NASWA Journal Columns · Easy Listening, September 1996

Richard Cuff • 42 North 37th Street • Allentown, PA 18104 richard◊thecuffs.us

Easy Listening, September 1996

Escaping Political News

Those of us who get our news from Shortwave, in my humble opinion, are much better off than those stuck with domestic USA news sources, and election years are excellent examples of the perspectives available to us on shortwave. Politics will dominate the domestic news here until early November, and I personally don’t have much stomach for daily doses from the political campaign trail. It often seems to be news for news’ sake. I think the BBC’s or RCI/CBC’s perspectives on the American political process are often more insightful than what the domestic networks have to say, anyway.

Odds and Ends

Some random notes from recent tours around the airwaves:

Balkan Spin Doctoring

Radio Yugoslavia spins the Serbian/Montenegran line in the Balkan region; recently, the program emphasized economic redevelopment and promotion for Yugoslavian industries that were coming back on line. Undoubtedly the angle was biased, but was interesting to hear the face Yugoslavia wished to present to the rest of the world. Program production was quite slick, as well. Radio Yugoslavia was coming in here quite nicely at 0000 recently, but they’ve announced frequency changes for early September which might mean difficult listening, not easy listening.

Radio Australia Capsule Reviews

On a semi-regular basis I hope to provide mini-reviews and descriptions of regular Radio Australia programs. While advance program information may not be available, at least by general description I can tell you what to expect.

Report From Asia is a weekly program reviewing the week’s past important news stories from Asia using a series of correspondents’ reports. A program host provides some continuity between segments, but all the reporting of substance is from the field. The program resembles From Our Own Correspondent from the BBC, but has a more serious tone to it than From Our Own Correspondent. The reporting is more straightforward and less like documentary style reporting, which is the approach utilized for the weekday program Asia Focus. Report From Asia is best heard here in Eastern North America Sundays at 1330, and is one of several programs focusing on Asia from Radio Australia.

Asia Focus is heard weekdays at 1010 and, by comparison, is more of a single-theme analysis, quite similar to The World Today from the BBC. Each issue can be treated in more depth than in a “roundup” style show.

Mini-documentaries within Newshour

As I normally pop C-90 cassettes into my tape recorder, I can’t record all of the BBC‘s Newshour using my radio’s timer. I have recently started recording the last 45 minutes of Newshour, versus the first 45 that I’ve normally done. If you haven’t listened lately, the second half of Newshour is normally devoted to four or five segments with somewhat in-depth treatment of interesting events or issues that aren’t necessarily current affairs. These segments aren’t as dry as the more predictable treatment of current affairs often can be.

Schedule Changes

The BBC won’t be making its seasonal frequency changes in late September, when most other international broadcasters make the switch. Instead, the changes will be made in late October, when most northern hemisphere countries switch from summer time to winter time.

Target Topic: Interview Programs

This covers a gamut of program subjects – from current affairs, to personalities, to perspectives. As good interviews require more exchange than a five-minute newscast allows, you’ll need to look to public or international radio to find interviews, unless it’s celebrity interviews you want.

Here are some samples for your consideration:

As It Happensfrom the CBC and Radio Canada International, is the first program that comes to mind. It’s a 90-minute program consisting solely of interviews with newsmakers and news observers, with very little backgrounding or other analysis aside from the flow of questions and answers. What I find particularly appealing is the selection of interviewees. I remember one program on the thwarting of computer hackers that was particularly interesting as the chief sleuth very entertainingly detailed how he went about finding the hackers, baiting various traps and electronically chasing them through cyberspace. As It Happens airs weeknights at 2230 summers, 2330 winters. An abridged version airs weekdays 1212 summers, 1312 winters.

Outlook from the BBC fits this category, as interesting people are interviewed, sometimes relating to current affairs, sometimes not. North American airings include 0130, 0430, and 1405 weekdays (actually Tue-Sat GMT time for 0130 & 0430).

Pacific Beat from Radio Australia has interviews among its features, interspersed among other Radio Australia programming from 0400 to 0900.

Insight on Deutsche Welle has a particular German person’s perspective on an issue of world interest, providing background to other news or current affairs programming you might here. Insightairs to North America Wednesdays 0335. Other German perspectives can be heard in the Sunday feature Through German Eyes, at 0130, 0330, and 0530 to North America. People and Places, which airs to Asia and Africa, with reasonably decent reception in the Americas on a few frequencies, also has light
interviews among its features. I’ve recently picked up the 0435 Asian release without too much trouble; People and Places airs Sundays except the first Sunday of the month.

Perspectives from the Voice of Free China features interviews with Taiwanese personalities Thursdays to North America at 0215, and Fridays 0315.

Steppin’ Out of Babylon from Radio For Peace International looks interesting – it’s an interview program featuring political activists. I’ve never caught the program myself, but it looks worth a listen. Mondays and Fridays 2200, Tuesdays and Saturdays 0600.

Press Conference USA from the VoA is one of several VOA programs featuring interviews, and is the subject of Peter Bowen’s monthly review:

Press Conference USA is a VOA program in which several journalists interview a studio guest who is in some way associated with a topic of current interest. The studio host introduces the topic for discussion, the guest, and the reporters, and also poses an occasional question to the featured guest. Although most of the interviewers tend to come from within the VOA, as does the host, some are from other media organizations. The program runs 29 minutes in length.

This program is a current affairs program, rather than simply a news analysis program, as topics tend to come from the broad spectrum of those currently of interest, rather than originating solely in hard news. Choice of topics reflect the interests and concerns of the US government, and the USA as a whole, in keeping with the thrust of other current events programs on the VOA. The VOA Charter, of course, especially Article 2, requires the station to “represent America”.

The quality of the program is to a large extent dependent upon the interviewers. A good interviewer should pursue several different goals: to enable the guest to explain and/or defend a particular policy or institution, to challenge the positions taken by the guest, to pose questions on behalf of the station’s audience, and to raise those issues that the studio guest may want to ignore or exclude.

Given these requirements for quality interviews, Press Conference USA does not meet the mark. Discussions tend to be overly deferential to the guest. Questions are asked which allow the guest to explain and defend, but very few are asked which really challenge the guest or which raise negative aspects of the policy or institution under discussion. The interview thus fails to become an in-depth discussion of all aspects of the topic, positive and negative, which would truly advance the education of the listener.

Press Conference USA airs to the Americas Sundays 0130.

BBC World Service Highlights

Waveguide returns to the BBC in September with an eight-part series hosted by Simon Spanswick that looks, as before, to appeal to newcomers to shortwave listening. Americas airings include Tuesdays 1515, beginning September 17th, and Wednesdays 0720. European airings include Sundays 1550.

Features and Documentaries

The environment is emphasized in September World Service programming, with two features that begin in September.

Sundays, beginning September 22nd, 1401: The Ecological Fightback in Latin America is a new four-part 30-minute series on the deepening ecological crises in Latin America, both in its rain forests and in its cities. Many people are fighting back, as on-site reports by Sue Brandord and Nick Caistor will attest. Nina Ward hosts. Repeated Mondays to the Americas 0615.

Sundays, beginning September 22nd, 1430: Keep To The Path returns with a four-part 15-minute series of country walks with people having an eye for landscape and the environment. Roger Fenby hosts. Repeats Mondays 0645 to the Americas.

Mondays, 0230: The Way of the Buddha continues its five-part, 30-minute series in September. The last program in the series Twentieth Century Challenges looks particularly interesting, as the role of Buddhism in the intermixing of Eastern and Western cultures is explored.

Thursdays, beginning September 5th, 1215: Islam, Faith And Power is an eight-part 30-minute series being re-aired. The series looks at the relationship of Islam and feminism, banking, and its conflict with Western countries. Also airs Thursdays 0530 to the Americas, and Thursdays 1830 to Europe.

Drama and the Arts

Saturdays, 2230: Plays of the Week include the following:

Valley Song, September 14th–A drama set in South Africa on the tensions between rural and big city living, as the farm country teenager yearns to make a name of herself in Johannesburg. Her grandfather, who has farmed the land for years, resists but recognizes the winds of change.

Nuremburg, September 21st–the Nuremburg war crimes tribunal of the late 1940s is reconstructed, using the trial transcripts with some editing. The surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust were put on trial for atrocities committed in Germany and German-occupied countries. Michael Cochrane plays Göring; Jeremy Clyde, philosopher Rosenberg; and Thomas Wheatley, Rudolf Hess.

Number Two, September 28th, is a sequel to Nuremburg, profiling the Number Two man in the Nazi hierarchy, Göring. His indignation at being considered a war criminal is gradually eroded as he faces up to the full horrors of the Nazi regime. Michael Cochrane again plays Göring.

Fridays, 0230: 30-Minute Drama features the following:

The End of Lieutenant Boruvka, through September 20th–three more of Josef Skvorecky’s dramatized stories of a detective in 1967 Czechoslovakia.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, through October 11th–a three-part radio dramatization of Robert Louis Stevenson’s mystery thriller.

Mondays, 0130: Short Stories for September include:

The Last Canoe, by David Somerset in New Zealand, in which a group of New Zealand schoolchildren paddle an old Maori canoe one last time before presenting it to a local museum, when the canoe has other ideas for its final resting place (September 9th);

The Outing, by Julia Simpson in Saudi Arabia, in which young Saudi women head to a deserted beach to remove their veils where they can’t be seen (September 16th);

Blue Forever, by Miles Hordern, about a yachtsman alone on the ocean becalmed by no wind (September 23rd).

Short Story also airs Fridays 0615 and Sundays 1445 to the Americas.

Music

Sundays, beginning September 1st, 2310: Going Solo is a new weekly 5-minute program on classical pieces involving solo instruments other than the piano – the flute, cello, trombone, and accordion, over a period of four centuries of music, are featured. Mark Lowther hosts.

Saturday, September 14th, 1501: The Last Night of the Proms ’96features music of Glinka, Sir Malcolm Arnold, Offenbach, Berlioz, Puccini, Elgar, and Arne. Andrew Davis conducts.

Sundays, beginning September 29th, 1730 to Europe: Bhangra Beat is a new six-part 30-minute series on bhangra, originally the rural folk music of the Punjab but now played in the UK, with influences from rap, reggae, and even techno dance. There don’t appear to be any releases scheduled to the Americas.

Sundays, 0630: Jazz For The Asking is an ongoing weekly 30-minute show, hosted by Malcolm Laycock, featuring listener requests for various styles of jazz. Aired to Europe Sundays 2130 and to Africa Saturdays 2130.

Light Entertainment

Mondays, 0330: Brain Of Britain completes the first round and moves on to the semifinal round, with Robert Robinson hosting. What is “graceful degradation” in the world of computers? Who were the Elephant and the Maypole in King George I of England’s court? Also airs to Europe Saturdays 1230 and Mondays 1830.

Wrapping Things Up

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region it’s been a pleasantly cool, but damp summer. The sun sets earlier and earlier as the days progress and the Equinox approaches. Hopefully your summer was enjoyable and that autumn will open up new listening opportunities for you.

If you can get yourself to Sterling, Virginia September 22nd at 1:30 PM, you can join us for the second meeting of the MAD/SWL’s–I think that’s the name we chose–the Baltimore/Washington regional shortwave group. We hope to rotate the meeting around the Baltimore/Washington area, and September’s meeting will be at the Sterling/Cascades Public Library. Drop me a postcard, E-mail, or phone call if you’d like more info. Our group has diverse interests, from RTTY to pacific DXing to easy listening, so there should be something for all to enjoy.

Upcoming Target Topics:

John Figliozzi’s assistance with updated program schedules was greatly appreciated this past month; his book continues to penetrate Radio Shack stores. Peter Bowen continues to provide excellent perspective in his program reviews; thanks to both for their assistance.

Please note my new Internet mailing address, which should now regularly appear in the masthead: rdcuff@worldnet.att.net. Sorry if you sent E-mail to my old address–any mail sent there apparently didn’t bounce, it just disappeared into the ether.

Until October,

73 DE Richard

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