Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Could major solar flares really mess up the Internet of Everything?

Yes, the sun could do more damage than we think. It turns out that the sun is unusually quiet at the moment. I confess that I haven't followed the latest 11 year cycle since I left the shortwave broadcasting business in 2003. But I got a wake-up call today with this excellent video report from NASA.

Solar disturbances caused major communication outages when the sun was at the peak of its activity. Satellites were sometimes parked so as to try and shield them from a particularly nasty blast of the solar wind. This NASA video shows that, far from being shelved, scientists still have solar activity in their sights. Because the sun is going to get a lot more active again, and one wonders if those designing networks and airborne electronics are keeping this in mind. D-Day in Normandy was reportedly delayed by a day because of a sudden ionospheric disturbance wiped out a lot of HF communications. It wasn't just the weather on the ground. Although we are less dependant on HF for broadcast communications these days, solar mass ejections on the sun can have devastating effects on GPS navigation systems, as well as cross-country landlines. This article from National Geographic is worth reading if you're interested in more details.

"The sun has an activity cycle, much like hurricane season," Tom Bogdan, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, said earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

"It's been hibernating for four or five years, not doing much of anything." Now the sun is waking up, and even though the upcoming solar maximum may see a record low in the overall amount of activity, the individual events could be very powerful.

In fact, the biggest solar storm on record happened in 1859, during a solar maximum about the same size as the one we're entering, according to NASA.

That storm has been dubbed the Carrington Event, after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the megaflare and was the first to realize the link between activity on the sun and geomagnetic disturbances on Earth. During the Carrington Event, northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu, while southern lights were seen as far north as Santiago, Chile.

The flares were so powerful that "people in the NorthEastern U.S. could read newspaper print just from the light of the aurora," Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said at a geophysics meeting last December.

In addition, the geomagnetic disturbances were strong enough that U.S. telegraph operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment—some bad enough to set fires, said Ed Cliver, a space physicist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1859, such reports were mostly curiosities. But if something similar happened today, the world's high-tech infrastructure could grind to a halt.

"What's at stake," the Space Weather Prediction Center's Bogdan said, "are the advanced technologies that underlie virtually every aspect of our lives."

Solar Flare Would Rupture Earth's "Cyber Cocoon"

To begin with, the University of Colorado's Baker said, electrical disturbances as strong as those that took down telegraph machines—"the Internet of the era"—would be far more disruptive. (See "The Sun—Living With a Stormy Star" in National Geographic magazine.)

Flashback to Media Network coverage at the height of the solar activity end of the 1990's. I hosted this communications magazine on the Dutch external service and we carried a solar report every week. But we also did regular features about solar research. Here are a couple of examples.

See what I mean?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

John Oliver - Rising Star, Brilliant Writer

I really enjoy the work of John Oliver, the British comedian who is doing some brilliant political writing and stand-up in the US at the moment. Most people know him from his work on the Daily Show from Comedy Central. Especially during last summer's absence of John Stewart.

 But in fact he has a career going back to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2001. He was also prominent in the UK around 2005 in the Mock the Week show.

And now he's left to start his own weekly show in HBO - Last Week Tonight.

His interview with the former head of the NSA General Keith Alexander is going to be a classic.

Fewer people know that since October 2007, John Oliver has co-hosted The Bugle, a weekly satirical comedy podcast, with Andy Zaltzman. Originally produced by The Times of London, it is now independent. The show is downloaded over 500,000 times a month.

I think Oliver uses the Bugle to try things out. It is extremely funny- and the insights they come up with are well ahead of anything you find on mainstream media. In short, John Oliver has great talent which wasn't recognised in the UK. And fame has not done much to change the man. He is still sounds like a genuinely nice person. I hope he can keep up the pace.

Shingy's future vision is scary to say the least.

More from last week's The Next Web conference. David Shing is AOL's Digital Prophet, originally from Australia, now living in New York. May be I should spell that "Digital Profit", since the content Shingy is talking about the evolution of engaging advertising copy rather than imparting information.

I don't believe that David is sharing a story. More like a digital blast at the audience. Where is David taking us - and do we really want to go? I believe there are different, less scary paths. Especially if you want to share an idea rather than sell something to someone who doesn't really have a use for your brilliant product.

Update (30/4); Several readers pointed out to me an article in ValleyWag, refering to the stupid titles that seem to be plaguing the tech industry. I must admit that the title "xxxxx in residence" is wearing thin rather quickly. It's really a new name for what we used to call a manager or head of something. The best understand their job is to listen, coach and inspire more than barking orders.

I note in the article that in the comments, some added "anyone who calls themselves a futurist". There I disagree. Depends on who you are talking about.

Enjoyed the talk by telecoms futurist David Wood in London a few weeks back. He was speaking on the "Predictions, good, bad, and ugly: roadblocks en route to 2025" at the London Futurists Anticipating 2025 event. Some useful comments when you get past the introduction. I see he also found the same article and the comments on futurist.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The trouble with San Francisco...

The Next Web conference in Amsterdam always manages to attract an interesting mixture of people who care about the future of the Internet. Often it's because they want to make money. Sometimes it's because they want to build a new kind of shop to sell us something. Increasingly it is because they have an idea that could disrupt an incumbent and change the world. Many in Europe keep looking across the Atlantic as though New York and Silicon Valley have found the answers. As Kevin Rose pointed out at the Next Web, San Francisco is becoming increasingly less attractive for creative startups. Crazy pricing from landlords in Silicon Valley makes me wonder why the West of Coast of Europe doesn't step up to the plate.

I'm concerned that the story from Brussels and the European politicians is not in a language that many entrepreneurs understand. Neelie seems to like us, but the dialogue platforms currently in place are clumsy. It's not clear at all whether views you express as an individual or small enterprize are really influencing any of the decisions at the EU. Neelie looks rather fierce, speaking to us from the autocue, rather like a newsreader. This means that the message gets lost because she doesn't connect with the audience. Opportunity missed, I believe.

Three presentations stood out for me. And it is great that The Next Web conference makes these available to the rest of us through their YouTube Channel.

1. Eze Vidra is Head of Google for Entrepreneurs Europe and Campus London. He is master of understanding the startup culture, based on his work in Israel and at Campus London in TechCity. Having been to the campus a couple of times, I know that facilities wise it is nothing out of the ordinary. But the key to its success is the way the build an inclusive ecosystem which extends well beyond the standard incubator or accelerator we see elsewhere. There are some important lessons learned here. Like startups in the US are getting 5-10 times more capital from VC's that we're seeing with similar startups in Europe. That seems to explain why so many original startups are struggling.

2. Of course, companies like Google and Facebook promise us free services in exchange for the right to watch and study us; to mine and farm our data. Like quarries, like livestock, we are natural resources to be exploited in a brave new digital world of corporate surveillance that threatens our most fundamental freedoms. It reminds me a bit of commercial media. The audience is the product being sold to advertisers.

There are open alternatives but they are too difficult for most of us to use. Aral Balkan says its time to bring design thinking to open source and build beautiful, seamless open consumer products that are easy to use and which respect our fundamental freedoms. Wish they had edited out the false start. But if you only watch one video, look at this one.

3. And the third presentation was by Brewster Kahle of fame, though it hasn't been posted in the TNW channel yet. So I'll wait with my comments about that one. Glad to see that a lot of Brewster's projects are progressing well, despite setbacks they had with a fire at the scanning centre in San Francisco in November last year. Update: As of May 4th, Brewster's video is still not part of the TNW 2014 coverage. Not sure why.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sound Engineers have zero value and respect in Hilversum

Regular readers of these media musings know that that I'm an optimist - looking on the brighter, creative side of life. But I also openly share my concerns.

Fragmentation is killing the quality of Dutch public radio. 

In 2014, the "audio" sector of Dutch public broadcasting needs to shave 2.9 million Euro off an annual budget of 90 million Euro. Many people abroad don't realise that there are no less than 7 public networks in this country, though as the table above shows, the 90 million is not evenly spread.

The lions share, 36 million Euro, goes to fund Radio 1, the news and sports network. But the second most expensive network is Radio 5, which to my ears, remains one of the strangest stations on the planet. It plays nostalgic music during the day and programmes with an educational/spiritual content in the evenings. Radio 1 has a market share of around 7.3%, with a weekly reach of 2.6 million people. Radio 5 has a market share of around 3 percent, and a weekly reach of around 700,000. Bottom of the list for public broadcasting is Radio 6, soul/jazz format with a weekly reach of 160,000.

To my mind, Dutch public radio has far too many channels, filling it with far too much music. No-one has ever seriously challenged their public purpose since discussions about broadcasting are never about radio, always television/Internet. 

If the same situation was present in the UK, there would have been a public outcry. And note that the Urban youth network, FunX, with a budget of 2.7 million Euro is not mentioned in the radio ratings. Frankly, the regional public broadcasters (in this list as ORN) do a much better job with a fraction of some of these budgets.

And, personally, I think commercial networks like Sublime FM and 100%NL do a much better job in their respective genres than the public networks Radio 6 and Radio 5. More recently, Radio 1 has starting putting music in its morning news programme. Along with the pingles and jingles that are played in and around the news bulletins, that radio network has become unlistenable for me. If I want something, I'll access it on demand through the website - I'd prefer a pre-roll ad than being forced to listen to public radio carrying ad breaks. I note that I go for the video items first. I only go to audio if I can't find the video.

Although the radio advertising bureau in the Netherlands says the radio advertising market here grew by 5 million Euro to 226 million in 2013, I'm curious to see how long that can last.

Sound Design has no value

I believe in a duopoly media system providing the balance between public and commercial makes sense. The problem is that no-one really cares about the future of radio in Hilversum.

As evidence, look at the call from the largest pubcaster in Hilversum, the new AVROTROS. They are looking for interns to work in their production department. The work on the TV side is spotting to make promos. The work on the radio side is to be broadcast transmission technician, playing out a programme they make for Radio 5. The remuneration for this responsibility is a mere a 300 Euro PER MONTH, for a 36 hour week, which effectively means the AVROTROS doesn't really see this as a career path. It's a just a cheap way of making radio. So why bother raising false hopes?  I find this scandalous for a public broadcasting organisation. Rather than re-thinking the role of broadcasters, editors and sound designers as we see elsewhere in the world, Hilversum public radio has stuck with workflows from the 1990's. Which means everyone loses out in the end.

So what needs to happen?

In the UK, attention was drawn to Asian Network and BBC 6 Music when the BBC Trust announced their imminent closure in 2010. In the end , both the Asian Network and BBC 6 Music were saved as the BBC Trust backtracked. To my mind, closing the Asian network made a lot sense as the commercial/community sectors do a better job of serving these audiences. Saving BBC 6 Music was the best decision the Trust made. I see various public initiatives like Friends of Radio 3, formed by those who want a continuous public dialogue with the BBC on the future of public radio networks. It looks like a healthy situation to me.

In the Netherlands, there is no ongoing public debate on the future of radio. People wait until cuts are announced, and then we see broadcasters setting up campaign sites to try and persuade the public of the politicians folly. That is rarely successful and shows that Netherlands public radio is still broadcasting to its audience, rather than working with its audience. Will anyone care enough to change it?

*This post has been updated on April 29th. Thanks to Stephen Martin for the fact check on BBC Asian Network. I said earlier that it had been closed down. May be they should call it the BBC South Asian Network? Can't imagine there are many East Asians in the demographics.

MN Island Montage Radio St Helena & Easter Island

Found this pre-broadcast montage which comes from two different Media Networks, one aired in the 1990's and one in June 1981. No prizes for spotting the join. Both montages survived longer than the transmission tape. One is an interview I did with Tony Leo (pictured), station manager of Radio Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. For many years the station made special broadcasts on shortwave for a small group of dedicated fans around the world. The medium and shortwave transmissions went off the air in December 2012, to be replaced by a government run FM network. Within three weeks, a group of islanders had formed a committee to revive the station It was their intention to re-launch it as a charity, but this status was declined, hence it now operates as a community enterprise. Councillors', some of whom had voted to launch the rival, are now in full support of the people's own radio station. This was expressed when one of these councillors, allowed a transmitter to be clamped to his home, to assist in getting the signal relayed across the island’s mountainous terrain. The station renamed Saint FM Community Radio, commenced broadcasting live on 10th March 2013, and was back Internet streaming the following month. read more about Saint FM

But it was fun listening to the most remote station on the planet while it was there on shortwave. In 1981 I interviewed Dr Grant McCall about life on Easter Island, discovered by Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen in 1722. So added that montage for good measure. Photo from the Dokufunk collection in Vienna, the world's largest repository for radio related material.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In memory of Frits Thors

Today it was announced that Dutch broadcaster Frits Thors has passed away at the age of 104. He was best known by the Dutch public as a television newsreader. I knew him through several interviews I made with him about his time in radio, especially working for BBC Dutch and Radio Nederland. He shared the stories in a documentary we broadcast in 1995. What a nice man. What a wonderful life. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

MN.24.09.1981. Karl Braun Dream Receiver

No apologies for my high voice. Media Network was just a few months old and I had been at Radio Nederland for just over a year. This program was recorded 33 years ago when having a radio with a digital readout was a luxury. People were also trying to develop the dream shortwave receiver, which included Karl Braun, a specialist receiver manufacturer in West Germany.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Long-Term Trouble in Tech Valley USA

If you are an entrepreneur and just have time to read one article this week, then make sure it is this excellent article by Kim-Mai Cutler on Techcrunch. Definitely food for thought on how we could do things differently in Europe.

The Santa Clara Valley in California used to have some of the most valuable agricultural land in the entire world, but it was paved over to create today’s Silicon Valley. This was simply the result of bad planning and layers of leadership failure — nobody thinks farms literally needed to be destroyed to create the technology industry’s success.

Today, the tech industry in Silicon Valley is apparently on track to destroy one of the world’s most valuable cultural treasures, San Francisco, by pushing out the diverse people who have helped create it. At least that’s the story you’ve read in hundreds of articles lately.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But everyone who lives in the Bay Area today needs to accept responsibility for making changes where they live so that everyone who wants to be here, can.

The alternative — inaction and self-absorption — very well could create the cynical elite paradise and middle-class dystopia that many fear. I’ve spent time looking into the city’s historical housing and development policies. With the protests escalating again, I am pretty tired of seeing the city’s young and disenfranchised fight each other amid an extreme housing shortage created by 30 to 40 years of NIMBYism (or “Not-In-My-Backyard-ism”) from the old wealth of the city and down from the peninsula suburbs.

Here is a very long, but excellent explainer

Sunday, April 20, 2014

MN.27.01.1983. Victor Hafkamp & ICOM ICR-70

This was a new edition of Media Network dating from 1983, two years into the series. We covered the planned construction of KNLS in Alaska, unusual because it was beaming to Russia over the North Pole. Reception in very Northern parts of the world were thought to be affected more by solar disturbances, so deciding to build a station in Alaska was curious. There were also plans to build a mediumwave station KBQN on American Samoa. This was a Pacific version of the Caribbean Beacon. There were plans to build a 500 kW shortwave transmitter as well. The Surinamese government complains about Radio Netherlands broadcasts to their country. Victor Hafkamp explains the background. Radio New Zealand International may cancel its shortwave service. Radio Dublin is back on shortwave on 6910 kHz. We review the ICOM ICR-70 in great detail. Remember this was in a period when no website existed to share this kind of consumer information. Richard Ginbey does a profile of broadcasting in Swaziland. Victor Goonetilleke has been hearing KYOI beaming to Japan.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.11.05.2000. South African Radio Scan

Found this example of the Media Network safari to Capetown in May 2000. We answer listener questions to gadget guru Bob Tomalski who explains about the challenges facing SuperVHS and the expected switch to DVD recording. He turned out to be spot on. Then we talk to Zane Ibrahim (pictured), head of Bush Radio, the mother of community radio in Capetown. He holds the deal makers feet to the fire!. There is also a bandscan we made in the hotel in Johannesburg which captures the flavour of radio there at the start of millennium. We also talk to others working professionally in the radio licensing sector of South Africa, specifically the future of community radio stations.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Saturday, April 19, 2014

BVN- still going strong

Although Radio Nederland Wereldomroep no longer broadcasts on shortwave, external broadcasting from the Netherlands still exists, albeit only in Dutch. It is targeted at Dutch and Flemish viewers living abroad. In some places, like the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao you will find it on the cable. I note this current promo campaign is popping up on YouTube.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Amsterdam grew up

Some nice animations by the Amsterdam City Archive have appeared showing the growth of the city first from 1600-1700 and then from 1800-1900. It's a pity there's no sound - it would be even better with an explanation.

Notice that major buildings like the Concertgebouw (built in 1888) were initially outside the city centre.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Now a word from our sponsor

More silliness from the Gremlins in Ireland, parodying what's wrong with a lot of commercial radio.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If Radio Requests were like a business

I know some radio stations who are actually sound like they are slave to their own automation. Gremlins have more parodies on radio over on Soundcloud.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MN.28.11.1991. Antenna Special & VOA Botswana

Following a promo about a documentary on Pearl Harbour, we start a news edition of the programme. There are updates on Radio Caroline running aground, Radio Moscow reduces the output in its English servive due to budget cuts, Radio Luxembourg fixes the last day for English broadcasts on 208 metres, 1440 kHz. Radio Baghdad may resume programmes in English to Europe and North America. We then had calls about radio receivers from Madrid and answered questions about directional antennas. We worked with Mike Villard of SRI Research in Calfornia to produce a pamphlet Reducing Skywave interference. Victor Gooneilleke has an extensive South Asia radio report. VOA's Bill Whitacre reports on how they are restoring coverage to Africa after the loss of their relay station in Monrovia, Liberia. Two shortwave transmitters will beam North-West from Botswana (pictured). Mike Bird rounds off with propagation news.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Is radio still connected with the car and social media?

Is broadcast radio still relevant in the connected car? I think it is, but other audio sources are available. I tend to use a iPad mini for on demand audio/video, thanks to a brilliant app called Downcast. It doesn't care whether it is audio or video. It all goes into the same database, instantly sorted so I can listen again - and again.

So how are others looking at audio on the move? Trevor Dann found a number of interesting people at Radiodays Europe.

Kim Wilde, radio presenter speaking in Dublin

Kim Wilde is an international pop icon and radio presenter. To date she has sold over 10 million albums and 20 million singles around the world in a recording career spanning more than thirty years.

Fewer people know that Kim is also a successful radio presenter. She has hosted her own market-leading show on Magic105.4 in London for over five years, and has recently launched a brand new radio show, The Kim Wilde 80s Show, especially produced for an international audience. Terrific voice. What a nice person!

Where is radio going?

Despite a rather upbeat piece on yesterday's World Business Report ( BBC World Service) I cannot see the digital radio standard DRM taking off in India. It has been tried in Europe, Brazil, China, Russia - it's a technological solution to a problem that only radio engineers seem to understand.

I think I've worked out how the BBC World Service made that shortwave montage in the piece below. You got to the website Interval signals on line and click Alaska and Andorra. Pity that the recording from AWR via Andorra dates back to 1981.

More than eighty years ago, the BBC began transmitting its first international radio broadcasts - on what was then known as the Empire Service. These days of course, we call it the World Service. What made the first international broadcasts possible was shortwave - a set of radio frequencies which allowed signals to travel very long distances - even if the end results could sound a little bit, well, odd. These days, though far fewer broadcasters focus on shortwave. Here at the BBC, even, our transmissions have been heavily cut back. Instead, we use the internet, as well as relying on local FM broadcasters. But could shortwave - or a version of it - be about to make a comeback? Here's Mark Whittaker with news of what could be a radio revolution. And you may like to know that the BBC is already broadcasting in digital short wave for 5 hours a day to India and India's domestic radio station is currently building one digital medium wave transmitter every two weeks. A new wave of cheaper DRM receivers are expected to be on the market in the coming months.

To get a feeling of how radio markets are changing, have a look at some of the excellent, short but sharp interviews conducted by Trevor Dann at the recent RadioDays Europe convention in Dublin, Ireland. 

Very interesting point about radio sales in the UK, from BBC Director of Radio, Helen Boaden.Radio sales are falling, while the sale of smartphones and tablets are booming. Time spent listening to radio are going down in all age groups -- especially among the 15 to 30 year olds. These are "iceberg" challenges coming slowly towards us where we can see the top, but do not know quite how deep the problem may be, she says. Sales of radio sets in the UK are down by a staggering 54%. Radio is in direct competition with all other media in the fight for attention.

And news that there are DAB+ trials going on in the UK.

and let's not forget the role of radio in difficult countries. I get the impression that after completely opening up, the situation in Myanmar is not as good as it was a year ago.

Reel to Reel will never die....

Funny how we get stuck with images. Like a floppy disk to indicate saving a file. Or a humungus reel to reel tape machine to indicate that we're really recording the song. At least they still seem to be around at the Disney studios even in 2014.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gigantic Collection of Nostalgia

This is a re-issue of a file first published in 2012, but which was buried on another website. Following comments on Facebook, I have re-released it.

This is what you get if you take three production CDs that I used in the Media Network studio from 1995-2000 and fire them off one by one. It turns into 85 minutes of nostalgia with the daft jingles and promos we made to parody international broadcasting in the nineties. Ised the Dalet Workstation to make most of these - because it was the only way to do multirack mixes at Radio Netherlands. Before that we made jingles in the studio using complicated mixes of bit of tapes spliced together using razor blades. Was it efficient? No. Was it fun. Yes.

Radio Netherlands had a broadcast licence to use commercial music, so that made it possible to make these kind of jingles. We weren't trying to make any money out of the montages. We tended to use new music, the idea being that new music would pop up on commercial stations later and that might trigger some people to ask "Where have I heard that before?". My thanks to the voice talents of Jim Cutler, Lou Josephs, Diana Janssen, Dennis Powell, Peter Barsby, Peter Spinks, George Wood, Gene Reich, the late Paul Holmes (before he was famous in New Zealand), Spike Milligan (who was trapped in a studio during a news bulletin), Pete Myers, and Kenny Everett (broadcasters prayer). I wrote the other scripts. Enjoy. 

MN.29.03.1984. AFN Soesterberg

Back in 1984, many of us in Hilversum bought an NTSC compatible TV. That wasn't easy because it had to be specially ordered, ordinary TV's only had PAL. The reason was to be able to watch the TV programmes from the American Forces base at Soesterberg, around a 20 minute drive from Hilversum.
In this edition of the programme, I went down to Soesterberg to find out how it all worked and why it was in NTSC. The programme also carries a report from Rolf Lovstrom about why the US military wants a radio station in Norway, and there's a profile of other Hyperlocal radio stations like London Greek Cypriot radio in London.
The programme includes an interview with Hans Bakhuizen who had been looking at shortwave as a back-up plan incase of a nuclear war that wiped out satellites. Ironically, that is exactly what happened to the Radio Netherlands transmitter site in Flevoland.
This edition also includes an African media report from Richard Ginbey and an interview with David Hermges, Head of the English Section at Austrian Radio, later renamed as Radio Austria International.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.31.05.1984.Red Cross Profile

This edition of Media Network from 30 years ago looked at how the International Committee for the Red Cross set up its communications system based on ham radio equipment. We witness the launch of the satellite network Music Box and Bob Chaundy scans the bands to see what's been audible in Hiversum.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, April 13, 2014

MN.15.05.1986. Hoaxes, Satellite Dishes and More

With every major disaster there are always those willing to set up a hoax, often to attract attention to themselves. Nowadays Facebook, Twitter, Liveleaks and Tumblr are popular as well as countless parody sites. Back in 1986, the only electronic outlets were traditional radio and TV stations. We look back at the hoaxes surrounding Chernobyl. Bob Horvitz looks at the Over the Horizon Radar proposals in the USA. We investigated an early 1.5 metre home satellite dish called Patronix. It wasn't easy.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.05.01.1994 Happy New Year 1994

This was a news review, one of the early editions with Diana Janssen. We talk about the Philips Transmitter Site Christmas Tree. Radio Luxembourg ceases 6090 kHz for its French programme. Victor Goonetilleke reports on the delays to VOA transmitter site in Chilaw, Sri Lanka. He is hearing Radio Fana, targeting Ethiopia. RIAS on 6005 kHz has closed down, Radio Volga has also shut. In Austria all mediuumwave transmitters have closed down. There will be no central media archive for the time being. Radio Netherlands expands its Papiamentu service. BBC World Service relays in New Zealand on 1386 kHz have been replaced by VOA.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.18.11.1993. Weather Satellites Hoogeveen

We didn't stray that often from covering the news around international broadcasters. But we did do the occasional feature about other signals that could be heard montiored. This edition looked at weather satellites, with a visit to Hans Doeven at his shop in Hoogeveen.

The programme also looks at blue-boxing, and the concerns that the telecom providers have at illegal long-distance.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Classical Bitchfight from Hamburg

Salut Salon is a superb female classical quartet from Hamburg, Germany. I note that there latest performance, which is more like musical acrobatics, is going viral on YouTube. No wonder.

MN.29.03.1984 Wonderful Radio London

This programme looks at the WRLI, Wonderful Radio London International from Arlington Texas, Radio Veronica runs a radio series to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Paul Ballster notes that several offshore radio DJ's are on UK legal stations. Dennis Powell looks at the battle for listeners in Cuba. Baseball is seen as Radio Marti's secret weapon. Feedback via Pete Myers on the content of Media Network for South Asia. RTV Hong Kong will broadcast briefly on shortwave for the yacht race. Saipan is testing. Perspective feature, with the retirement of Joop Acda. He looks back on what had changed during his tenure as Director General. He also talks about the challenges of international broadcasters working together. He recalls the text they broadcast during a hostage taking in Central America. We talk to the lawyer representing Radio USA which will beam jazz music and news to Central America.

Check out this episode!

MN.10.11.1983. Robert Haslach

This early edition of Media Network included an interview with a former producer and translator in the English section of Radio Netherlands, the American Robert Haslach. In 1983 he published his account of Dutch world broadcasting in which he was quite critical of one of the early announcers/hosts on the radio station, Eddy Startz.

The program also profiles UN Radio in Geneva, who for many years would broadcast programs in Russian on SSB in the hope that Russian radio stations would pick them off the air and rebroadcast them. As they admitted at the time, they had no way of knowing if any station was actually using them.

Check out this episode!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Best coverage out of NAB, Las Vegas

Best coverage out of the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas this week.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Sunday, April 06, 2014

If you can only attend one digital festival this year....

...I would pick this festival in Berlin at the start of May.

Since its founding in 2007, re:publica has developed from a bloggers meet-up into one of the world’s most important festivals for the digital society. During its eighth instalment in 2014 more than 5000 guests are expected to attend. I am especially impressed by the efforts the organisers make to make a truly international festival.

It is the heterogeneous mix of participants which creates the unique atmosphere and environment at every re:publica and is so crucial to a technology inspired conference. In 2013, 450 speakers from over 30 countries took to the stage at re:publica, where activists, coders, artists, business people and representatives and many others from different walks of life and creative backgrounds come together. Furthermore, nearly half of re:publica’s guests are female – few other events within this area of interest can show-off a similarly balanced guest participation.

So in 2014 we will once again be discussing and celebrating, across three days and in over 250 hours of event programme, with internet pioneers and mavericks from the fields of politics, economics, science, culture and society. 

Is London really the best place to start a tech company?

I think the City of London is a great place to sell your tech company. But build it in East London? Seen too many tech-sweat shops struggling in really awful, over-priced conditions to be convinced of that. What am I missing?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Most Beautiful Video of 1988

I remember montaging this music from the late Robert Palmer to make jingles for Media Network. Never saw the video until a few weeks ago. Incredibly beautiful girls - wonder where they are now. And there's an interesting spin on things in the tribute video coming out this month from Ingrid Michaelson.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Robot Musicians

All kinds of robot musicians out there. The kids are from North Korea. The best are known as 

Discovered that Resonant Chamber dates from 2008 and that the third CGI project called Animusic turned into a successful Kickstarter Project.

W1A Episode 1

Not sure how long this will stay up, but at least us foreigners can watch this episode.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Is there a future for BBC World Service?

Apparently there is. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee has published its findings into the funding of BBC World Service. It looks to me like the situation is that the BBC World Service is to get slightly more money, but less influence at the top. And note that the running of the World Service is now very much under the umbrella of the News Group Board. Personally, I worry about the future of many of the factual feature programmes that the World Service has been good at doing in the past. The comedy programme W1A is a bit too close to the truth of the way ideas are killed by committees.

From the FAC report.

On Tuesday 1 April 2014, responsibility for funding the BBC World Service will transfer from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the BBC. Taxpayer funding in the form of FCO Grant in Aid will cease, and the main burden of the cost of the World Service will be met from the BBC Licence Fee. No increase in the Licence Fee has been agreed to offset this new demand on resources.

2. We have had serious reservations about the transfer from the outset. In April 2011, we deemed the risks so severe that we recommended that no transfer should take place until satisfactory safeguards had been put in place to prevent long-term erosion of the World Service's funding and of Parliament's right to oversee its work. This report summarises concerns which we expressed then and in subsequent reports and which have, if anything, become more marked with the passage of time.[1] We also take into account recent oral evidence from Peter Horrocks, Director of BBC Global News and the de facto head of the World Service; from James Harding, who is Director of BBC News and the person responsible for representing the World Service's interests on the BBC Executive Board; and from Lord Williams of Baglan, International Trustee at the BBC Trust.

BBC World Service funding

1.  We welcome the undertaking by the Director of News at the BBC to maintain the budget for the World Service up until the end of the current licence fee period, and his assurance that the next two years of funding will use the 2014-15 budget as a baseline. We urge the BBC to announce detailed funding allocations for 2015-16 and 2016-17 as soon as possible, to enable not just the World Service but also other divisions of the BBC to plan over the longer term. (Paragraph 7)


2.  We have clear differences with the BBC on governance of the World Service. We respect the arguments made by the Director of News in defence of the new arrangements, but it remains to be seen whether they will indeed safeguard the distinct nature of the World Service. We regret that the BBC has moved from a position where the Director of the World Service was a very senior person within the organisation to one where the World Service has no direct voice on the Executive Board or the Management Board, and where the Director is just one of many competing voices on the News Group Board which will take decisions on how the World Service should meet its objectives and targets under the Operating Licence. We do not depart from the reservations which we have expressed in the past about the transfer of funding responsibility and the consequential changes in governance, and we recommend that the BBC should at least allow for direct representation of the World Service at the Management Board—and preferably the Executive Board—on a temporary basis, for five years, while the new funding arrangements for the World Service settle.
In response to our arguments on representation of the BBC World Service on the BBC Executive, the Government said that the make-up of the Executive Board of the BBC was a matter for the BBC, and the BBC has twice rejected our arguments. The first time, in June 2013, it said merely that "the whole of the Executive Board, which includes the Director of News, is accountable to the Trust for delivering the strategy of the World Service".[15] The second time, in February 2014, it said that
    the World Service is championed at the highest levels of the BBC and is represented on the Executive Board by the Director of News and Current Affairs ... This collective commitment to the World Service should be measured by what we promise to deliver-growth in World Service audiences, a better, richer news service for both global and UK audiences, and a sustained reputation for the BBC as the most trusted news provider in the world-rather than by representation on the Board or management committees.
Since we received that response, it has been announced that the World Service Board (which takes operational decisions on the World Service's output and on allocation of resources) will cease to exist, and decisions regarding World Service operations will in future be made by the News Group Board. Mr Harding told us that the News Group Board was formed of representatives from across the news division, including those responsible for newsgathering across the BBC, for the newsroom (with oversight of all news bulletins), and for political programming. He also told us that there were no plans to dispense with the post of Director of the World Service.

The role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

3.  We will continue to speak up for the BBC World Service and its role in projecting the values and interests of the UK across the world. We urge the Foreign Secretary to do the same. We are encouraged to hear that frequent contact between the BBC and the FCO is likely to continue. We were pleased to hear the Foreign Secretary say that he would always "hold the BBC's feet to the fire" in protecting the interests of the World Service. We urge him and his successors to honour that commitment. 
“The World Service will be at the heart of the BBC’s news operation, and as such will be represented at the Executive Board by the Director of News, James Harding.”
On budget
“The Director-General of the BBC is clear that he will champion the interests of the World Service. At a tough financial time for the BBC, he has confirmed an increased budget of £245m for next year and pledged to maintain this budget, supplementing it with extra investment for digital if possible.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

No April 1st blogging

It is useless blogging on April 1st. No-one believes a word you say. Better to shut up and watch.

I thought Samsung did a nice spoof on their pigeon powered Wi-fi, Fli-fy

The power of pigeons

Cracking the micro-router was only half the battle. They also had to develop a sustainable and effective network.

“Pigeons really have made Fli-Fy possible. They’re everywhere and non-migratory, so our coverage doesn’t fly south for the winter. They also provide our micro-routers with a unique method of recharging,” Tim Verhoeven, Senior Pigeon Engineer.

Carrier pigeons can carry a maximum of 75 grams on their backs. So at only 26 grams, the micro-router is virtually unnoticeable. Working with respected pigeon expert Brian Woodhouse, Samsung has developed a lightweight harness that is water-resistant and doesn’t impede the pigeon’s normal flying action. He said: “I was very happy with the way my pigeons were treated and they did not suffer any harm at all.”

“It was crucial that the pigeons maintained their normal behavioural patterns. This was how we were going to get our micro-routers out there and achieve blanket coverage,” Tim said.

“With their hollow legs, which allow for an electric charge to flow up into the micro-router, pigeons can keep the network powered by simply standing on power lines.”

“Once we had it figured out, we were like, why hasn’t anyone else thought of this?”