Wednesday, September 20, 2017

.radio TLD

The top-level domain (TLD) name “.radio” is now available. However, these are only being dolled out to "individuals and companies with active interest in the radio sector." These will be managed by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) with support from other world broadcasting unions. The initial qualifying categories are as follows:
  • Radio broadcasting stations
  • Unions of Broadcasters (Such as the EBU)
  • Internet radio stations
  • Radio Amateurs
  • Radio professionals (journalists, DJs, etc…)
  • Companies selling radio-related goods and services
So all U.S. broadcasters licensed by the FCC and licensed Hams enthusiasts, and even myself, should be eligible to submit their call signs or brand names to EBU for a .RADIO domain name. But a new TLD is not a panacea. For example, they're going to cost your station $237 per year. A simple .com domain will run you about $30. More here. It costs $185,000 to register a new TLD so those "investors" are going to need to ding you to recoup.

As of July 2016, there are 326.4 million domain names globally. If you are a broadcaster with a web presence (website, or webapp) you are effectively competing with that for attention. (Yes, not all of them are radio stations) It is estimated that less than 30% of the "visible" web is in English. [SOURCE]  But despite those language limitations websites are heavily concentrated across just a handful of domains. Most internet users are only aware of half a dozen. Most SEO bros will advise you to avoid anything except the most common of Top Level Domains (TLD). You can see a break down below. [SOURCE] I just broke out the top 10 TLDs... there are more than 1,000 others available... 

.COM 130.1 Million USA
.TK 18.8 Million New Zealand
.NET 15 Million USA
.DE 14.3 Million UK
.CN 10.4 Million China
.UK   10.2 Million USA
.INFO   6.1 Million USA
.RU   5.2 Million USA
.NL   4.9 Million USA
.EU   3.6 Million USA

You will note .radio isn't in the top 10 and you can check my source here. If you scroll all the way down you will see that .radio has just 22 registered domains. In other words, most users are not aware that it's a possible TLD.  So despite the hearty defense you can read at the ARRL and RadioTLD, the TLD is not likely to gain you any clicks... quite the opposite. And if you think it will effect your search results... remember that TLDs have no impact on SEO performance and Google is 100% clear about this.”  But if you want that TLD because it's cool... well yes it's cool.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Radio Cambodia Crackdown

On August 23rd, the news broke that the government of Cambodia has shut down two independent radio station. 93.5 FM Mahanokor and Voice of Democracy (VOD), two Khmer-language radio stations, were ordered to close on Wednesday by the ministry of information. Mohanokor broadcasts programs produced by Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and the Cambodia National Rescue Party much to the ire of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Mohanokor said it received a letter from Information Minister Khieu Kanharith cancelling its authorization to operate.

In a Facebook post, Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia's cabinet, cited U.S. President Donald Trump's criticisms of the press as justification for their crackdown on freedom of the press. He framed it as a conflict between freedom of expression and the authority of the state.
"President Donald Trump thinks that the news reported by these organizations did not reflect the truth, which is the responsibility of the professional reporters... This means that freedom of expression must respect the law and the authority of the state."
On August 26th it got worse. The Bangladesh Daily Star newspaper revealed that the tally was actually 15 radio stations. The list includes Mohanokor and its three provincial affiliates. But also that the Information Ministry's website lists seven other media owners who were asked to stop broadcasting from the 11 radio stations they owned across 10 different provinces, including Kampong Cham 99.7 FM.

But wait there's more. Sarika FM dropped it's Voice of Democracy program from the schedule.  WMC 102 FM, the radio station run by the Women’s Media Centre of Cambodia which had also broadcast RFA and VOA programs broadcast only silence on the night of August 23rd. Several other local radio stations in various provinces that lease airtime to VOA and RFA have also reported receiving warnings of violating their agreements with the ministry.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper was very reserved in it's response [LINK].  According to the station’s director, Yi Chhor Vorn, the ministry didn't even cite a law or regulation that the station had violated.  Most popular Asian media outlets assumed that the shutdown was in response to their relaying of news content from the U.S. media outlets deemed critical of the government and supporting the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) opposition party.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Samuel Beckett’s Radio Plays

Samuel Beckett was born in 1906, lived most of his early life in Ireland, with stops in London and a long well-hidden stay in the South of France in WWII, before settling in Paris. He is remembered best for his avant-garde fiction, and in particular an absurd play titled Waiting for Godot. (But if you think that was absurd you should read How It Is.) Beckett is not remembered for his works written for radio, but there were several and all worthy of note. Some of his radio plays are not considered  to be radio plays in formal bibliographies on dubious grounds. I'll explain. More here.
  • All That Fall (broadcast 1957) 
  • From an Abandoned Work (broadcast 1957) 
  • Molloy (broadcast 1957) 
  • Embers (broadcast 1959) 
  • Words and Music (broadcast 1962) 
  • Cascando (broadcast:1963)
  • Krapp's Last Tape: 1972
  • Rough for Radio I (published 1976) 
  • Rough for Radio II (published 1976) 
In 1955 the BBC saw some appeal in the then young playwright, Samuel Beckett was getting for his new play Waiting for Godot.  At the BBC he was championed by Donald McWhinnie, Barbara Bray, Martin Esslin, and John Morris. The BBC invited Beckett to write a radio play to be broadcast on the BBC Third Programme. Beckett was hesitant, but wrote to his friend Nancy Cunard:
"Never thought about radio play technique but in the dead of t’other night got a nice gruesome idea full of cartwheels and dragging of feet and puffing and panting which may or may not lead to something."
Over the next 20 years, his cartwheels ultimately led to five plays specifically intended for radio, and arguably a few others.  His radio debut was in 1956 All That Fall. You can hear it here. The play was written in English, specially for the BBC well after he began to write primarily in French. The piece was directed by his drinking buddy, Don McWhinnie. This is well described in the book Directing Beckett by Lois Oppenheim. It was first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, January 13th of 1957, It featured actors Mary O'Farrell and J. G. Devlin. Patrick Magee and Jack MacGowran had minor parts. (It was later broadcast as Tous ceux qui tombent on RTF/ORTF in Paris, on February 25th, 1963.) A "modernized version" was broadcast on June 4th, 1972. Directed by Donald McWhinnie.

That play was followed by From An Abandoned Work, which had been previously published in the Trinity News, June 7th 1956. [SOURCE] The play began as a novel he started in 1954 but had abandoned.  It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Third Programme on December 14th, 1957 together with a selection from his 1951 novel Malloy.  The first person narrative was delivered by Patrick MacGee, directed by McWhinnie. In later listening to a rebroadcast, Beckett was so taken with MacGee's performance that it inspired him to write what he then called "MacGee's Monologue". This later became the play Krapp’s Last Tape, a work sometimes even described as a "meditation for radio." Inexplicably, most bibliographies do not consider Krapp's Last Tape to have been a radio play. This is likely because it debuted in Theater, then moved to BBC2 television.

Also written in 1957 was Embers, but it wasn't broadcast until June of 1959. McWhinnie directed again and the protagonist was played by Jack MacGowran, for whom the play was specially written. Supporting case included Kathleen Michael and Patrick Magee. It was First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on June 24th, 1959. You can hear it here. The play won the RAI prize at the Prix Italia awards later that year.

A decade passed before Beckett returned to the radio medium.  Rough for Radio I is a short radio play written in in French in 1961 as as Esquisse Radiophonique and first published in Minuit, issue 5 in September 1973. Its first English publication as Sketch for Radio Play was in 'Stereo Headphones' issue 7, in spring 1976. Plans for a BBC production, with Humphrey Searle providing the music amounted to nothing in the 1960s, but a French version was produced by ORTF in 1962.

Rough for Radio II was also first published in Minuit, this time issue 16, November 1975. It was written in French in 1961 as Pochade Radiophonique and published in Minuit 16, November 1975. The BBC beat RTE to it this time and Beckett translated the work into English for its debut broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on April 13th, 1976, his birthday The program also included Dante and the Lobster from his collection of short prose More Pricks than Kicks and a variety of live recordings from the National Theatre: From an Abandoned Work, Malone Dies, Murphy, Watt, Malloy, Still, The Unnamable, Cascando, First Love, Texts for Nothing and a selection of his poems.

Also written in the 1960s was his radio play, Words and Music assumed to have been written between November and December of 1961. It was recorded and broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 13 November 1962. It was acted by Patrick Magee and Felix Felton. His cousin, John S. Beckett provided

Most lists completely exclude The Old Tune from Becketts radio resume. After Embers, but before Rough for Radio, Beckett translated and re-wrote Robert Pinget’s 1960 play La Manivelle for the BBC. Its first radio broadcast was August 23rd, 1960. Barbara Bray directed and actors Jack MacGowran and Patrick Magee voice the parts. It's worth noting, as his interest in radio came in distinct phases. The lone exception being a 1972 recording of selections from How It Is, probably taped  at the same time as the Krapp’s Last Tape BBC sessions. It was released as a 7-Inch by J&B Recordings.

His last work for radio was Cascando, a radio playwritten in French in December of 1961. It is subtitled 'Invention radiophonique pour musique et voix.' It was first broadcast on France Culture (RDF) on October 13th 1963 with actors Roger Blin and Jean Martin. The first English-language production was on October 6th, 1964 on BBC Radio 3 with Denys Hawthorne and Patrick Magee (of course).

Shortly before his death in 1989, the Beckett Festival of Radio Plays, including productions of all of Beckett's extant plays for radio, was recorded and produced at the BBC Studios, London on January 1988. It was distributed  in the U.S. by APR (American Public Media). It was intended to be broadcast in it's entirely on his 80th birthday, April 13th 1989. It was carried on NPR, Pacifica,  RIAS, ZDF and  other networks. Hopefully the life-long, iconic pessimist was at least moderately pleased.

The year 2006 was the 100-year anniversary of Beckett's birth. A complete run of all Beckett’s radio plays was presented by RTE Radio 1. Also notably BBC Radio 3 revisited Krapps Last Tape, and then Embers in 2006 with a new cast under director Stephen Rea. The productions were rebroadcast on BBC Radio 3 on May 16th 2010 as part of a double bill.

The question remains why are his radio works so obscure?  In Katherine Worth's essay, 'Beckett and the Radio Medium' she explains "The plays Beckett wrote for radio have had considerably less attention than his stage plays. No doubt this is largely as Martin Esslin suggests, because there have been few opportunities to hear them." The book Samuel Beckett and BBC Radio by David Addyman, Matthew Feldman, Erik Tonning goes a step further quoting a 'tirade' by Beckett himself "If we can't keep our genres more or less distinct, or extricate them from the confusion that has them where they are, we might as well go home and lie down."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sixteen Sepia Spielers

I've never found the original article, but it's referenced in a few books and one very notable Billboard article by Nelson George in November of 1985. Over half a century later I have no way to vet their stats but it's all too believable. The key claim is as follows "In 1947, there were three thousand disc jockeys in the country, but only sixteen were black."

It appeared on page 44-47 in their December 1947 issue. Four years later Mr. George wrote a book The Death of Rhythm and Blues and the book appears again in the works cited. But it also was cited in Doowop: The Chicago Scene by Robert Pruter, Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden, African Americans and the Media by Catherine Squires. (For the record DJs had been called Spielers since at least 1939.) Their definition of a Spieler is unclear but we can infer much from the list itself (below) we can exclude one-shot performers. These are DJs with a music program, not news programs.

Ed Baker WJLB Detroit, MI
Al Benson WJJD Chicago, IL
Bill Branch WEAW Evanston, IL
Ramon Bruce WHAT Philadelphia, PA
Jessie Burks  KXLW St. Louis, MO
Jack L. Cooper  WSBC Chicago, IL
Van Douglas  WJBK Detroit, MI
Jack Gibson  WCFL Chicago, IL
Bess Harris  KING Seattle, WA
Eddie Honesty  WJOB Hammond, IL
Harold Jackson  WOOK Washington D.C.
Sam Jackson  WHIN Providence, RI
Emerson Parker  WQQW Washington D.C.
Sam Price  WPEN Philadelphia, PA
Norfley Whitted  WDNC Durham, NC
Woody Woodard  WLIB Brooklyn, NY

I've written about most of these DJs at one time or another. So perhaps that is why Major Robinson for was not included for his NBC radio column was back in 1948... but he was also one year too late for the article. Mary Dee Dudley, the first black woman to be a radio DJ misses the list by one year. Holmes "Daddy-O'Daylie of WMAQ misses the mark. Even the great Bill Hawkins at WHK misses by just a few months. This was only a list of black DJs active in 1947. The year was very early in the struggle for civil rights so it's certain that the list is short.  But some of the omissions are notable: Bill Cook at WAATDan Burley at WWRL, and Lavada Durst at KVET to name a few... but only a few.

But I should comment on math and veracity:  The number 16 is very specific and allows me to suggest possible omissions. The number 3,000 is clearly an estimate. According to a November 1947 report by the FCC there were only 142 commercial radio stations operating in the U.S. in 1942.  Radio researcher Jeff Miller was able to add 6 non-commercial stations [LINK] to that tally for a grand total of 148.  So that 3,000 number is assuming 20.27 DJs per radio station, and considering the number of part time radio stations in that era, is actually plausible. But it also means that 0.533% of all DJs in 1947 were black or that 99.46666% of all DJs were white. So adding a few names to this list changes exactly nothing.

Friday, July 28, 2017

DJ Major Robinson

It starts on page 23 of the 33⅓ book, Live At The Apollo by Douglas Wolk. The historic arguably epic James Brown album was ostensibly recorded the night of October 24th, 1962. But in reality it is definitely edited, and probably contains takes form different shows that week. Brown rented the venue for the week for the purpose of recording the live record. This stretched from Friday October 19th through Thursday October 25th in 1962.  Thursday October 18th was spent rehearsing in New York. They played 4 to 5 shows per day that week. So When a little-known DJ pops up in the story, you know it's arcane.
"Traditionally, the the outgoing and incoming shows would have a Thursday-night "wrap-party" at the Palm Cafe, a bar and restaurant down the street from the Apollo; between Midnight and 3 AM, Major Robinson would broadcast over WWRL from the Palm, although the 18th was his final night there." 
So there was a live broadcast at the Palm the night of their rehearsal. Major Joseph Robinson was there on the 18th, but not the 25th. The question becomes.. did James Brown appear on WWRL-AM that night? It seems unlikely, the man did coin the phrase "kill 'em and leave." But Major Robinson remains an interesting radio personality.

The caption on the image is from February of 1962, and Interestingly The North Carolina Times called Robinson a "Nationally known columnist" in March of 1962. Notice that he stands taking notes beside WWIN disc jockey Maurice "Hotrod" Hulbert. Clearly, Hotrod is the news, Robinson reports it. So notwithstanding that national renown,  Robinson's radio show ran nightly from midnight to 3 AM, so this is more of a "night mayor" kind of renown. But Robinson was also writing for Jet Magazine and Ebony Magazine from 1953 to 1962.

Born in New York, his most high profile writing appeared in the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier Newspapers back to at least 1941. (These were both black-oriented papers of that era.) Robinson crossed color lines early. In 1948 he landed a weekly radio column with NBC. A Billboard article at the time noted that Robinson was already syndicated by Carter-Johnson to papers in 74 cities.

Robinson continued to write for the Courier through at least 1967. But for the Courier he wrote mostly celebrity gossip. The Defender was real news. But he began diversifying his career before 1960.  Sheldon Music signed him as a talent scout in 1958. In 1968 he was appointed director of Community Relations for Atlantic Records.

That was probably his career peak. He became involved in politics in the 1970s. Robinson worked on U.S. Senator Jacob Javits’ [R] Advisory Citizens Comittee, and had was a PR advisor for Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. [D]. Robinson.  He was still active in music as late as 1978, managing the Pilgrim Jubilee Singers. In 1981 he attended the Jack the Rapper convention in Atlanta listed by Billboard as working in Public Relations. When he died in 1988 at the age of 70, he was still working in PR, and still writing a column for the Amsterdam News.