, using transmitters in Iraq. We solve the mystery of the number station contest, and Anne Blair Gould reviews the Guide to Broadcasting Stations by Philip Darrington.
The programme concludes with Arthur Cushen's DX report including a very clear recording of Radio Luxembourg signing off in English on 49 metres.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.08.01.1987. Riyadh & Scanners

A New Year has dawned but without the expected reduction in Soviet jamming of Western broadcasters. West German television airs the wrong new year speech from Chancellor Kohl. The Dutch have been measuring devices for radio interference levels, banning two devices because of poor shielding. We also talk to the UK engineers who had to shield a football stadium in Saudi Arabia, because of a nearby 1.2 Megawatt mediumwave transmission tower. Solar specialist Mike Bird reviews 1986 from a radio reception point of view.
Out in the Iraqi desert, French transmitter manufacturer Thomson is to build 16 high power transmitters. We look at satellite radio with the BBC's Jonathan Stott.
On 6009 kHz a clandestine radio station in Libya has been making some mistakes. Radio Truth, a clandestine in South Africa targeting Zimbabwe, has made a clever frequency change. Radio West in The Hague, a station of 18 people, has just started operations. Willem Bos has been testing a special device for scanner enthusiasts.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.06.10.1987. Superconductors & Lightning

Jonathan gets a tube of "on-air" radio toothpaste. China is being relayed by Swiss Radio International, some transmissions being well heard. We started to spot strong signals from Radio Beijing but not coming from Europe. Dave Rosenthal explains Electrometeors and why lightning can make shortwave radios suddenly insensitive. Carefully tuned outdoor antennas can "blow-up" the front end of a portable radio. In fact, the Sony ICF2001D was particularly suspectible. A lightning arrestor is a bit of a misnomer.
We review the RFB40L shortwave portable from Panasonic.
We also report on superconductor research displayed at Telecom 87 in Geneva by AT&T.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Thursday, October 09, 2014

MN.25.09.1987. Guatemalan Mysteries

This programme has a strong Latin American flavour starting with the news of test transmissions from Radio For Peace International in Costa Rica. Sky Channel in the UK is not making money yet but has no intention of stopping. Some broadcasters are experimenting with AM stereo. Don Rhodes in Australia reports that Deutsche Welle is going to start testing the new 22 metre shortwave band. A special shortwave broadcast is on the air from a station in Syria during the Mediterraean Games.
We then announced the Radio Netherlands SSB Feeder Challenged. RNW has to bridge a four-week gap in the satellite feed to Madagascar. A special SSB transmitter was hired at a transmitter site at Ruislede, Belgium.
The first edition of Passport to World Band Radio is reviewed with Harry Kliphuis.
Christian Zettl from Austria is travelling in Central America and has been investigating some strange political clandestine radio stations in Guatemala, including one with a connection to a recording by Nat King Cole.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, October 05, 2014

MN.04.09.1987. The US Emergency Broadcast System

This edition of the programme discusses how the US Emergency Broadcast System works. This was a predecessor to what is now called the Emergency Alert System. Benn Kobb elaborates and Frank Lucia explains how President Truman gave the go-ahead for the CONELRAD system. Gary Burgeois also explains what could go wrong at 9.33 every Saturday morning. It sounds like stations then were better prepared than today.

The programme also discusses changes to the domestic shortwave service in Australia. Andy Sennitt explains that Nigeria has discontinued some of its shortwave services and the location of Radio Sovereign. Bob Tomalski (known as Roger Tate in those days) reports on DAT digital recorders.

The tape of this programme didn't survive as well as others, which explains the slightly higher level of hiss than other editions at the start of the show. Still listenable though.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.12.02.1987. Vanuatu & Telex Decoding

Vanuatu has been counting the cost of a major cyclone to hit this Pacific island chain. They’ve asked Radio Australia to help out while repairs are made to Radio Vanuatu. We also discuss progress 10 days into the WARC 1987 conference in Geneva. Jim Vastenhoud reports about the technical decisions being made. Single Sideband raises its head again. Of course SSB never happened.

Willem Bos looks at decoders to receive and decode “telex over radio”. At that time there was a large group of enthusiasts monitoring utility stations. We also review a new book about Radio Wave Propagation written by antenna specialist (the late) Fred Judd

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.27.09.1987. Mali Relays Beijing & Batteries

This news edition of the programme starts with a major raid by Amsterdam police on the four largest pirate radio stations in the Dutch capital. We solved the mystery of very strong signals from Radio Beijing (now China Radio International) beamed to North America from a new relay station in Africa. It turned out this was a new project in Mali.
There were other news headlines: Ariane launches TVSat1, which later turned out to be one of the most expensive launch failures. The D2MAC TV standard is having development challenges in Germany. Ralf Carlson of KUSW explains his plans. The Ross Revenge antenna has collapsed. We announced the results of the Radio Netherlands SSB Find-the-Feeder Challenge.
The programme also looked at the challenges of pollution from batteries. That was 100 million in 1987. (Wonder what it is now?) I talked with Lucas Reinders about what’s been agreed to reduce the amount of mercury in alkaline batteries.

Richard Dearborn of the Christian Science Monitor in Boston explains what they’re planning to do with the rock station KYOI on Saipan which they purchased. Victor Goonetilleke closes out the programme with tuning suggestions including a clandestine station targeting listeners in Iran.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

MN.06.08.1987.Recalling the Bells from Breda

I remember this edition of Media Network broadcast in August 1987. At that time digital recording was only just becoming possible, using a PCM adaptor connected to a Umatic video tape recorder. The late Joop Zuidam was a music producer at Radio Netherlands and he told me he was heading to Breda to record another in his series about carillons, the set of bells in church towers. Radio Netherlands had been using an ancient recording of the carillon in Den Bosch, but the tape had been copied so many times that it sounded awful, especially when played back on a cartridge. So I asked Joop if he could arrange for Jacque Maasens, the carillon player of the Great Church of Breda, to record a new version of the interval signal played at the start of each broadcast from Radio Netherlands on shortwave. It seems there is an interview with Jacques in Dutch on Youtube, also taken in the same tower. I will always remember the view (pictured). And we also recorded a few jokes, including Yankee Doodle, the theme used by the VOA at the time.

This edition also includes news that the BBC is to start transmitting from Hong Kong on shortwave and Pirate radio sovereign has been broadcasting again. We look at the pirate radio scene on FM in Paris. Arthur Cushen has a bumper crop of tuning suggestions from his listening post in the Pacific.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Apple Demo Day

More interested in the iPhone Plus than the Apple Watch. Yes, they have solved some interface challenges by making a digital "winder". But the battery life is something that limits its usefulness as a health device. Can't be used to monitor sleep if it is going to have enough juice during the day.

Perhaps SWatch needs to be worried. But not the analogue watch makers like IWC.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Time Lapse Eastbourne; Blightly like you've rarely seen it.

Getting addicted to some of the great timelapse movies.

Spotify Discovers Video could be the clue to paying for great audio

30 million of the 40 million registered users of the Spotify streaming music service never pay a cent. You could argue that they pay with their attention. Now Spotify is asking those free users to watch video ads  of either 15 or 30 seconds. In return they get 30 minutes of uninterrupted music. I think this is better than the other idea which is old interruption advertising dressed up to look like something new.

Sounds like a deal. Especially if the ads are really well done. A good example is Wetransfer, a Dutch site that makes it easy to transfer large files via the web, especially the attachments too big to attach to an email. While you wait there is a carousel of large one page ads, some of which are beautiful.

But Spotify could do so much more with video enabled ads. It is something radio has tried to do, but it never had the right sized screens.

And I'm worried that digital radio technology is not getting embedded into smart phones. Even NFC has got into the new iPhone to be launched tomorrow, so the rumours say.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Heading into the volcano

This team took Go-Pros and a Canon camera to a place where few dare to tread.

Pity the film just fades to black. A Making of would be intriguing.

Monday, September 01, 2014

MN.04.04.1985 Brannigan and Edwards

Great to hear the voices of John Brannigan, a Scottish radio propagation specialist, who was the perfect interviewee. He really knew his field and could explain things in non-technical language. The other guest in this programme is BBC World Service Chief Engineer Keith Edwards. He was one of the first top managers to turn up at shortwave listener gathering and explain what they were trying to do at the transmitting end. He also anticipated home satellite radio and TV reception several years before it took off in hobby circles. Remember this is well before the launch of Sky Satellite Television.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.04.07.1985. Expo85 and Radio Tampa

One of a series of Media Network programmes that originated from the 1985 Expo in Tsuba, just North of Tokyo. I used the visit to the expo to visit Akihabara, called Electric Town, even then. The Sony ICF2001D has just gone on sale, and I remember picking one up for considerably less than in Europe. Just had to make do with a Japanese only instruction booklet. We also look at the domestic shortwave radio station Radio Tampa. This was one of the first Media Network safaris, exploring media in other countries. Remember it is nearly 30 years old!

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.07.02.1985. Radio Jackie London

Radio Netherlands won't be getting access to 747 kHz. Things are going to plan for PA6FLD ham radio station operating from the new Flevoland transmitter site. I also did a marathon edition of SW Feedback live from the transmitter site.
Radio Jackie gets raided again in South West London. Bob Tomalski, later a contributor to Media Network, looks at whether they were a community station or just in it for the money. In the Netherlands, Broadcast minister Elco Brinkman says that pirate radio stations will not get access to extended FM bands. Roger Tidy in London has started a new monitoring magazine.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

BBC World Service Peter Horrocks resigns

Peter Horrocks, Director of the BBC World Service Group, today announced that he will be leaving the BBC in the new year.
Peter Horrocks has been Director of the World Service since 2009 and has worked at the BBC for 33 years.
Under Peter’s leadership weekly audiences for the BBC’s global news services - BBC World Service, BBC World News and – have reached a record 265m.
Peter has led the World Service through some of its most challenging times, responding to funding cuts by modernising the World Service for the digital age.
He successfully oversaw one of the biggest changes in the history of the World Service as it moved from Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) funding into the licence fee, leaving its historic headquarters of Bush House for the BBC’s New Broadcasting House.

One of the best interviews with Peter was on a TV station in Ghana earlier this year. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Crafting a station's image

Radio imaging, especially on music stations, has become an art unto itself. Practiced by a lot of people, but only really understood by a few.

Like jingles and presentation envoy, Steve Martin, who hosts the Earshot Creative review. If you like the "making of" radio, you'll like these podcasts.

And these are my favorites from the archives.


Even bad acoustics and recording mistakes can end up with gems.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

MN.12.09.1985. The mystery of Radio Impacto

In 1985, we didn't know much about a new station that had gone on the air in Costa Rica, but was clearly targeting listeners in neighbouring Nicaragua. Austrian DXer Christian Zettel helped us out as he was travelling in the region. As Don Moore later wrote in 1992, Radio Impacto did little to hide its Contra connection. On its staff were an official spokesperson for the FDN, some announcers from former Somoza radio stations in Managua, and several former staffers for La Prensa, the the primary anti-Sandinista newspaper in Nicaragua. Elsewhere, Impacto's Tegucigalpa correspondent actually doubled as the FDN's local spokesman. The strongest evidence for the contra connection came from Edgar Chamorro, former director of communications for the FDN, who told the World Court that Impacto was a CIA operation.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault