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Media Network Vintage Vault 2017-2018


September 2017 - A message from Jonathan Marks

Welcome. I'm Jonathan Marks. If this is the first time you've visited the vault, then I'm glad you dropped by! There are over 485 editions of Media Network, representing about half the episodes that we made and broadcast from Hilversum.

As you may know, I currently work with all kinds of high-tech scale-ups in many parts of Europe, but especially in the Eindhoven region. I'm particularly fascinated because this region is where international broadcasting started in Europe and where the long-range properties of shortwave radio were first discovered in 1926/1927.


Reliving Mainstream broadcast heritage

In early February 2010, I began an online experiment here on Libsyn with podcasting to understand how the distribution system works and see whether we could rebuild an audience. We wanted to recreate a place to listen to vintage editions of the Media Network programme as broadcast on short-wave by Radio Netherlands in the period 1981-2000. It is over 35 years since the Media Network was launched as the name of the media show on Radio Netherlands, building on the rich heritage of programmes that went before it.

We ran on the shortwave wireless from May 7th 1981 until the end of October 2000 with more than 1000 editions of the show. Many of the features are gradually making their way onto this website as a celebration of international broadcasting's second Golden Age.

Radio Netherlands no longer exists as a radio station in English in the way that we knew it. (They signed off at the end of June 2012 as documented on this site). The RN Classical Music station was around for a short while after, but that too had been yanked from the Interwebs. Join me in raising a glass to the great days of analogue adventures!

We have now reached more than 738,409 downloads, numbers being boosted by interest in the programmes about China, North Korea and several documentaries about propaganda, during the Second World War and later. On average, this site logs around 11000 downloaded episodes a month, which isn't bad for vintage material.

First of its kind

Media Network was one of the first international communications magazines of its time. I hosted and produced the programme, but a lot of the content was made by a network of volunteer monitors, reporters and researchers located all over the globe. Diana Janssen also joined me as co-host during the last 5 years of the programme. She made a considerable contribution to the programme.

Where do these shows come from?

I kept copies of most of the show, especially those that dealt with specific issues or were connected to current events in that period. Since leaving Radio Netherlands in 2003, I have gradually digitized the tapes as part of my research into international broadcasting and where it might go after shortwave. Personally, I find it amazing to relive this era, especially as most of it was pre-Web, pre-Skype, pre-YouTube, pre-email, when most people thought twice about picking up the phone to call a radio station in another country. There is also a lot to be learned from what worked and what failed. Too many recent media ventures could have learned a lot from those who went before them. 

I am always interested in your reactions, especially from people who may be discovering this material for the first time. It will encourage me to post more. Looking at the site stats, it would seem that around 13% of the subscribers are downloading via iTunes. The rest do so directly from the site or using 3rd party apps. Please tell friends about the vault and encourage them to subscribe. 

There are also radio related videos which I made more recently over on my video vault.

Finding a show 

This is a new form of the website now that Libsyn has updated the style of the podcast feeds. You can also subscribe in iTunes by searching for "Media Network Vintage". As each "new" edition is published, it will download automatically to your MP3-player of choice. I personally find the Downcast app to be the best for IOS. But other podcast apps are available.

I know some of the material here is niche stuff to many broadcasters - but I also know that people interested in international communications and broadcasting are very passionate people. Because of the politics, it provided a constant wave of stories. I also believe that we developed one of the first collaborative formats on international radio, where individuals could do some detective work, report their results, and share experiences with those with a similar passion.

As you may know, I currently work with all kinds of high-tech photonics scale-ups in many parts of Europe, but especially in the Eindhoven region. I'm particularly fascinated because this region is where international broadcasting started in Europe and where the long-range properties of shortwave radio were first discovered in 1926/1927.

There are still plans to relaunch a podcast version of Media Network later in 2017. I have been very busy with all kinds of other projects so far, but there is progress. Watch this space.

Jan 8, 2012

I confess I don't understand the outburst on recent edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme "World at One" by John Tusa. He seems to think that a tiny piece of advertising on the Berlin relay on BBC World Service (where currently promos for programmes are slotted in) is somehow a threat to the editorial independence of the World Service.

John Tusa may be correct in that the Berlin relay won’t raise much of the 3 million pounds that BBC World Servce radio is trying to raise this year to offset the drastic budget reductions announced nearly a year ago. But for years, ads alongside BBC World Service radio output have been heard on many stations that partner with the external broadcaster. Some stations insert their own commercials at 29 and 59 minutes past the hour when London carries programme promos. That's common in Africa where the local stations need to generate revenue because they are not subsidized by the government. Infact these countries will probably never be able to finance the public service broadcast model that survives in parts of Europe, like the UK, Belgium and Germany.

But what's wrong here? Are the radio presenters and editors in London aware that this is happening? Even if they are, do the adverts have any bearing on the editorial decisions being made in Bush House - and later this year in Broadcasting House? No.

BBC World Service has always been looking for ways to supplement its income by charging some stations that can afford it. Stations in the US pay a fee to Public Radio International to rebroadcast programmes from BBC World Service. Companies can also sponsor these relays as PRI is happy to explain on it's website. Again, these activities don't have any bearing on the editorial content coming out of London.

Mind you, none of this is new at all. I recall a clip from the very same John Tusa broadcast by Media Network on January 22nd 1988 (yes almost 24 years ago) in which there were definite plans to make money out of content - he even quotes a figure of how much money they thought they could earn. The clip is short and can be downloaded below. Also note that this was the point at which cable systems in the Netherlands switched off their relays of BBC 648 kHz in favour of a satellite feed.

There are some interesting variations in order to squeeze in commercials. There has been a MW relay in Auckland, New Zealand of BBC World Service since the late 1990's. It is run by a local group of enthusiastic fans who have developed a clever system to raise money to cover their running costs. The automated system puts the feed on BBC WS into a buffer. They carry 2 minutes of ads at the top of every hour and then play back a slightly sped up version of that hour of programming from London squeezed into 58 minutes. Sounds fine to me. Lou Josephs in Washington DC reports that many small stations in the US use the same trick of time compression on satellite syndicated shows so that they can squeeze in local commercials. They call it a "cashbox". 

I am more concerned about the 15 breaches last year by their TV channel BBC World News of the BBC's editorial guidelines. This was reported by the BBC Trust back in November. BBC World News buy in programmes made by production companies who are making disguised PR rather than independent investigative journalism. Nobody seems to be checking that thoroughly enough. I will be curious to see the coverage of the Consumer Electronics Fair in Las Vegas this coming week by BBC World News programme "Click". This is one of the feature programmes that is happy to accept what the BBC terms as sponsorship. It will have to remain strictly editorial independent (i.e. completely opposite to shows like Channel 5's The Gadget Show). If it doesn't, I'm sure viewers will interpret that as breach of trust and that will spill over into their trust of BBC current affairs programmes and investigative documentaries in general. Don't forget you have a situation where BBC World Service radio also has a show called Click (formerly Digital Planet) which is not sponsored and which infact it is a completely different programme to its TV namesake. 

I personally see more potential with ads on their websites, especially if they make websites that mix general BBC entertainment content with the news output. They could be far more creative with their embedded player than resorting to the tedious pre-roll ads before every clip. There have been far too many cases recently where bank ads for HSBC have preceded another doom and gloom report by Robert Peston about banker salaries or the Euro crisis. Now that really is mixed messaging.