Easy Listening, October 2005
More Podcasting News
Podcasting certainly appears to be a “sticky” innovation in Internet-delivered audio; I’ve spoken with several longtime shortwave listeners, most of whom were skeptics when Internet audio required you to be tethered to a computer, and they find podcasting to be a convenient way to listen to international broadcasts at times of their choosing.
Radio Netherlands has permitted downloading of its programs for several years, and two programs–Euroquest and Newsline–are now listed in Apple’s iTunes podcast directory. As of this date, these podcasts aren’t listed on Radio Netherlands’ own website, though it appears the Euroquest podcast URL is http://download.omroep.nl/rnw/smac/xml/en_euroquest.xml; you can simply add that URL to your podcast software of choice (e.g. iPodder) and receive each week’s episode automatically.
Radio Sweden also offers its daily half-hour program as a podcast; it’s listed at Radio Sweden’s own website and is also in the iTunes directory. Deutsche Welle’s Newslink Plus, Inspired Mines, Living Planet and Inside Europe programs are also listed in iTunes , but are not listed as podcasts at DW’s own website.
With the majority of Americans now using broadband Internet connections, the nice aspect of podcasts is that the program can be painlessly transferred to your own computer, and can then be quickly transferred to an MP3 player. By the way–inexpensive MP3 players with the capability for expanded memory can now be had for as low as $30.
It’s certainly great to see an increasing variety of international broadcasting content available as podcasts, but there is no single website that has successfully catalogued all of these. Apple’s iTunes site is perhaps the de facto standard directory site, but I suggest you Google “Radio National Podcast” (or whatever broadcaster you’re looking for) to maximize your chances for finding podcast editions of your favorite programs.
Podcasting has also become a venue for people to independently produce and distribute audio programming, in much the same way that shortwave pirates have prospered over the years; the joy of podcasts to many is the potential of stumbling across a diamond in the rough that you might enjoy. It’s a trial-and-error process, though–you might have to sift through a vast amount of junk to find that artfully crafted, independently-produced audio gem.
Indications are that Radio National and the BBC World Service will continue some component of podcasting after their trials have formally ended; another broadcaster to look for is Radio New Zealand’s National Radio, one click off the main RNZ website of http://www.radionz.co.nz, which is soon to launch enhanced online audio capabilities including on-demand audio. The Voice of America has also announced plans to begin podcasting later this autumn, but nothing has been launched as of yet.
Speaking of RNZ’s National Radio…
Live streams of National Radio and RNZI are available as test streams from the RNZ website shown above. The nice feature of the RNZI stream is that it’s available 24/7, unlike the partial availability of the RNZI live webcast that has been standard in the recent past. These are also wide-bandwidth streams, so they sound quite good. Radio New Zealand plans to offer much of its programming on-demand as well, but a launch date for the on-demand programming has not yet been announced.
Sirius and XM satellite radio soon to invade Canada; CBC R1 should then show up in the USA
The CRTC’s June decision allowing subscription radio services survived protests and a possible Canadian cabinet repeal, so it appears Canadians will soon be able to legally subscribe to special versions of Sirius and XM radio. The key benefit to us in the USA is that Sirius will offer the CBC Radio One and Radio Three services to American audiences as part of the basic subscription package. While some CBC programming has already been available on Sirius via the Public Radio World channel produced by PRI, the full Radio One schedule should be made available before the end of 2005.
In my own opinion, this gives even more reason to favor Sirius over XM if you’re particularly interested in access to international broadcasters. While XM offers the full Americas “infotainment” service, Sirius offers the news-heavy BBC service that PRI also offers to USA public radio stations plus the World Radio Network–a collection of roughly 25 international broadcasters, plus the Public Radio World channel which airs the CBC’s As It Happens, DNTO, Ideas, Sunday Edition and Dispatches plus Deutsche Welle’s Newslink Plus along with Radio Netherlands’ Euroquest (hmm…where have we read that before?).
So…what about shortwave?
While there have not been any big losses from the shortwave spectrum this summer, propagation has generally been subpar for most of the summer. Here’s hoping that the autumn will bring better reception.
You might find interesting that, in preparation for a presentation on International Broadcasting I gave in September at the ODXA’s Radio Fest conference, I identified the various programming delivery methods in use by the world’s traditional public service international broadcasters. There are very few that solely use shortwave nowadays; those would include Radio Tirana, Radio Pyongyang, and KNLS. Most broadcasters now use at least two methods of reaching listeners–shortwave, the World Radio Network, their own on-demand offerings, and live webcasts.
Which stations are using the most diverse methods to reach listeners?
No surprise–these folks offer the greatest number of ways to listen to their programming. RNW still offers daily shortwave services to the USA, and airs its programming in the WRN North American and CBC Overnight services; RNW offers a 24/7 live English language webcast and offers all of its programming as on-demand programming, with at least one week’s worth of each program. Many programs have more extensive online audio archives. As mentioned above, RNW is now formatting its downloads as podcasts. RNW has posted some of its programming at the Public Radio Exchange website, http://www.prx.org. Other web sites to check for RNW programming include Radio Netherlands’ own website, http://www.rnw.nl and Apple’s iTunes directory, for which you’ll need Apple’s software at http://www.itunes.com/ .
China Radio International
I have ranked these folks second because they extensively target North America via shortwave relays; CRI also has three different 24/7 webcasts and offers its programming on demand as well. CRI programming is also part of the WRN package. Best place to start is CRI’s website, http://www.chinabroadcast.cn/ .
Radio Australia / Radio National
Both Radio Australia and Radio National offer 24/7 webcasts, and most of the combined programming is available on-demand. Some Radio Australia programming is offered on the WRN North American service, and Radio National has many of its programs available as downloadable podcasts. Radio Australia is widely available in North America via shortwave in the morning hours. Best web resources are Radio Australia’s website, http://www.abc.net.au/ra, and Radio National’s website, http://www.abc.net.au/rn .
You can’t easily find them on shortwave to North America, though two of their broadcasts targeting West Africa from their Kigali transmitters are generally audible in North America. DW offers a 24/7 English language webcast, offers most of its programming as audio on demand, and offers Newslink Plus via Sirius satellite radio’s Public Radio World channel. As mentioned above, some of its programs are listed in the iTunes podcast directory.
BBC World Service
I’ve ranked them this low due to the lack of shortwave services targeting North America. The BBC has enthusiastically embraced Internet technologies, with three 24/7 webcasts (Europe stream, Americas stream, News stream) and extensive on-demand offerings. The BBC continues to populate an online archive with its well-regarded documentary series; more than 100 separate documentary series are listed, with most of the 2005 offerings available as podcasts. As I’ve often mentioned, the BBCWS has focused its North American attention on public radio local transmission plus availability on XM and Sirius satellite radio.
Coming Attractions–BBC World Service
The most significant new development begins at the end of October with the change of seasons–a new, daily hour-long program entitled World Have Your Say. The hour long show, scheduled to go out each weekday at 1800 UTC, will feature opinion and comment from around the world. Listeners can be involved in a global conversation 24 hours a day by e-mail, text and phone via the Have Your Say section of the BBC website. They will be able to join in a global conversation that allows people of every nationality from all walks of life, in every country to communicate with one another. “If you have an opinion, prepare to have it challenged and if you don’t have one, by the end of the programme you will,” says the program’s editor Mark Sandell. Audibility in North America will be limited–perhaps the European (12095 kHz) and African services (15400 kHz) may propagate well enough to be usable.
The Story of the Guitar–Crispin Robinson tells the story of perhaps the most iconic musical instrument on earth. He traces the history and music of the guitar from its ancient roots to a symbol of youth, virility and rebellion the world over in the four-part series The Story of the Guitar from Monday 10 October. Using archive material, talking and playing with the players themselves, and most importantly, hearing the music, he explains the history and styles of different types of guitar music from around the world. This airs in the Music Feature; try Tuesdays 0032 (Americas), Mondays 1432 (Africa), and Mondays 1832 (Europe).
The Soul Within Islam–Ever since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, headlines focusing on Islamic extremism have obscured the story of the radical change and intense soul-searching that’s going on in many Muslim countries. Now, in an epic journey, celebrated British Muslim writer Ziauddin Sardar, travels to five Muslim countries to reveal how heads of government, intellectuals and opinion formers are seeking a new interpretation of Islam. In a landmark four-part series from Wednesday 5 October Sardar visits Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia and Malaysia to see how changes there are affecting the lives of ordinary Muslims in The Soul within Islam. This program airs in the Documentary 2 time slot, with two editions airing the same day in two consecutive time slots–in Europe, for example, at 0805 and 1205 UT Wednesdays. In the Americas, try Sundays 1005 and 1505 for two consecutive editions in each of two weeks beginning October 5th.
Return to Sarajevo–In November 1995, the Dayton Peace Accord finally brought the Bosnian war to an end. Allan Little, who wrote the definitive book on the Balkans War–The Death of Yugoslavia–was in Sarajevo at the time. Together with Peter Burdin he produced a Sony Award-winning series about some of those who’d survived the war. Ten years on, as a voyage of discovery, Allan and Peter revisit the people who made such an impression on them a decade ago. They discover how Bosnians have managed to deal with their trauma and cope with the continuing legacy of that war in the three-part series Return to Sarajevo from Wednesday 19 October. This program also airs in the Documentary 2 time slot, with a single new edition each week for four weeks, unlike the doubling up observed with The Soul Within Islam.
Heart and Soul: My Muslim Family–During the month of Ramadan, Heart and Soul joins Muslim families from around the world as they share the meals and rituals that make this time of year so special and enjoyable in a three-part series from Wednesday 12 October. For most practicing Muslims Ramadan is a joyous time but perhaps not for those who find the prohibition of eating, drinking and smoking in daylight hours a real trial. Each of the programs has a fly-on-the-wall feel with family members introducing themselves and inviting us to share in their activities. “We meet members of different generations who reflect on how their lives and aspirations have changed over the years. We learn about their cooking, their traditions and what their faith means to them,” says producer Catherine Fellows. For shortwave, try Wednesdays 1445 (Europe), 1545 (Americas), and 1945 (Europe).
We have space for another suggestion from Peter Bowen:
The National Interest, Radio Australia
Another example of a fine program from down under, The National Interest is a 54-55 minute show about Australian national affairs. Hosted by Terry Lane (a sort of Michael Enright of the ABC),and presents a series of interviews about newsworthy topics from that fascinating country.
Each edition opens with the usual menu, though a short one, as this programme has few features. Then follows a 3-5-minute slot of “mini-news”, in which Terry reviews news of the past week that probably didn’t make it into the headlines. These stories have an interesting or off-beat angle, and are embellished by Terry’s quirky and dryly humorous take on them.
Then come the interviews. In fact, the bulk of the program is comprised of them, about 2 or 3 in each show. There are no reports or packages here, just Terry interviewing various Australian or foreign politicians, academics, scientists, and journalists.
They tend to be lengthy (a 30 minute interview is not unusual) and thus provide real depth to the topic. All have a relevance to a recent event of national interest in Australia, and cover all manner of things political, scientific, economic, cultural, etc.
The questions thrown at politicians are thoughtful and critical; the tone is respectfully cheeky and irreverent. Non-political interviewees are also put through their paces, though the tone tends to be more searching, and probing, than critical.
In all cases, Terry engages in a conversation with his guests, rather than an interrogation–his tone, personal comments and observations, assure that.
Website: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/natint/default.htm (available on-demand)
Shortwave to North America: Mondays 1105 UTC.
Until next month, 73 DE Richard