MN.02.05.1986 Chernobyl on the Radio

We had no idea of what had really happened in the Ukraine at the end of April 1986. I remember that when the news broke, we were celebrating Queen's Day in the Netherlands (April 30th). I tuned into Radio Moscow and Radio Kiev, but they didn't give us much detail. I love the offhand way the announcer in Kiev says "and now sports". The programme also had contact with Pat Gowan, G3IOR a radio amateir in the UK who monitors and contacts Russian amateurs on a regular basis. He confirmed that amateurs in Kiev made no mention of the situation.

In other news, the Head of the Russian service of Radio Liberty, Oleg Tumanov turns up in Moscow denouncing the station. It seems he had been a KGB agent - at least according to the book that came out later.

Captain Midnight blocks HBO satellite signal in protest at the new rates being charged. It turns out later that this is a satellite engineer based in Florida. NDXE announces a date for buying the transmitter. KVOH has also hit some delays.  Len Scott of the English service of Radio Budapest talks about plans to have sponsored programmes. Andy Sennitt rounds off the show with a contribution from the WRTH office in Copenhagen.

Direct download: MN.02.05.1986.chernobyl.mp3
Category:Media Network Archives -- posted at: 12:00am CEST

MN.22.01.1988. John Tusa and advertising on World Service

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.

Direct download: JohnTusaWS22.01.1988.mp3
Category:Media Network Archives -- posted at: 8:29pm CEST

MN.09.01.1986. Buster Pearson and Eddie Visser

A "Jaws" style opening to this news edition of the programme. There's a report about Offshore Radio Stereo 531 from David Ward in Norwich. Paul Rusling says he is not involved! Buster Pearson has died. VOA English is now on MW. Africa Media News from Richard Ginbey (presented by Mike Bullen). Grove Enterprises has a new publication - The Listeners’ Handbook. Lou Josephs on the Whole Earth Catalogue. New Irish Bulletin Board. Radio Earth is back via Radio Milano International. NRC has a special test on mediumwave. News about the RX99PLL from Escom, we called Dutch engineer Eddie Visser (then in Denmark, now retired in Thailand). What’s going on in the countryside? There has been a break in to the bunker at Lopik. MN Satellite Technology report - the ECS-1 runs into problems.

Direct download: MN.09.01.1986.Buster.mp3
Category:Media Network Archives -- posted at: 11:01pm CEST






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