Friday, December 24, 2010

Looking Back at Radio

I have been fortunate to be able to listen again to a great series of programmes I was involved in. The station was Radio Netherlands, the programme Media Network. I still believe it was an early "FaceBook" bringing together teams of passionate people to discuss what was happening in media and technology at the time.

I picked this recording out of the archives because it has a nice capsule summary of the major media stories from 1982. The highlight was, of course, the Falklands-Malvinas "conflict". But it was also the last programme in which Wim van Amstel appeared as RNW Frequency Manager. It was certainly not the last time he was heard on the programme, though. Again it is striking to hear some of the predictions - and how they were spot on. The call with Arthur Cushen in New Zealand is rather like making contact with the moon. Cannot believe how fast time has flown. At the time of publishing this podcast, I was also sad to hear of the passing of BBC correspondent and broadcaster Brian Hanrahan, who famous line when broadcasting under censorship from the Falklands Fleet was brilliant. Unable to reveal how many British aircraft had been involved in the conflict, he reported that after one sortie he "counted them all out and I counted them all back."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Confusions about Web Radio

Paris December 2010
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
There is still a lot of confusion out there about the economics of audio over the phone. I was recently in Paris for the great LeWeb10 conference and passed by ads for the Samsung Wave. First phone I have seen with a prominent menu option for webradio. That means you stream the audio via 3G rather than picking it up from FM or AM. I remember Nick Piggot of the project pointing out at IBC that if you were to stream the equivalent of a month's worth of FM/DAB listening by the average Brit, then the download would be about 2GB. That is just not going to scale, nor would I like to rely on a 3G network during a natural disaster. We had a case of that on 9 December when it decided to snow and Paris came to a standstill.

And if you're travelling abroad, as I was, I note that KPN was planning to charge me 5 Euro for a MB of data - so I would have had a monthly bill of 10,000 Euro if I had decided to use my phone as a radio.

I saw colleagues trying to buy local SIM cards, only to discover you needed a French credit card or that it took 48 hrs to activate the data account. In other words, web-radio is great as part of an audio solution. In areas with an uncapped fixed price data rate, it is fine. But the operators are rethinking what they mean by uncapped - I see examples where 250 MB is regarded as the max for fair use.

So it's a bit early to be dumping broadcast networks, although I think AM will go away quite fast. DRM has failed to attract the interest of the receiver manufacturers and the cost per listening on shortwave was decided when oil was 40 dollars a barrel. But FM and DAB+ are an important part of a hybrid mix for audio.

Web Radio on my Android
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks