Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Interview with Mike Adams 2

(part 1 is here)

4) How long time did you need to wite the book about "Lee de Forest" ? Why were you specially interested about him?
As a professor I also like research and writing and I am good at it. I was introduced in 1988 to the de Forest papers held by the San Jose History Center, but it wasn't until 2008 that I started going to the archive and scanning the documents and organizing a possible de Forest story. My book, Lee de Forest, King of Radio, Television, and Film, was published in 2012 by Springer Science. Because I was able to retire and go to half time at the university I started to develop an outline for the book, a table of contents, etc, and I looked for all the known de Forest research sources to tell a complete story. It took about a year to research and write, another year for editing, sending out to experts for read/review, and as I look back on my files, I was contacted by the Springer-Verlag Physics Editor Chris Coughlin in November, 2009, about the possibility of proposing a book, I submitted the proposal and received the contract by March 2010, began the massive organization process of sorting through  thousands of documents, finished the research and much of the draft by the end of 2010, editing, visuals, reviews, re-write, production in 2011, release in December 2011.

I was interested in de Forest for several reasons: First, he was a fellow scholar, but he was a PhD from Yale, and in 1899 there were few who even attended college. So he was a real scholar. Second, in the early 20th Century he looked at the transmission of morse code dots and dashes, then called wireless, and saw the possibility of sending audio - the voice and music - using his modification of the technology. You can say that he was one of the primary inventors of radio! He not only received patents for the technology but he started several early radio stations, first sending opera music in New York in 1907 as reported in the Times. He used his inventions of his vacuum tube he originally developed as a receiver of radio audio, as an amplifier of sound, and as an oscillator/transmitter of radio to create in 1918 a system for writing sound on film for synchronized motion pictures. For this he received an Oscar. So my career - Radio-TV-Film - parallels the work of de Forest, although as they say at the awards ceremonies, "I couldn't have done it without him!"

5) Digital radio standards (DAB, DRM, HD Radio) struggles to success in most countries, what do you think about it?

DRM appears to be one more solution to allow more signals, more programming on limited bandwidth. Two problems: One, is that there are too many standards and that always causes problems with world wide adoption, and the other is that there is not enough viable, sales-worthy content for all the channels that can be created. Also, I believe that radio will end up streaming on the Internet and that is a world-wide standard. The digital radio formats that require specialized receivers are only interim technology. This is why HD failed in America.

So rather than talk about radio stations "fighting the battle" to survive, let's talk about what radio, TV film really is: it is entertainment and information designed to attract an audience, employ thousands of technical and creative people (my former students) and it is either advertiser or government-supported. Whether it is delivered by an FM transmitter to a bedside radio or by WiFi to a phone, it is really just content and the listeners/viewers will not care where it comes from. We can't say it is "radio" or "TV", in the traditional sense of a big transmitter on a high hill broadcasting to homes, or "film" as just that on a screen in a darkened room in a shopping mall. There is plenty of competition in media and while the Internet in theory "democratizes" content by allowing anyone to broadcast to anyone who will watch or listen, (or read like this blog) it still requires the best writers, producers, directors, talent, etc., to get an audience, and that usually means a big studio, Warner Bros, Comcast. Radio stations have tried to compete with the Internet by adding HD, but the radio manufacturers did not follow through with decent receivers, and the traditional broadcasters have not really programmed these extra channels so anyone cares. There are thousands of choices out there where there used to be a few to a few dozen stations, radio and TV.
So the past is AM and FM and the TV station. The future platform that everyone wants in media is twofold: In 2013 the owners and programmers want to own two things of yours. They want to send their content to your smart phone/tablet and your car dashboard. This is how the future looks to the those who program Radio, TV, and Film.  This is why we owe something to de Forest and why my publisher titled the book "king of radio, TV, and film." 

I invite readers to visit the de Forest Web: and the "Lee de Forest, King of radio, TV, Film"  Facebook page. On that I have a number of early de Forest sound films.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Interview with Mike Adams 1

Mike Adams wrote a book about Lee De Forest and i interviewed him about it. This is first part of the interview.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born in the small town of Newark,Ohio, now a suburb of Columbus. The year was 1943.

2) What is your first memory of radio?

So my first memory of radio was during the last 10 years of its life as a so-called "full service" media. Rather than the formats of music, news or talk as it is today, beginning in the 1930s through the late 1950s, most radio stations followed this schedule:

(1) Morning show with entertainment and news and guests (like the Today show on TV) 
(2) Soap operas, shows for women (it was assumed that the man of the house was working and the wife who stayed at home as a home maker would want to be entertained and informed by issues of family, fashion, food, child-rearing, etc.)
(3) Kid shows in the mid-afternoon to entertain the kids, shows like the Lone Ranger and Superman.
(4) News at 5 or 6 for dad when he came home from work
(5) family shows, like TV today, game and quiz shows, mysteries, drama, comedy, cowboy, music, only without the pictures.

By 1960 all of these shows had moved from radio to television and radio became a delivery vehicle for popular music.

So I was a typical radio listener and I listened daily, I had my favorite shows. This experience led me to want to understand how the radio worked from a technical point of view so I did tear apart many old sets to see the parts, and I went to the library often and checked out books on how radio worked. I was also reading books on the radio industry, what went on at a radio station, careers in radio, thinking about my future beyond that of a kid.

3) How many years did you work in radio industry and what are the best memories of that time?

So when I graduated from High School in 1960 I attended Ohio University as a Radio-TV-Film major and immediately I began working for the college station, WOUB-AM. (There was a small FM version but in 1960 AM was the dominant technology and most AM stations used their FM transmitters to carry the programming of the AM channel. In 1960 radio we had one foot in the past and because of rock and roll music's popularity we saw a different future for radio.) At WOUB I was a news reporter and a disc jockey, the latter was my preference and would be my future. I was so interested in radio that I neglected to attend classes so I flunked out. By then I was working at the local Athens, Ohio commercial radio station, WATH.

After a few years in Athens, I applied for and received a job at the big Columbus, Ohio top-40 station, "The New WCOL." This was an important era (the 1960s) for AM top-40 radio, and I worked there for 10 years (1963-1973) as a DJ, program director, production director. It was the most exciting time to be in radio, the DJs were important, we were connected to the listeners, the music industry, and in a way that has not happened since. Then the local top-40 station had over 50% of the audience, unheard of today, and then there was no competition from Internet, satellite, even FM was carrying the same audio as their AM main stations. All of this popularity of radio was helped by the Beatles and other British groups, and in America it was Motown. It was the music.

But working a radio station - even a popular one, even when you believed you were a big "star," was getting to be routine, boring, not so real. I was in my mid 20s and I did not think I was good enough to be a major radio star and I did not really care for an industry based on selling things to people that they mostly didn't need. Plus by the late 1960s there was a whole world of music out there that didn't fit the 3 minute top-40 format.

Meanwhile I had unfinished business - College. When I moved to Columbus for WCOL, I lived right on North High St, the Ohio State University neighborhood. I applied and began to attend part time and by 1973 I had received a BA in Speech and an MA in film. In 1974 I left radio behind and moved to LA, living first in Hollywood then Venice, and besides working for a documentary film company I began to teach part time at a college. I liked it, I eventually (1988) received a tenure track job at San Jose State University. It was here where I am now the Associated Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts that I came full circle. I was hired to teach radio, TV and Film, but I was also hired to be the faculty advisor to KSJS-FM, and I am still advisor today, 25 years later. In the back of my mind I always remembered how satisfying the college radio experience was, so I still have it. With commercial radio experience behind me, I returned to college radio, but in charge. 

To be continued

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Interview with Keith Somerville

Keith Somerville, 2010

Keith Somerville is an expert of media in Africa and he accepted this interview.

1) When and where were you born? Where did you study?
 I was born in Chiswick, London, in January 1957; I studied at St Clement Danes Grammar School, the University of Southampton and then carried out research in International Politics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Later, I passed a postgraduate teaching certificate at Brunel University.
2) What is your first memory of a radio?
My first clear memory is the start of BBC Radio One when I was ten.  Pop music all day long. I now cannot work without music on in the background.

Keith Somerville in Zambia interviewing Kaunda on 1991

3) How many years did you work for BBC?
28 years - I joined the BBC in March 1980 and worked for 8 years monitoring foreign radio stations (from the UK and then from southern Africa) and then moved to the BBC World Service as a radio producer and then moved on to producing and presenting documentaries and then editing programmes.  I also had spells on the Africa desk at BBC online news and finally worked for the BBC College of Journalism. I now teach journalism and humanitarian communications at the University of Kent and run my own website on Africa: Africa - News and Analysis.

4) How did you get the idea of writing your book about radio propaganda? and how long time did you need to write it?
It developed over a long time.  I was running a live programme on air at the BBC when news came though that the President of Rwanda had been killed on 6 April 1994 and then followed the course of the genocide and use of radio. This added to my awareness from monitoring radio of its use for propaganda.  When I started in academia it was soon after the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008 and it, too, involved the use of radio to spread hatred. At that stage I started investigating hate radio in Kenya.  I started writing the book and doing archive research of Nazi radio and Serb/Croat radio in early 90s.  The writing started in late 2010 and I finished writing the book in January 2012. I am now writing a history of Africa since 1974.

5) What is your opinion about digital radio?
It adds to the mix of delivery forms available but stations are ditching short-wave too soon - especially the BBC World Service in its broadcasting to Africa.
6) Do you think that Al-Jazeera is "stealing" audience from BBC World Service in Africa (or in the world, generally)?
It is competing, I wouldn't say stealing. It has very good coverage of West and North Africa and adds to the rich mix of broadcasting and online news and comment that is available.  It has an appeal in parts of Africa because it is not a Western media group and comes from a different viewpoint, though a very valid one.
7) Do you think that, in a world full of information (blogs, tweets, etc..) mainstream media like BBC are still useful?
I would say even more important as much new and social media like Twitter are unverified and in many ways unverifiable. You still need to know where key news is coming from and that is has been checked. It puts a greater onus on broadcasters like to the BBC to be right rather than just first.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Interview with Martin Upton about financial crisis

Martin Upton

Martin Upton has a background in financial markets and risk management.

1) Where did you study and where are you teaching now?

I studied at the University of East Anglia and the University of Leeds. Now I am Head of the Centre for Accounting and Finance at the Open University Business School.

2) On summer 1992 Bank of England and Bank of Italy were "fighting" against traders not to devalue british Pounds and italia Lira; since summer 2011 ECB is "fighting" against traders in order to keep low interest rates for government bonds; do you find any similarities between the 2 situations?

The similarity is that in both cases traders and investors took the view (in 1992/3) that the GB Pound and the Italian Lira were over-valued (at the ranges set for these currencies against the DM in the ERM) and that in 2011/12 traders and investors took the view that the bonds issued by the governments of Spain, Italy and Greece were over-valued (i.e. their yields were too low - and, by inference, their bond prices too high - given the background economic fundamentals of those countries). In both circumstances the view was taken by traders/investors that it was financially rational to sell Pounds & Lira in 1992 and to sell Spanish, Italian and Greek government bonds in 2011/12 since the market view was that in each case these assets were over-valued.

3) At the end of summer, on 16 th september 1992, british government decided to withdraw the british Pound from ERM (followed by italian government doing the same with italia Lira); do you think that the lesson learned is that it's useless (and a waste of money) to "fight" against traders on specific circumstances?

(Note that membership in ERM was not withdrawn but only "suspended"). I think both episodes – particularly the ERM debacle - show that trying to maintain the price of a currency or of bonds (or indeed other assets) above the levels perceived by the market as being their ‘correct market price’ is ultimately doomed to failure. The history of the UK provides plenty of examples of how the government and the Bank of England tried to defend the value of the Pound against economic logic only, in the end, to have to give way to market forces. The ERM debacle was only one such episode – see also the periods up to the devaluation of the Pound in 1949 and 1967.

4) In Europe there's a lot of talking about a anti-high yield mechanism (the ECB will buy government bonds when they reach very high yield), do you think it could solve the problems? I personally think it will be even worse: the traders could bet even more easily if they are 100% sure that the ECB will buy government bonds when they lose value.

Well such a mechanism would put a ‘floor’ on the bond prices (or ‘cap’ on the bond yields) so it would to a degree discourage those trying to make money by short-selling. Investors will also draw some comfort if they know of the maximum downside to their investments in such bonds.

5) It's been more than 2 years of talking of "saving the Euro", do u think that one currency can work with one central bank, 17 different ministries of finance and 17 different public debts?

My view has always been that you can’t have a stable single currency zone if you don’t have a single fiscal zone. The problems faced by the Euro zone show that you can’t have a single interest rate environment in a zone where member counties go ‘solo’ on their fiscal policies. Hence the rescue of the Euro has seen a move towards a greater centralization of fiscal policy decision making. Additionally the different nature of the member counties’ economies (particularly the differential importance of the housing market to them) weigh against the workability of a single currency.

6) The ECB decided to help some governments (like italian and spanish one) buying government bonds in the secondary market. Understarding that help is help, why not buying straight in the primary market ? Buying in the primary is giving money straight to the state, while buying in the secondary is giving money to the traders! So, ECB wants to "fight" traders (who bet against Italy and Spain) ... buying their devalued bonds! Don't you think that the ECB could avoid the hypocrisy and buy bonds straight from the primary market?

I suspect that the ECB only wants to act as the ‘buyer of the last resort’. If it bought primary issues the expectation in the markets would be for the ECB to be the ‘buyer of the first resort’ – and the size of the investments made by the ECB would potentially balloon. Buying in the secondary market maintains a defence against falling bond prices and helps underpin confidence in the primary market.

7) If there is a break up of the monetary union, what do you think it will happen? In the transition time, do you think people will try to use foreign currency (if there is enough of it for an area of 330 million of people) ?

Hard to speculate on this one. I suspect that the support of Germany and pressure from the US will continue to ensure that the Euro remains patched up. The worry is though that the crippling economic consequences of the budgetary restraint being applied to GreeceSpain and Italy – and Portugal and Ireland too – will create growing political and social strains. If a country does leave the euro zone its new currency (or restored legacy currency) would trade at levels implying a massive devaluation against other currencies. Additionally further support would be needed for the banking system – and not just within the country leaving the zone.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Interview with Paolo Tiefenthaler about Casale del Giglio

Paolo Tiefenthaler, oenologist of Casale del Giglio

Paolo Tiefenthaler is the oenologist of Casale del Giglio, he agreed to be interviewed.
1) When and where were you born?

I was born in Trento, on 9th february 1967.

2) How old were you when you started being interested about wine?

I started to be interested when i was very young, let's say primary school-middle school, cause i grew up in a beautiful area full of grapes, Valle di Cembra.

3) What did u study to become an oenologist?

I studied in istituto agrario di San Michele all'Adige, 6 years of oenology and i studied in Germany.

4) When and how did you start working for Casale del Giglio?

I began to work for Casale del Giglio on august 1988 after leaving a famous tuscan winery (i had a 10 month scolarship there).

5) Since 1985, what are the milestones for Casale del Giglio?

The milestones are: 1985 the beginning of the experimentation; 1989 large-scale planting of grape varieties; 1994 the first bottle of Mater Matuta [the best bottle of Casale del Giglio, a blend of 85% syrah and 15% of petit verdot].

6) How did you choose the grape varieties?

I come from a place with a strong tradition of wine and the first thing i decided was not to plant grape varieties only because they were famous in other areas; i tried to plant the grape varities that were suitable for this area [area of Casale del Giglio, in Lazio]

7) Which is the best selling bottle of Casale del Giglio?

The best selling bottle is Shiraz (in the pic above).

8) Will you ever choose to make a wine with native grape varities? (Casale del Giglio chose international varities)

If you talk about native grape varities to me (i'm from Valle di Cembra), i do agree; but if you talk about native grape varities related to Pontine Marshes, it's almost impossible to talk about it (before the 1930's there were only marshes there).

9) How important is marketing in wine?

In the world of the wine, marketing is importnat, but it must not be more important than the nature itself. The making of the wine and the marketing must help each other.

10) How many bottles does Casale del Giglio make, per year?

Casale del Giglio has 170 hectares, we make 90 quintals of wine per hectare; we make 1,200,000 bottles per year.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Interview with Philip Seib

Philip Seib is professor of journalism and public diplomacy and professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. He is authot of many books, including The Al Jazeera Effect: how the new global media are reshaping world politics (2008); on next february we will have in bookshops his new book called Al Jazeera English: Global news in a changing world.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born on 1949. Arlington, Virginia, USA.

2) When did you become interested about journalism and public diplomacy?

Long-time interest in how journalism affected policy and politics. Focused on public diplomacy beginning in 2007, when I came to the University of Southern California, which is home of the Center on Public Diplomacy.

3) Al Jazeera was born on 1996, how long time did you need to understand the importance of Al Jazeera for the muslim world?

After the 2000 intifada and the 2001 attacks on the United States, it became clear how important Al Jazeera was to Arab audiences.

4) Al Jazeera english was born on 2006, (beside experts like you) do you think it has been having a real impact towards english speaking audiences?

Through its coverage of events in the Arab world during 2011, Al Jazeera English proved that it is an important journalistic source for English-speaking audiences around the world.

5) On february your new book about Al Jazeera english will be out: what's the main idea behind that book? What's the difference between this new book and the book you wrote on 2008 (the Al Jazeera effect) about Al Jazeera?

The Al Jazeera Effect was about the general importance of satellite television and online news in changing the politics of the Middle East and the rest of the world. Al Jazeera English is more tightly focused on this one channel, and how it brings news of the Global South to the Global North.

6) I watched Al Jazeera english during the egyptian uprising (25th january-11th february 2011) and i thought that the non-stop live coverage of Tahrir Square and the reports were all pro-uprising and were encouraging the "revolution". Do you think that encouraging (even against a dictatorship) an uprising with biased reports is fair journalism?

Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English feature what might be called "activist journalism". Some purists would disapprove, but others would commend AJ/AJE's role in serving a broad public.

7) How important was Al Jazeera in encouraging the Arab spring?

Extremely. For instance, AlJazeera brought news of events in Tunisia to Egyptians in ways that Egypt's government-run media would never have allowed.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Interview with Daniel Walsh

Daniel C. Walsh is an assistant professor at Appalachian State University in the Department of Communication. He wrote the book "An air war with Cuba: The United States radio campaign against Castro" (publisher Mcfarland) and he accepted to be interviewed.

1) Where and when were you born?

I was born in Greenville, North Carolina, USA December 2, 1969.

2) What is your first memory of listening to a radio?

I guess my first memory of listening to a radio is riding around in my mother's station wagon. I also remember as a child playing radio station where I would pretend to be a radio announcer and introduce records on a turntable. When I got older I put a walkie talkie up to the stereo speaker and then would go to another room with the other one to make it seem like a real radio.

3) When did u become interested about US propaganda towards Cuba?

I became interested in U.S. propaganda for Cuba when I was in graduate school at Marshall University. I needed a research topic for one of my classes and thought it would be interesting to examine Radio Marti. I thought it was interesting that the United States spent a lot of money on a Radio Free Europe type station for Cuba yet Fidel Castro was still in power. I created a proposal for evaluating the effectiveness of Radio Marti but never actually did the study. A few years later, the Elian Gonzalez custody battle forced people to think about relations with Cuba again. I thought the topic should be studied and wished I could have actually completed the study I proposed. When I was getting my Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina a few years after that, I began thinking about picking up where I left off. The United States and Cuba were still adversaries and Radio Marti was still on the air so I thought it was a legitimate topic.

4) In Cuba there is a dictatorship, how difficult is it to get fair reports about audience studies in Cuba?

Research of Cuban audiences is extremely difficult. One of the primary ways in which the United States obtains information about radio listeners in Cuba is by interviewing immigrants to the United States. The validity of these results is questionable. A Cuban who decides to leave the island and come to the United States may not be a typical Cuban. That person has demonstrated positive feelings toward the United States. One would assume they might be more likely to have positive feelings about Radio Marti as well.

There is a television version of Radio Marti called TV Marti. Practically no one has seen it because the Cuban government has jammed the signal. Radio Marti gets through because a radio signal is more difficult to jam. Officials at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana have conducted their own research in Cuba regarding TV Marti and found that most people on the island cannot see it.

A few years ago the U.S. did a telephone survey of people in Cuba and asked them if they listened to Radio Marti. Most people said they did not. A lot of these people thought that the phone calls were from Cuban officials testing their loyalty to the revolution. A people of the interviewees asked that someone from the government stop by to repair some things. It was obvious that they thought the interviewer was a Cuban official.

5) You are building an archive of international broadcasts, which are the main radio stations in your archive?

The archive of international radio broadcasts was supposed to include Voice of America, Radio Marti, the BBC, Radio Vatican, and as many other radio operations as possible. When I tried to analyze Radio Marti for my dissertation I found that I could not obtain recordings of the station. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act makes it illegal for the federal government to release recordings of radio broadcasts of Radio Marti, VOA, Radio Free Europe or other operations to U.S. citizens. This stipulation was included in the 1948 to prevent the federal government from being in a position to disseminate propaganda to the domestic population the way the Nazis did prior to WWII. The restriction was still in place more than 40 years later.

The law makes no sense in that it only prohibits U.S. officials from releasing recordings or transcripts of programs to U.S. citizens. It does not prevent a U.S. citizen from having these materials. U.S. officials are allowed to disseminate these materials to people outside the United States. The broadcasts encourage listeners to request the materials. What this means is that a U.S. citizen who wanted a recording of a Radio Marti broadcast could have someone in Canada request the information and then mail it back to the person in the U.S. This is legal. That's what I did. to get recordings of Radio Marti. The interesting thing about it was I got the idea from people at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the people that originally originally told me that they couldn't release the materials.

This made no sense to me. I also realized that it made it extremely difficult to research these stations. There is almost no transparency and no way for the public to hold the stations accountable. I thought it was ironic that we fund the broadcasts but cannot listen to them. I thought it would be easier for people like me who wanted to analyze international radio broadcasts if there was an archive of recordings. Vanderbilt University has an archive of television news programs dating to 1968. I was trying to do the same thing for international radio.

The archive is currently on hold. In December of 2010, I contacted some amateur radio groups about recording programs and contributing to the archive. One person said my proposal was a scam and accused me of trying to manipulate people into bypassing copyright restrictions. Most international broadcasts are in the public domain. This person also told me that he or she would be turning my name over to the FBI, CIA, FTC and other authorities. I don't think what I am trying to do is illegal. I contacted officials in Washington who didn't really give me a definitive answer. They said that some of the material is copyrighted because it comes from people contracted to produce content. They didn't say much more than that. I have suspended the operation for now (no recordings were ever collected). I am hoping that some people will express interest and offer to help. No one has so far.

6) Do you think that propaganda radio stations are still useful ?

I do not believe that radio broadcasts are effective propaganda tools in that they cannot "force" a population to overthrow a government. There are examples of how radio broadcasting can be used to create a false sense of reality but that is only if the person is willing to believe. Radio propaganda cannot cause a person to do or believe something the person does not want to do or believe. I think Cuba is the perfect illustration of this. The United States has bombarded the island with propaganda for more than 50 years and the people there have not taken up arms against their government. They don't want to.

I believe that there is still a need for informational (not propaganda) international radio broadcasting. In the early years of Radio Marti, the station covered stories on AIDS and the Chernobyl disaster. Neither had not been covered by Cuban media. The Internet and social media have diminished the role of radio broadcasting in developed parts of the world but not in some of the underdeveloped areas, which tend to need the information more than anyone. Cuba has Internet access but it is limited and often monitored by the government. I think radio also overcomes literacy barriers, which is still a problem for many regions. Until the Internet can be perfected and eliminate the reading requirement, there will be a need for international radio.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Interview with Gunnar Garfors

for the pic, thanks to Berit Roald, Scanpix

Gunnar Garfors is CEO of Norwegian Mobile TV Corporation (NMTV), he blogs here.

1) When and where were you born?

In Hammerfest, Norway (“the world’s northernmost city”) in May 29, 1975.

2) What is your first memory of radio?

The first thing I remember from the radio was the news about the Alexander Kielland oil rig that capsized in the North Sea on March 27, 1980, killing 123 people. My mom was pretty much in shock, something that made a big impression on a four year old. I remember the scary atmosphere and both the news reader and the reporters being very much effected of what they were reporting. I really started appreciating radio when I was a little older. My parents gave me a FM/SW/MW/LW radio that I used a lot and that taught me to love the power of radio and the great pictures it created. I listened to sports, quiz shows and youth programs from NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) and to SW broadcasts from BBC and Radio Ulster in particular. The latter were playing great music and had a funny DJ at the time I was supposed to be sleeping.

3) What is your opinion about digital radio? Do you think it could work in any country?

Digital radio is a major part of the radio future. It opens up for more radio channels, easier navigation, better coverage and a lot of additional services that work together with the internet and open up for exciting opportunities when it comes to functionality and revenues. It can undoubtedly work in any country. We see that the de facto standard for digital radio, DMB/DAB/DAB+ is being adopted in over 40 countries. The standard is advanced, widespread, mature, already here and it secures equal digital opportunities for everyone.

4) Some experts like Grant Goddard (i interviewed him last year ) are skeptical about the transition to digital radio; what do you think about their views?

I do not consider Grant Goddard an expert in this field. He certainly knows radio from the content side, maybe he should concentrate on that. He portrays himself as a skeptic in order to get PR which he needs for his consultancy business. The best way he can get PR is to distance himself from broadcasters, listeners and advertisers. By doing that he gets to be the guy the media calls to get “the other view.” But what will he do when radio has gone digital, as is about to happen in Norway (FM switch off in 2017), Great Britain (announcement of switch over expected in 2013), Denmark (Minister of Culture wants to switch off FM) and other countries? I think he may be better off staying an expert on content and formatting, even though it will get him less airtime. His views are anyhow extremely conservative, at best. He is doing his best to prevent the transition radio needs, to go digital as the last media out there. Why does he not want to give everyone equal opportunities when it comes to radio? I want more choice, more money to better programs, better reception and easier usage. It is even much greener too. The transition for TV went smoothly, now providing better choice and quality to the vast majority of people. Many people will have to get new radios or to have them adapted, but this is also the case for all other receivers. People do for instance change much more expensive devices such as mobile phones and computers every 1-3 years. Why are radios different in this respect?

5) You are in favour of switching off FM; what should we do on 87,5-108 MHz?

Power companies are looking at these frequencies as a way of transferring data about electricity usage. Other machine to machine communications could also use these frequencies. Frequencies will in any case always be attractive. Offer them to businesses, and there will undoubtedly be good ideas.

6) What do you think of DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale)? Is there a future for digital radio below 30 Mhz?

DRM is great as a complement to DMB/DAB/DAB+ if you are looking to cover vast areas with few people with one or two radio stations. The DRM consortium should push for receivers that combine DMB/DAB/DAB+ and DRM. That way, they will be able to ride on the wave of the digital radio movement we are currently seeing. For DRM to stand on its own will be very difficult as I don’t think it in an isolated manner can compete from technical, financial or functional points of view.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Interview with Jason Manolopoulos

Jason Manolopoulos is a greek expert of economy, he wrote the book "Greece's odious debt" about the economic situation in Greece. He studied economics in UK (short bio) and he runs an alternative investment fund.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born in 1975 in Athens, Greece.

2) In your opinion, what went wrong in Greece?

Let us recap on how we got here in the first place. The PIGS were lent massive amounts of money by institutions during the era of Greenspan, when there was ample liquidity and low interest rates.There was pressure for free flow of capital under deregulation and free markets mantra. This capital was too great for the countries to productively absorb. (Look at how some of the National Lottery winners typically spend their windfalls – poorly). Politicians misled electorates and other institutions; either by lying on statistics, breaking the Stability & Growth Pact rules, overplaying the eurozone’s inevitability, or pursuing unsustainable fiscal policies.Investors and lenders did not conduct proper due diligence on whether these debts could be paid back. Hence there were numerous events that preceded some hedge funds taking opposing bets. Institutional investors did similar things, selling bonds and going on a buyer’s strike, for the same fundamental reasons – poor credit metrics.

3) When did you start writing the book "Greece's odious debt" ?

April 2009

4) What do you think it will be the solution for Greece and/or Eurozone? / 5) Do you think there will be a future for the Euro?

The questions we should initially focus on are: Should a low value-add production economy be lumped with a high value-add or upper-end economy? Does sufficient labour mobility exist in euroland? Do all countries have flexible product and services markets? The answer to these is no. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t start from here. Exiting the euro would be catastrophic, but staying in means many years of austerity and high unemployment, and difficult conditions in which to make essential economic and political reforms, because the exchange rate is so high relative to the productive economy. Either way, Greece has lost a huge amount of national sovereignty, because we cannot bear these huge debts without default and/or surrendering autonomy to investors or other rescuers who will be in a strong negotiating position.

Too much emphasis has been put on the currency aspect per se. A currency in itself, is no silver bullet. The UK had the British pound in the dismal 1970s and still does today, yet the country is a very different place, post Margret Thatcher’s sweeping reform. Turkey was a basket case over run by corruption in the 1990s and early 2000s, having to resort to IMF bailouts. Today post reform and its cleansing process, its economy is growing strongly and has become a strong regional player. It still has its national currency, as it did previously. Sweden and Zimbabwe have independent currencies un-pegged national currencies, with clearly widely differing economic results.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Interview with David Hendy

David Hendy is a media historian with a broad interest in the social and cultural impact of broadcasting and cinema over the past two centuries; he's a reader in media and communication in University of Westminster.

He wrote the books Radio and the Global Age (2000) and Life on Air: a History of Radio Four (2007).

I had the chance of interview him.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born in 1962 in the small city of Wells in the west of England - and spent most of my childhood in the region.

2) What is your first memory of radio?

I suppose I remember being a small child, maybe about 2 or 3 years old, playing in the kitchen while my mother did the housework. While she loaded the washing-machine or prepared the evening meal, the radio would be on. It was mostly speech radio, so I'm guessing it was the BBC's old 'Home Service', which included news and plays and discussion programmes, plus a little music every now-and-then. And I can remember sitting next to the radio set one day in particular, to hear my father, who was being interviewed for some reason or another. But it wasn't until I was about ten or eleven that radio's peculiar magic took hold of me. I’d just rescued an old Bakelite radio set from my parents’ attic and installed it next to my bed. I listened mostly at bed-time, when the lights were off. My ear would be pressed hard against the cloth-covered loudspeaker, so the volume could be down low and I could evade discovery. In the darkness, I was transfixed by a small, round, blood-red bulb fixed to the dial. It pulsated into glowing life, decayed into invisibility, then into life again, as I turned slowly through the frequencies to try to catch the faint chatter of distant voices. Out of the electromagnetic swell of white noise, I heard programmes from Paris, Hilversum, Rome. But the ones that gripped me the most were from the other side of the Iron Curtain: Radio Tirana, Radio Moscow… Radio Peking. I can’t remember what they said. It didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was that as they spoke, I felt connected by a gossamer thread with someone 5,000 thousand miles away. As a teenager, then as a student, I briefly lost this connection with radio - I was, I suppose, too busy with other things. But perhaps subconsciously, something of this earlier experience remained, to be re-awakened later, in my late-20s.

3) How much time did you need to write the books Radio in the Global Age and Life on Air?

There are two very different answers to this. In the sense of actually sitting down and writing, Radio in the Global Age took about 1 year. But I started writing it only after several years of working at the BBC and several more years teaching about - and subconsciously thinking a lot about - how radio worked and what it's importance was. So in another sense, Radio in the Global Age was several years in the making. For Life on Air, again, I was drawing, in one sense, from many years of working in radio, listening to radio, talking to radio practitioners, and thinking about the subject. But in practical terms, I spent about a year planning and scheming and doing initial research, then about two years researching in the archives full-time, and finally another two years writing - so about five years altogether, though with some teaching and other work during this period.

4) What is your opinion about digital radio?

I feel ambivalent about digital radio. There's no doubt that digital phenomena such as podcasts and the ability to 'listen-again' to radio has improved my life in many ways. I no longer fear missing my favourite programme on, say BBC Radio 3 or BBC Radio 4: I simply subscribe to it as a podcast and then listen to it when driving the 50 miles or so between home and work. Sound quality's improved, too - and that makes a real difference when listening to music or drama. On the other hand, there are features of the digital revolution that have made little difference to me. Choice is supposed to have multiplied exponentially - but that, I think is more illusory than real, because so many of those who run radio stations are too unimaginative about the medium's possibilities and therefore end up producing programmes that all sound very much alike. Of course, Internet radio makes it theoretically possible to listen to any station or any genre of output from anywhere around the world. And, occasionally, I have taken advantage of this facility, tuning in to, say, a college radio station in the US. But, more often than not, I have experienced no real feeling of 'connection' to such stations. Finding them satisfies an idle curiosity, much as finding radio from beyond the Iron Curtain did when I was a child. But at some crucial psychic level, radio maintains a distinctive 'national' or local bond with its listeners. Perhaps it's because, in Britain, we have the BBC, which is a phenomenal resource that we take too much for granted, yet which has infiltrated British life to an extraordinary degree. Whatever the reason, I miss the BBC terribly when I am abroad. In 2010 spent a lengthy period working in the United States. But despite it being the land if infinite choice, I struggled to find any station - commercial or public service - which gave me pleasure in the way that BBC Radio 3 or 4 have done for years, and will continue, I hope, to give me pleasure for the rest of my life. And, one of the reasons these stations give pleasure, is that in a profound way they are a 'gift' - given to me without any expectation of me having to respond. There is value in passivity. It creates the space to absorb and to think. And there is danger, sometimes, in a forced 'interactivity that removes the opportunity for reflective space. To use the old radio metaphor, we sometimes need to stop 'transmitting' in order to enjoy simply 'receiving'.

5) Are you working on another book?

I'm currently working on two books. Almost finished is a small book called 'Public Service Broadcasting' for publication in 2012. It tries to explore what public service broadcasting is in terms of its role in civic life. My second book, much bigger in scale, is 'Media and the Making of the Modern Mind', which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2014. It explores the ways in which four 'new' media - radio, cinema, television and the internet - have each in turn changed the ways we think and have understood the world over the past 120 years. Some of the ideas in the book were explored, more briefly, in a five-part radio series I presented for the BBC in 2010, called 'Rewiring the Mind'.
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