MN.12.08.1999 - Congo Flashback and DAB Predictions
January 2023 - A message from Jonathan Marks, producer Media Network
Yes, we're still here, having survived the Covid-19 lockdowns. I've started sorting out some off-air archives in the audio-only selections. Episode 4 of the Media Network Series is the latest of the new Media Network videos. This is an occasional VIDEO series, a mix of previously unseen videos from our archive, PLUS new material I have collected. This site will remain as the audio archive and we will add remaining editions of Media Network First series and other material as well.
Several people have pointed out that the masthead of this site - the Flevoland Transmitter Site - now looks very different. The transmitter building is still there. But the huge curtain antennas shown have been demolished. For the full story watch Episode 3 video of the Second Series.
But why is there a need for this site and a new series?
COVID-19 Lockdown has taught me the value of hobbies. In my case, it is the mechanical engineering side of model railways and the restoration of electric clocks. My third passion is unearthing untold stories about the medium of international broadcasting. The problem is that although this industry spent hundreds of millions of Euros shouting across borders for decades, very little of that enormous effort was kept in some form of a coherent collection.
There are some truly amazing Youtube channels emerging about restoring vintage radios to their former glory. For starters, I recommend checking out Mr Carlson's Lab or David Tipton. They are brilliant! And if you are interested in the stories from past audio technology in general, just follow (and support) Matt Taylor's Techmoan series. He occasionally picks up radios to explore. I can also recommend the excellent audio podcast "Cold War Conversations"
But, unlike physical clocks and OO scale models, radios have no memory. They only pick up what's on right now. And shortwave radio in the last century was the ultimate in appointment listening. You had to be at exactly the right point on the dial, often at a peculiar time, with the right equipment and, even then, there was no guarantee reception would be good.
I remember the late Gerald Wells, the British vintage wireless enthusiast, used to run a low-power mediumwave pirate radio station with dance band music from a shed in his garden. His reason was "you can get the radio working again, but few of the transmitters carved into the dial are still there". It's true, radio has a terrible memory. (I'm delighted to learn that the British Vintage Wireless Society is still going strong https://www.bvws.org.uk )
Now you know why I am publishing old editions of Media Network here on this site, as well as some of the off-air recordings of stations I monitored in the 80's and 90's as part of the research for the programme. I'm simply looking for ways to capture more unique stories that I believe need to be told before we all forget. I realise that in 1000 editions of Media Network, we had only just begun the scratch the surface. So at this time of reflection, I'd just like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement as the archive project enters a new phase.
First time visitor?
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 650 editions of Media Network, representing just over half the episodes that we made and broadcast from the Radio Netherlands' studios in Hilversum. I'm pleased to say most survived in excellent studio quality (quite often in stereo). We had 5035 downloads in December 2021, which isn't bad for a vintage vault.
As you may know, I currently work with all kinds of high-tech scale-ups working in Photonics, Quantum and TeraHertz technologies in many parts of Europe, but especially in the Eindhoven and Enschede regions of the Netherlands. I'm particularly fascinated because this country is where international broadcasting started in Europe and where the long-range properties of shortwave radio were first discovered in 1926/1927.
Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID pandemic overshadowed many of the planned commemorations (75 years since liberation from Nazi occupation as well as 75 years of the UN). Hopefully, they will simply be postponed and not cancelled.
Reliving Mainstream broadcast heritage from the 20th Century.
In early February 2010, I began an online experiment here on Libsyn with podcasting to understand how their 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. In May 2021 it was 40 years since "Media Network" was launched as the new name of the media show on Radio Netherlands, building on the rich heritage of programmes like DX Juke Box that went before it.
We ran the programme on the shortwave wireless from May 7th 1981 until the end of October 2000 with more than 1000 editions of the show.
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. RNW Media left Hilversum in 2021 so very little is left.
However, I am delighted that many non-Media Network shows are being shared again at the Radio Netherlands Archives site. This is a private initiative by former members of the English department. Join me in raising a glass to the great days of analogue adventures!
As of January 2022, we have now reached more than a million downloads, numbers being boosted by interest in the programmes about Rwanda, Bhutan, South Africa, spy number stations and several documentaries about propaganda, during the Second World War and later.
Media Network - 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 our success.
How did these shows survive the demise of Radio Netherlands?
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-Zoom, 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 15% 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.
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 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.
Happy Exploring and please share your adventures with us!
This was a regular edition of Media Network which aired on my
birthday in 1999. In this week we included an interview with
Quentin Howard, then the boss at the UK Digital radio network
Digital One. Interesting to hear how the debate about digital radio
seems to have moved forward rather slowly since then - although
there are far more receivers on the market than 11 years ago. The
UK is now facing a first-mover challenge with so many DAB radios in
the market. Countries like Australia that now adopting digital
radio are leapfrogging to DAB+ which uses the codec that Quentin
believed back then was not robust enough. The programme also dipped
into the archives to hear a profile on broadcasting in Congo
compiled by Richard Ginbey. I find those off-air recordings conjure
up a completely different world when radios like the one shown here
were state of the art. It was the Sony ICF5900W - crystal
controlled if I remember rightly.
About the Podcast
Re-live original Media Network shows as broadcast between 1980-2000. Curator & host Jonathan Marks shares the archive of insight into international broadcasting. And watch for occasional new video episodes in 2023. Feedback is always welcome. Enjoy.