NASWA Journal Columns · Easy Listening, December 2006

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

Easy Listening, December 2006

RCI’s The Link — Intro to Canada

The lead item last month was the launch of new programming from Radio Canada International—primarily, a new program called The Link, designed as a program serving two purposes: Providing information about Canada to prospective or new immigrants, and providing information about Canada to listeners abroad. I had the opportunity to listen to The Link over the past month. The program seems to serve its intended audience well, but those who are well acquainted with Canadian issues will find the content to be pretty basic, assuming the listener doesn’t know all that much about Canada.

The program has a pretty “sunny” demeanor, with the host, Marc Montgomery, generally presenting topics by interacting with an individual story’s presenter. An advantage of that approach is that the listener gets to hear a variety of voices. Montgomery servers more as a continuity announcer and as an interviewer of those who present specific features, for example Jim Craig on history, and Ian Jones on sports. A nice feature is that stories range in length from five to ten minutes, long enough for a story’s individual presenter to provide some details and background to the subject matter. As a magazine-style program, The Link has a somewhat free-form feel to it, transitioning smoothly between stories. However, there are regular weekly features that are scheduled for various days, ranging from history to cooking to sports, so there are some elements of predictability to the service.

Much like the midday Deutsche Welle news analysis program launched last year, Update Europe, and also like Radio Japan’s A Song For Everyone, that is sandwiched between the news and 44 Minutes, RCI’s The Link intersperses songs between the various stories in the broadcast. Personally, I find this a waste—if I wanted to hear a music program, then I’d tune in specifically for that. However, if I want a news magazine, then don’t waste my time adding music as filler. But that’s frankly my own personal taste; perhaps the younger audience the program clearly targets enjoys that mix.

The Link is produced for two hours each day; RCI erroneously touts that only one hour is available on shortwave. This is true for most world regions, where RCI is on for one our each day, but here in North America we get both hours via shortwave. The two hours differ significantly in content; the first hour focuses on domestic stories of interest to Canada’s immigrant community, or those who are considering emigration to Canada. The second hour more closely resembles the old Canada Today, focusing on global issues through a Canadian lens, without as much emphasis on the immigrant community. Some segments include program host Montgomery interviewing global subjects via phone; those segments sounds like they could be part of As It Happens, the excellent daily CBC interview program.

RCI’s website has been revamped with the launch of The Link, with a new moniker, “RCI Viva”, utilized as the online portal for the immigrant community. The new webpage does not separately list the RCI satellite services that have been audible via live webcast, yet these satellite services continue to exist. The most convenient way to find the web audio is from Kevin Kelly’s Public Radio Fan website, www.publicradiofan.com, from which you can search for RCI from the “Station Search” link. The Link is also available for on-demand listening, though RCI has implemented a Flash-based, slicked-up user interface instead of a simple “listen here” link. All editions of the program since its October 30th launch are available for listening; the two daily hours can be individually selected, and multiple programs can be queued for listening in the online player that has a Winamp feel to it.

International public service broadcasters have been struggling for relevance since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, and RCI has gone through its own funding issues since then. RCI deserves to be commended for carving out a new niche for itself, though the addition of a domestic remit is something new for an international broadcaster. Broadcasters like Finland’s YLE and Sweden’s Radio Sweden have been relayed on domestic multilingual radio networks, but these were generally adjuncts to their external focus. RCI’s situation, though is different—because this domestic focus is being highly publicized. This does pose a quandary—because the only way domestic audiences can easily hear RCI programming is via shortwave (for those who aren’t in the dead zone for Sackville) and Sirius satellite radio in addition to the webcast. There are no over-the-air alternatives for Canadians via the usual CBC Radio One or Radio Two outlets, and there are no references to The Link on the domestic CBC radio program listing web page. One would think, if nothing else, that one or both hours of The Link could be aired during the overnight hours in lieu of the CBC Overnight service featuring other international broadcasters.

As mentioned last month, the best shortwave times for hearing The Link in North America include the following:

0000–0200 to EUS / Caribbean / Mexico (9755): Tuesday–Saturday

1400–1700 to EUS, CUS, Caribbean, South America (9515, 13655, 17820): Monday–Friday (along with one hour of Sounds Like Canada)

2200–2300 to Northeastern USA (9800 DRM): Monday–Friday (2nd hour)

If you’d rather hear the traditional domestically-targeted CBC programming, your best bet is 2300–0000 to Eastern USA, Cuba, Haiti (6100): Monday–Friday, The World At Six, As It Happens; Saturday, The World This Weekend, Afghanada; Sunday, The World This Weekend, Wiretap.

The “Silly Season” comes to Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand International

With Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere, the traditional Christmas holidays are overlaid on summer vacations—quite a feat! What this means, though, is that both countries go on mass vacation from mid-December to mid-January, and this includes their domestic and international public broadcast services. Since both Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand International relay a substantial amount of domestic content, they have to shuffle their schedules and bring in one-time programming and increase some repeats.

While plans aren’t finalized yet for the schedules of each broadcaster, historically Radio Australia takes much of its holiday season programming from the Local Radio network, not Radio National. There is also an increased level of sports programming at times and on frequencies that are not typical sports times.

As mid-December approaches, I’ll try to publicize schedule changes via the swprograms e-mail list, the NASWA Flashsheet, and my very occasional blog, intlradio.blogspot.com/ .

Other broadcasters’ holiday plans

Most international broadcasters try to arrange for time off for their program presenters and editors around the Christmas and New Year’s seasons, resulting in specials and end-of-year reviews and perspectives that can be prepared in advance. Prior years have seen the following specials and events:

Radio Canada International / CBC

The ODXA’s Fred Waterer along with John Figliozzi, have assembled the following notes on what to expect from the CBC:

As It Happens, especially on Christmas Eve, produces a special annual program. Each year, the program contacts members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving with the UN, NATO, NORAD and those serving in the far north. Each unit has 3 or 4 people speak for those serving with the unit. In past years, the units have served in such diverse locations as Canadian Forces Base Alert (Arctic), Colorado Springs (Norad), Germany, Cyprus, Golan Heights, Bermuda (!), the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia and Croatia, and Kosovo. It also has its moments of humor, such as the time the Canadian naval personnel stationed in Bermuda tried to claim they missed the Canadian winter real bad! (via Fred Waterer/ODXA).

This year, any special edition of As It Happens would likely be the Christmas Day edition, since Christmas Eve is on a Sunday.

Christmas Day will likely see specials across CBC Radio One, as was the case last year; some of these may show up in RCI programming as well.

The weekend before Christmas, Quirks and Quarks, the popular long-running science show, will likely air the Annual Quirks Question Show; Last year, listeners found out whether blind people get motion sickness, why you can’t put metal in the microwave, and why cold snow squeaks when you walk on it.

Vinyl Café will likely air a special Christmas concert.

BBC World Service

The BBC World Service hasn’t publicized their holiday plans yet, but there are several annual traditions that are expected to continue:

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a long-standing tradition. Expect the program to originate once again from King’s College in Cambridge; the Festival is a celebration of the birth of Christ in readings from the Bible and beautiful choral music. It features traditional favorites such as Once In Royal David’s City as well as new music specially composed for the occasion. Last year’s airings included Christmas Eve at 1501 and Christmas Day at 1301.

The Queen’s Christmas Message to the Commonwealth is another annual tradition, lasting just 10 minutes but a highlight from year to year. Last year’s airtimes included December 25th at 1505.

Radio Netherlands

Often Radio Netherlands will air a special seasonal documentary in lieu of Newsline on Christmas Day.

BBC World Service highlights

It’s getting tougher and tougher to obtain advance schedule information in the time frame needed for the Journal, as printed upcoming highlights are nonexistent, and electronically-distributed plans are often not released more than a couple weeks in advance. However, there are some highlights already available:

Saturday, December 2 through Sunday December 10 sees a special thematic “season” called Generation Next, a series of programs dedicated to understanding and exploring the world through the eyes of under 18-year-olds—the next generation. This will be part of all 33 language services of the BBC World Service.

Generation Next will be the title of a five-part documentary series that will air every day from Monday, December 4th through Friday the 8th. Robin Lustig, perhaps the best-known World Service presenter, explores what youth means in different societies and cultures worldwide in this series. He looks at the legal, social and cultural frameworks separating the child from the adult by focusing on aspects of life such as sex and marriage, work, voting, politics and crime. Shortwave airtimes include weekdays 0905, 1205, and 2005 (to Europe); 1405 and 2105 (to West Africa); 1305 and 2005 (Americas / XM)

Analysis will feature a week of special programs from children’s rights campaigner Camila Batmanghelidjh—founder of the charity Kids’ Company and winner of this year’s UK Women of the Year award—who explores the ways different countries and cultures focus on the needs of children. Shortwave airtimes include weekdays 1140 and 2220 (Europe); 1140 (Tuesday-Friday) and 1940 (Africa); 0240 (Tuesday-Friday), 0540, 0850, 0940, 1940 (XM); 0040, 0240, 1050 (Sirius / PRI).

Outlook will include five 10-minute plays from five London-based 10- to 12-year-olds in the week’s programs; the children, from Bangladesh, China, Croatia, Ghana, and London, now live in the King’s Cross area of London. Their plays are set in the parts of the world their parents or grandparents came from. Each play has two characters, neither of whom can be human, and the children’s words cannot be altered by the actors playing the parts. Shortwave airtimes include 1405 (Europe); 1005 and 1305 (Africa); 1405 (Americas / XM); 0405 and 2305 (XM); 1905 (Sirius)

Schoolday 24 is a special initiative on Wednesday, December 6th, linking schools in “hot spots” such as Moscow and Chechnya, Sri Lanka, and Skopje; also, schools in Albania, Bangladesh, Burma, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland and the USA. These schools will be linked up using satellite transmission capabilities facilitated by the BBC. Specific airtimes and programs for these linkups have not been given, though the special website www.bbcnews.com/schoolday24 will be active before and during this special day of programming.

Saturday, December 9th and Sunday, December 10th see the finale of The Next Big Thing, the BBC World Service’s search for the best young band or solo artist aged 18 or under; the six finalists are judged by a global panel and the winner is revealed. Airtimes include Sunday 2206 (Africa), Sunday 1906 (Europe), Sunday 1406 (XM) and Monday 0106 (XM).

Other programs with special Generation Next editions airing that week include Discovery, Science In Action, One Planet, and Health Check.

A new four-part investigative documentary series, Global Account, begins on December 15th; subjects include Paraguay’s Islamic terror connection (12/15), HIV and Corruption (12/22), Europe’s Secret CIA Prison (12/29) and India’s Sex for Sale Orphanages (1/7). Air times include 0905, 1205, 2005 (Europe); 0905 and 1405 (Africa), 1206 (XM), 1306 (Americas SW).

Special Holiday Request

If you make note of special holiday programming from your favorite broadcasters, please pass that information along to me, even if it’s after the fact—I’ll add it to my file that I update each year regarding seasonal and special programming; use the contact information shown at the top of column, or use the “Contact Staff” link at the NASWA website, www.naswa.net .

May your holidays bring you radio presents and some time off for listening!

Until next month (and next year),

73 DE Richard

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