Random Jottings Of Gildersleeve

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Location: United Kingdom

Perhaps you'll learn more about me as you read my blog. For anyone who translates my blog using the translator facility, don't forget if you wish to read the comments in your own language to click on the title of the post down the left hand side otherwise they will remain in english. Also I assume that the translation is accurate but I don't know, so please allow for errors.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

As We Come To The End Of 2006...

I wish all of my readers and friends a peaceful, healthy and prosperous New Year. Some very big stories of immense importance have happened throughout the year and a big one that will repercussions for a long time to come has happened in the last day or two.

Closer to home and not really important in the great scheme of things I have two or three things that I have noticed regarding the media.

On a radio programme where music artist was interviewing the veteran music producer and arranger Quincy Jones earlier today QJ said that he can see the time coming where music will be given away...for free.

Another person who works in the media and has hosted a top radio programme for years on Capital Radio for many years admitted on his Christmas special on the BBC to buying a cd and he said that he had forgotten how expensive it is to buy a CD(I assume because they are given to radio people for free)No wonder so many radio people have such a fantastic cd collection. Its a funny thing but usually those who are the most financially sound seem to have more and more freebies thrown at them and those who find items expensive to purchase have to struggle. No wonder the sites that offered file swopping were so popular. A message to the entertainment industry...reduce your prices, you'll sell more and profits will rise in real terms.

And yes, almost echoing a previous entry of mine when I mentioned the UK has chosen the wrong format for digital radio an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on December 30th not mentioning that side of things but that its commercial radio in the UK heading the request that AM broadcasting ceases to be and yet the new system could offer digital broadcasting on AM and give better quality and allow the spectrum to be reused.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm Going To Be Rich...

Yes, I have received a big yellow envelope informing me to expect another item of mail in a few days time offering me the chance to take part in...The Reader's Digest Draw. Someone, somewhere must've won and they probably have to prove to some regulatory body that they are following rules but my hopes are not high.

Why write and tell me that the forms are coming? Why not just send them immediately? Many years ago I seem to remember that the forms arrived and they asked me to order a book at the same time.

When the next letter arrives, it will be going in one direction...can you guess where? Having been shredded first for security reasons...of course.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Political musings...

In the middle of Christmas the local free sheet has arrived and alongside the same delivery is the so called publication our borough council insists on thrusting through the letterbox monthly. In general both go from the front door...straight out of the back door and into the recycle crate and if it co-incides with the day of the collection for the crate, I have seen it happen within a minute of the newpaper arriving being put into the recycling truck and the delivery person only be a couple of doors away still putting it in the neighbours letter boxes.

This publication is all written with a positive spin so even bad news looks good.

Inside, the Leader Of The Council has a kind of agony aunt page which is so lame. But I notice that he says the following:I live in property that is valued in Band B regarding Council Tax. The total bill for 2006/2007 was £1,176.59. Then he breaks the expenditure down making it clear that the council he leads only actually gets £140.68. I don't care, the total bill still stands at £1.176.59. The news is then slipped in that they expect the rise for the coming year only to be £4...but that the County Council is expected to rise by 5% so altogether we're talking of approx an increase of £38.

Let us not forget this is not a definite figure, the article actually says "which would add about £38" So in reality we have gone over the £2,000 barrier. Lets us also not forget that many of us are not in the best paid work and we all still have to find money to eat, pay ever increasing mortgages or rent, utility bills, usually have to travel to work so require so much money put aside to pay fares on public transport or run a car not forgetting the cost of food, clothes and hopefully a little put aside for leisure otherwise what fun is life if all you do is eat, sleep and work? And I have yet to see the income in this household increase so in effect all we are constantly doing is cutting back still further.

How much longer can we continue to cut back before we have to say we are unable to continually dip into our income or savings? I suspect that our Council leader owns his own property and over the years like many politicians has built up quite a good contact list and the fees from the council are either affording a decent living standard or if he is able to do other work, its a nice supplement to the main income. I know what he's talking about because(I'll whisper this)he lives only two streets away.

As I was about to post this it also dawned on me that this tax could increase considerably in the next few years because, there is a plan(and they've already tested the plan in N. Ireland)of re-valuing property again and some houses in one band could move out of the present band into a higher one which will automatically see the tax rise. The officials carrying out the work have the right to enter homes and take photographs. They are also looking at extensions, conservatories, loft conversions and anything else done to property to improve it(even by a neighbour)and what they have done could affect the tax that you pay even if you've decided to leave things a they are. This may be an idea from Government but it becomes a local problem once implemented and if it receives little or no publicity suddenly its been passed with virtually no opposition.

A builder who erected a wall for neighbours when they moved in said to us "This will increase the value of your property too" Thanks a lot! That's all I want is to see, myself paying more of the little disposable income I have which I know will decrease still further the older I am. I'm not sure why if a person improves their own property at their cost the Council Tax should increase as this means that the householder is saving the local services and authorities money. Especially if they are also adding fire and burgler alarms, security etc...

I'm probably missing something and my view is too simplistic...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas!

Lets call it what it is and without going over the top put Christ back into Christmas. Its all very well wishing seasons greetings and happy holidays but these days it appears that are many companies, broadcasters, government departments frightened to use such terms for fearing of upsetting other sections of society. Often I am not sure that other sections are so worried or liable to be upset and by taking such a stand actually creates more of a problem than there would be if those being politically correct would avoid being...politically correct as quite often those they feel need their help don't and would rather they just didn't bother.

Often people from other sections of society would rather join in and take the best bits.

So whatever creed, colour or race you belong, whether you believe, don't believe or would like to lets use this time of year to wish peace, health and happiness to you all, such principles cannot be a bad thing.

It may seem sugary but I still like to believe and think of many of the traditions I grew up with. I do miss many of the programmes that would once of been made for Television or Radio. Many broadcasters are afraid to make such programmes today, as much due to the reasons alluded to earlier. Yet, in many families with access to digital channels, they will be watching these very programmes produced years ago. I know that many of the programmes with a Christmas feel as heard on American and British Radio in the 40's and 50's definitely would not be allowed these days. I highlight Christmas programmes featuring my namesake who certainly did not hide the religious message that they were promoting and usually ending with a person almost sermon like message from the President of the company sponsoring the programme.

I am sure someone somewhere is still writing Christmas songs but most have to be 50+ years old but even today's artists still like to bring out their own versions of these standards.

I have so many good friends on the net my fear is that I will miss out someone or am unable to keep up with everyone as I should. So forgive me. I would love to leave more messages and comments than I do but there are only so many hours in a day.

I have been missing the last few days not e-mailing as I should, blogging and message boarding but blame that on trying to get ahead on sorting out Christmas and computer wise a few problems in that I found myself unable to upgrade my virus protection software and only being back in some kind of safe mode due to two friends Dazed Penguin and JA who tried to fix the problem(and still are)but also gave me some alternative virus programs that did download so giving me safety over the Christmas period and beyond, if I decide to leave my original software that I have used for years. Thanks guys!

I'm no kill joy but our neighbours seem to have acquired what sounds like a karaoke machine and a number of times this past week late at night suddenly we have had loud music coming through the walls and amplified singing(I use the term loosely)Tonight's performance started at 1am and it can be heard upstairs but in the lounge it was bad, at least we had retired to bed. Its Christmas so I can allow some fun(I'm no Scrooge)

I am still up doing some work on here and listening to some radio shows that I have missed earlier in the day.

This may seem strange and could be if the UK starts to broadcast subscription radio delivered by satellite but the BBC have started to broadcast an American programme hosted by Bob Dylan which contains such a variety of musical styles. For a music programme it is from this first listening what radio should be...and I look forward to more in the series. BBC Radio could do such programmes themselves but most of its daytime output is similar to commercial radio except the BBC is commercial free.

Its also something that commercial radio over here could've been doing years ago to make themselves different to the BBC. Bob's style is interesting and the voice does sound as though its had plenty of Bourbon and Cigarette smoke doing its stuff over the years but it all adds to his character. Bob isn't judging the material with the mind of a programme controller, its being judged on quality or relevance to the theme chosen for that particular programme and his choice is wide and not confined to the style Dylan's own music has followed across the years. Of which I admit my knowledge probably could be written on the back of a postage stamp. I know most of the commercially popular material such as Lay Lady Lay and the protest songs of the 60's.

Its available at BBC Radio 2 but only for so long online but in the new year I understand one show per week will be carried on BBC6 Music, I assume this week of programmes is to whet the appetite.

Away from the media:It does not really go with the previous subjects...

I want to blame the bad weather for the lack of birds to be seen. And its certainly been cold but usually, as the weather deteriorates feathered visitors increase taking water and food put out for them. This past week an event has happened that is unusual.

I rarely see a dead bird in my garden and usually in the past it has been the remains of a bird taken by a sparrow hawk. But in two different areas on Monday and today I have found two doves and they have been away from food and I have been ready to expect them mutilated having been the meal of a bird of prey but so far neither had any sign of being attacked so its unusual. So I hope its an exception and due to natural causes and nothing to be worried about. The doves have been one of the few varieties that have remained quite constant in visiting over the last few months.

So I'll just have to watch how things turn out.

A lovely site where you can read and listen to programmes about nature is the Living World normally available at the too early transmission time of 6.35am on a Sunday morning.

And this site from the BBC offering around 2,000 bird songs

So to happier things once again I wish you all peace, health and happiness at this special time and for the year ahead. I suspect the next few days will be quite quiet unless I manage to update some older entries written in my blog which might not be a bad idea.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Performers That Pass You By...

Sometime if you have had music radio on during the past 50 years you'll have heard the song "Cry Me A River" and probably one version stands out as sung by Julie London.

On the strength of that one song some years ago I found three cd's containing the equivalent of six albums as released during the fifties and sixties by this artist. I was not disappointed. They are all of a high quality and well crafted. That's probably all I know.

I am unsure why. Is it that I was not paying attention? Being in another country to where she was so well known the USA is like many artists some for some reason do not cross over and become as familiar outside of their own country.

With the internet why have I not thought to look up her details and learn more about her? How many others am I so oblivious of or is it simply that there are too many performers and too much information that to start and read up all that is available, you become overloaded?

Well, one of the new BBC digital television stations BBC4 broadcast an hour long documentary on Julie last evening. I found out so much. She made around 30 albums. She was considered beautiful and similar terms as Marilyn Monroe. That she was a bit of a contradiction as she came across as sexy, sultry by the album covers taken and her style of singing, even the way she flirted on stage but in reality was often to be found putting her career on hold wanting to be the stay at home woman, happily married and caring for her children and not really pushing her acting/singing career.

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I did not realise that she was married to Jack Webb(the actor responsible for some radio's most popular detective programmes)transferring the most famous one of all to television "Dragnet" It was when that marriage failed that thanks to her then to be second husband, Bobby Troup(a Jazz Musician)who realised her talent eventually saw her signing for a new record label called Liberty. Troup best known for writing the song (Get Your Kicks)On Route 66 as opposed to Nelson Riddle who composed another famous theme for the television series in the 50's "Route 66" I had a mental block and confused two tunes and made them into one. My friend The Easy Ace put me right, its good to have someone helping correct matters.

She appears to have suffered badly with stage fright and most of her performances seem to have been held in nightclubs and venues.

And then one day she decided to stop singing and recording. And again, here's something I did not realise...we did see for a few years but probably not as long as the original run in the States a dramatic series called "Emergency" I would guess without having looked up the information on a television website it aired in the 1970's. Again, this was produced by Jack Webb or at least his company and who played the main nurse character Dixie McColl in the hospital but...his ex wife Julie London. I had no idea as I watched. And how this for a twist both Troup played Dr Joe Early.

You may like to take a look at the following link which pays homage to the television series and has quite an article on Troup and London.
I knew that she had passed away but again, I had the impression that this had happened some time ago. In reality it was only around seven years ago having suffered a stroke three years earlier from which she never fully recovered.

This documentary probably only scratched the surface but we did get to see a little bit of archive material taken at some live performances and some US television video probably never seen in this country before. I may also take another look at what is available in her music collection as much of it seems to be available in a range where you get two albums for the price as one.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Radio...

Three new radio services have or are about to pop up on Sky's satellite system TheJazz(which is also available on DAB just do a scan to load it into your DAB Radio now)Its managed by the same company that has made ClassicFM so popular.Official start date 25th December 2006 9am.
They hope to do for Jazz what the other has for Classical music.Test transmission for now, lots of weird technical noises. Sounds a bit like a hearing test. Things may change but it appears that on DAB Radio it will be broadcasting in mono but the bitrate is higher than some other stations that are in mono but still lower than many of the stereo stations.

The radio service of the British Forces(BFBS)is now appearing on a Sky Transponder too.

And we also have Radio Music Shop which is one of the new breed of radio stations that play music but hope that you will buy cd's of the music that you are listening to. And the website so far suggests that the cd's are available at a reasonable price. I hope that the range of cd's and music will become wider. I believe this is also available on Freeview.

A message to Dee my new reader. I found your blog and will link to you soon, I tried to leave a comment but your security is so good I'll have to see how to get around that ;-)

You can never have too much security...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How Many Satellite Dishes Have Been Turned Down?

You may remember in the UK one of the big advantages of British Satellite Broadcasting when it started approx 18 years ago was that the dishes were tiny and almost invisible. Another was that we were being promised a high quality signal sound and vision and five extra channels including sport and a dedicated movie channel.

Then Murdoch stepped in and decided to buy transponders on an Astra Satellite positioned more directly over the European continent offering more channels and choice plus the option that you could see some foreign channels too. And over the years as more of these satellites were launched into the same position there was more and more channels on offer. The downside being that the dish had to be quite a size and there was no way it could be easily hidden.

This resulted in lines of houses and flats all having large dishes on show. Many households were taken in by cowboys who wanted to install dishes as quickly as possibly so where they could've been hidden better but it would've taken longer to complete the job they were told the opposite.

Some problems were caused by local authorities and councils objecting and refusing planning permission.

Sky won the day and became the main and in the end only real satellite broadcaster for the UK. BSB was bought out and Sky took on the BSB name changing the middle name from Satellite to Sky. What also helped Sky succeed was a number of promotional deals offering free installation and often free systems given away to households.

The head quarters of BSB(the original home of the now defunct company)was sold off and taken over by QVC(the home shopping channel who are still in that building)Their satellite was moved and purchased by broadcasters in the Scandinavia which used it to carry their own programming to their viewers.

We move on some 12 years approx and improvements in technology saw Sky being able to supply and offer a similar promotion to new and existing customers and now there are many, many more channels available and services with the advantage of a much smaller dishes placed on houses and the weather now has to be absolutely the worst that you can imagine for the picture to break up, the old system could during rainstorms suffer with lots of spots or loss the picture altogether.

The only problem being that Sky had satellite broadcasting sown up. But with various promises of new ways of receiving tv and radio, competition may still open up again but then we get into whether the UK is going down the best route again. Is Ofcom and the government seeing £ signs in the eyes again and putting revenue above more important issues? That they want to sell off the analogue radio spectrum for other business to buy or rent. That they are not picking the best system of broadcasting and receiving signals in comparison to the rest of the world.

Its been admitted that digital radio if continued as it is needs more transmitters placed around the country to get a strong enough signal across the whole of the UK. Even then some areas will never have a strong signal(I have seen people in Scotland say that they have been told that Digital radio will never be available)even though AM/FM does reach them now. The problem being that as DAB radio is run by commercial companies no one seems to have said "You have to build new transmitters" they can decide not to from what I understand. I understand that as the local multiplexes are also commercially run they were told to carry the local BBC Radio stations on their transmitter.

And the same problem exists with Freeview which many are choosing to get television as the transmitters are turned off. Ofcom reckons as many as one in ten households will find that they are unable to receive all the channels and again more transmitters are required but so far no one is promising to build them.

So initially the title of this blog was about how many dishes were refused planning permission...it appears that the Government have rubber stamped some simplifications on seventy things that once needed permission for installation but now probably will go through on a nod and a wink or without asking for permission and one such change is satellite dishes. It appears that you can in most cases(depending on size)put two dishes onto a property and if you take care on where it is situated even homes in a conservation/preservation area will now be allowed to installed a dish. I suppose if the Government and Ofcom are pressing for people to switch to digital, they probably had to make the switch over easier and could not really object to people needing to erect a dish so they can receive a decent television and radio signal and a greater choice of entertainment.

So Sky will either become even more powerful or perhaps we may see the new and often promised satellite system offered as a co project between the BBC and Commercial television in the UK and I understand it will carry all BBC and ITV/C4/C5 stations radio and television for free. Thus giving an alternative to paying a monthly subscription to Sky. I suspect that many other stations carried by Sky could jump to and be allowed to broadcast on this alternative system because their carriage will be lower than what Sky charges but I see the most important thing being that this needs to be launched as quickly as possible and a big promotion done.

On the other hand just as with the BBC I have concerns with Sky, my problem is that thanks to both these broadcasters whilst in some ways I can see disadvantages that have affected broadcasting and in many cases made affording access to television and radio more expensive and some check needs to be put there to protect the audience, I have to admit that my main listening of radio is still BBC produced and then thanks to satellite I am now watching and listening to BBC programmes from locations not aimed at my area. So I will speak up in favour of some of what has happened...for now.

If Freesat offers what I want at a lower cost or for free as the name suggests, I may very well switch myself.

Royal Naffness...

So BBC 1 television took its turn at airing the annual variety show attended by the Royal family and staged by various show business celebrities with a good aim of raising money for those in the profession less fortunate than themselves . Who have fallen on hard times or are ill. Some goes towards a residential home for ex performers...the recently passed away DJ Alan Freeman stayed there and two other residents of late have been the actor Richard O'Sullivan and Comedian Charlie Drake.

But seriously, I found it very hard going watching it on television last night. I know its personal and we all like different things but one BBC board had posters leaving messages as it went out and reaction from all was not positive but most if any positive reaction was mainly aimed at performers that have been in the business for many years and musically routines featuring music that is is familiar and years old which we can all join in with.

I might've said this because of the kind of audience in the theatre that paid for their tickets but the same reaction seems to be given by those watching via television.

Worst act of the night has to be a comedian who just seemed difficult to understand, shouted a lot and seemed to spend ages repeated a line about someone having a "Willy on his neck!" numerous times.

If we thought that was bad we now have the Royal Princes Wills and Harry on the pretext that its in remembrance of their late Mother Diana they want to stage a concert that she would've enjoyed and held on what would have been her birthday but again its another naff event with the same "Old" faces. Tickets are £45 each but already are being sold on E-bay for £800. The first series of tickets officially sold out within 20 minutes. It may be naff but you just knew that the public would lap them up. I suppose the only good thing will be that money raised will be for charity. Of course many of these performers and their record companies will shift some records on the back of this event.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Alot of Information About Broadcasting Is Being Issued

before Christmas. Why? Are they hoping the stories will be forgotten about or missed by the public at this time of the year?

I am unable to let go of the broadcasting side of my blog at present. I'd love to write a specific blog on one particular subject but here in the UK the one I would love to write about has little if any information readily available for me to source(even if using the internet)and one occasion I looked into having a book imported via a bookstore I was talking of a major financial decision(I think it was going to cost somewhere in the region of £100 for one book!)The interest being Old Time Radio as heard in the USA.

But I do not need to as long as I can access sites such as I have links to the left hand side of this blog and though I cannot always respond, I can read wonderful blogs etc... as The Easy Ace I am obviously a fan so have to get one last mention in for the time being. So much to read including the archive section.

So for the minute I have a bee in my bonnet regarding the changes happening in radio broadcasting. Its been plodding along quite nicely and what is on offer has not changed greatly for the past 40 years. What is causing the change is the way we access radio with new technology and how suddenly how some media companies are diversifying and see radio as the next important thing to become involve in and invest and at the back of the minds of the commercial broadcasters, they must be thinking that there is money to be made. Suddenly large global companies are looking at the British broadcasting media. They already have in countries such as the States. They did over 50 years ago. Newspapers and movie studios were involved. Its still relatively new over here though you can find examples throughout our broadcasting histories.

British television companies are thinking of getting into the radio business. Why? There has to be a rabbit off. Is it that they see television growth and the companies advertising with them slowing down? Newspapers are also struggling with fewer readers and advertisement revenue coming in so they have to look to other businesses. Are we going to see suddenly stations offering subscription radio rather than free to air(paid for from a licence fee as in the BBC)or supported by commercials?

For anyone living abroad BBC Radio is paid for out of an annual licence fee that all households are supposed to pay if they own a television set. Even if you do not watch BBC television, if you a tv receiver you pay the annual fee. On the other hand if you do not own a tv set but have a radio and access BBC Radio, you can listen for free and do not have to pay for a radio licence and you also can access the BBC's website in the UK without having licence.

Some of the sudden interest in radio is because the rules and regulations have been changed by the Government and the regulatory body Ofcom(you can decide how independent the regulator is from the Government)

So surprise, surprise newspaper companies are now involved in or eyeing up radio stations. They have become more and more involved with television so it was bound to happen. You diversify, right?

So The Guardian Newspaper reports today
The Guardian Media Group is believed to be weighing up a bid for Saga's four radio licences, valued at between £60m and £100m. You can see the article at the above link...its free but you do need to register.

Saga - which offers products ranging from holidays to insurance to the over-50s - runs three lucrative regional FM stations in the east Midlands, West Midlands and Glasgow.
It has also won a fourth licence to launch a station in the north-east next year.

My little knowledge of Saga Radio and what I was looking forward to starting next year in my area has me wondering would this new outfit change the format that Saga has built up over the years to be a successful Broadcaster. I was happy to see Saga was awarded the license because its as close to the station I want to hear and the other companies trying to win the licence were all offering what we already can access from so many stations on air already. Nothing new. The worry is that now this will happen and the new owners will change how the station sounds.

Tied in with the changes in how we receive broadcasts is a further press release from the Broadcast regulator Ofcom saying what I suggested was the reason for switching off analogue tv and eventually radio ages ago but is not much talked of to the public at large(just those in the business)or who have more of an interest in the media than the average person in the street who judges only by what they see or hear.
Ofcom plans its largest auction of the radio spectrum included what is considered prime frequencies to be handed over to high tech use and is available due the spectrum being freed up by digital television switchover.

So once again how much of this is driven to give the viewer and listener the best of broadcasting quality and content and how much is an excuse to raise extra revenue?

BTW have you seen which station plans to come back, it did some broadcasting on Astra's satellite carried on Sky's platform years ago having closed down its AM frequency but then closed the satellite feed too. Radio Luxembourg plans a relaunch of its English service.

And finally The Netherlands has beaten the UK to switching off its analogue tv transmitters.

Update on the Dutch Switch Off There have been problems...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Easy Aces...

That could well draw a blank with you. Well, it was a radio programme in the States when radio really was king. I'd guess we're talking around 50+ years ago. It has another meaning in this day and age as you'll see by the end of this entry.

Television has brought many benefits and yet dare I say as I look at where we are today...I think I prefer radio to television. There is much to say about "pictures in the mind"

I really do believe that radio entertainment could've survived alongside television if the broadcasters and commercial companies could've stayed with the medium and had looked further ahead.

We are fortunate that some people were forward thinking and did something that they probably should not have...taking the transcription discs of programmes home with them. So many priceless recordings have been saved. But what has been lost? The discs were often not looked after, not stored correctly, damaged, smashed up after broadcast or returned to the company issuing them. After all no one believed that once they had been heard, years later anyone would want to hear them again. But why? You listen to a piece of music more than once, watch a movie, see a play etc...

Some collectors keep their collections secret and guard it with their lives, some copies make it out to a larger audience and in recent years thankfully some groups now exist who look for lost recordings and if they find duplicates they will try and find the best quality, the most complete version by combining various versions.

Some enthusiasts are using software to try and improve the sound quality and bring them upto as near perfect quality as is possible.

I have a new link included at the side of my blog and I think it deserves as much help and publicity as possible. Please visit it and often.

You can hear programmes but also read and learn about the people that you are hearing.

Some may be known to you such as George Burns and Gracie Allen( a favourite of mine)yes, there are programmes of my namesake The Great Gildersleeve, Fred Allen(I'll forgive you if you say, Who?) You'll know of Jack Benny but if you get the chance the performances and writing of the Alice Faye and Phil Harris Show takes a lot of beating. Luckily, I know a lot of the references of the day but much of Fred Allen's material was topical as was the ad libbing, sadly some of his performances will be lost on a modern audience. But we had variety, culture, drama. When I say drama you could go from detective(private eye)police drama's, westerns, suspenseful, frightening, adaptations of the classics, plays and films.

When you sometimes let your mind drift and think about living in a different time or place I often find myself wishing that I had been living in the States during the 30-50's and enjoying all this wonderful entertainment at the turn of a radio dial.

We did get access to some of this material and the BBC if my memory serves me correctly actually tried to stop it being heard here because during WWII the American Forces Network was established here and they broadcast programmes specially produced and programmes given by the broadcasters back home to relay to the US troops in Europe and further afield(and the British population was starting to listen and enjoy what they heard)

Of course once again, by the time I came on the scene this had stopped...if I had been around when it was on the air I probably would've been fighting in some foreign land and hearing it not in the place I would have preferred.

And here's another interesting side of US radio...many formats were broadcast on Australian radio and were adapted or performed by Australian actors in the roles American's were playing in America. Two that have some surviving episodes include The Fat Man and The Shadow. Also, probably because Australia is near to the West Coast, it wasn't unusual for US actors to pop across and guest on Australian shows, Vincent Price comes to mind. Now, if some of those shows could be traced and made available.

Having so many links down the side of my blog some of the better one's may be lost or missed so I am deliberately taking the time out to give one site a big build up and some publicity.

Over here it is difficult to do what is known as Old Time Radio justice...

Easy Ace OTR

Friday, December 08, 2006

Smooth FM...And Freeview...

These two stories are unconnected but they do link because for most to receive both Smooth FM and Digital television if you do not have access to satellite or cable, the next best thing is a Freeview box and at present the Government, Ofcom and BBC?Commercial television
have done plenty of promotion of Freeview.

It would appear that one station has taken some notice of my suggestion that they should offer more varied programming(Speech/Music)for the over 50's. The only problem is that the change seems destined to affect listeners within the London area and not across the DAB versions across the UK. The station in question being Smooth FM...

It will retain its 45 hours of Jazz but it now chooses having come to an arrangement with the broadcasting regulatory body Ofcom to offer more speech and music to appeal to the over 50's.

There is a percentage written into the agreement.

But in general it has to be described as an Easy Listening station.

I hate the way media has to use such terms to describe who a station is serving. I mean, I'm middle aged but can enjoy new music and am open to trying what is on offer just as I enjoy music that was performed, produced and composed before I was born. I am sure with an open mind people much younger could given the chance enjoy music which probably would seem "old fashioned" but if its never played or rarely heard is it any wonder, its dismissed.

How do you define Easy Listening?

Is that performers like Sinatra, Bennett, Fitzgerald, Matthis etc...Big Bands such as Dorsey, Miller, Ellington etc...orchestra's and singers such as Mancini, Conniff and so it goes on...why not just play it and see what response it gets. I like to think if it sounds good or pleases those listening its doing its job.

So though I can hear Smooth FM on my DAB radio, assuming the satellite feed is the London service I will give it a try and see what it offers. It does come back somewhat to what Dee said in the comments on the previous entry.

I rarely listen to Talk Sport but on Mike Medoza's programme at something like 3am in the morning(what a time to choose to do this)and on what is primarily a talk station, he recently interviewed Matt Monroe's son who is a singer in the style of his Father. The records are selling, he's having sell out tours across the UK and when he appears in countries such as the Philippines(yes, I said the Philippine's)he plays to really large venue's and is invited on to television programmes to perform. He's also gaining in popularity in the States but here in the UK...he gets little if any media attention.

What programmes on BBC or commercial television gives more than either specialist music specials such as Opera playing the culture card. Otherwise nearly all music channels are based in recent pop and if a new music show is on television or a guest appears on say Parkinson with a few exceptions its some recent pop artist flogging a newly released album. Even the Royal Variety show scheduled for broadcast next week has Jordan and Peter Andre and I have lost track of how often Girls Aloud seem to crop up of late.

Of course you have to promote and move on with new artists and music being given encouragement to grow but does this mean that you should ignore the great performers of the past. I am thinking of treating myself to some titles from a specialist record label that issues music neglected in the shops and by the radio stations and I am going way, way back...How varied is this list? Ray Anthony, Les Baxter, Jack Benny, Billy Cotton, Bob Crosby, Vaughan De Leath, Ruth Etting, The Four Aces, Erroll Gardner, Betty Hutton, Al Jolson,Kitty Kallen, Peggy Lee, The Pied Pipers, Jimmie Rodgers, Semprini, Dinah Shore and many more. The recordings have been remastered and all clicks and hisses removed where possible and speed variations corrected. However, as you'll see later I have ordered material by Julie London and in the same range are some classic albums by Nat King Cole, Nelson Riddle, Peggy Lee and so on. You'll notice that many of these artists had some connection to the great Capitol lable.

My hope is that one of the promised national DAB stations will by choice or by being forced offer a much wider variety of "Easy Listening" music rather than just sticking to the more well known material that we know from the charts of the last 50+ years and play some of the other material such artists and performers recorded.

When it was OK to use peer to peer websites much of the music being offered was material that radio and television was neglecting so it was actually bringing artists to the attention of the public who then went out and purchased the material or discovered something new. And I have a feeling that sales probably increased rather declines as we are led to believe. But most of the major record companies want to promote and shift the artists that they are signing up today and try and recoup the money that they have invested rather than go to the back catalogue. If they are not prepared to release the material I wish that they would give the specialist labels more access to what is just gathering dust in some archive somewhere. Or release it themselves on a specialist label with perhaps a shorter run than modern commercial titles.

Now, you know that we have questioned the system we use for DAB in this country and reception is not helped by the factthat we could do with many more transmitters to boost the signal but information that trickles out suggests these may happen...one day.

Well, guess what! Even though the analogue tv signal will be turned off across the UK and you have to go digital...Ofcom has released a report that after the switch off its likely 1 in 10 homes will still be unable to watch Freeview. So tough if its you!

This means that you will have to go with a Sky box, possibly cable or hope that the promised Freeview satellite is launched(a joint project between commercial tv and the BBC)news on that has gone rather quiet.

Otherwise, you'll have to hope that tv and radio can be streamed in better quality via broadband.

Its not an ideal solution when we are being told how great digital is.

I know for now my blog has gone very technical and much of its contents is television and radio based but I will get back to some personal entries soon and maybe talk of matters that have caught my attention in the press.

Monday, December 04, 2006

DAB The Next Stage...

Last Friday with what appears to have been little or no publicity(and unless you are in the business)Ofcom the broadcasting regulatory body advertised the next stage in the DAB broadcasting debacle. When the announcement of the successful candidate is released 10 national digital Radio stations could be available to the British public. Well more choice I guess and hopefully offered at a higher bitrate and in stereo. I also hope with enough diversity so its not offering similar programming to what is already available as often one broadcaster is offering much as another.

The battle for the most valuable radio licence Ofcom still has to offer officially kicked off today, with Channel 4 and founding Freeview shareholder National Grid Wireless going head-to-head for the deal.

I'm not too happy with one of the applicants known to be bidding to run the next stage that's Channel 4 television. It probably hopes that its reputation for innovative television will work in its favour but very little of its output in my eyes over recent years seems to qualify its promise when it started and in a complicated agreement forced onto broadcasters by the Government and regulatory bodies, Channel 4 was given access to some of the money ITV made from advertising(that always seemed strange to me)

That would like me working, being successful and then handing my profit to a competitor. In recent years there has been talk of Channel4 struggling what with a squeeze of commercial revenue and a drop in viewers etc...that some of the money raised from the licence fee which finances the BBC should go to Channel 4. Then was talk of a new commercial television station being given the go ahead to receive money form the licence fee and to try offer a public service remit and not be under the BBC's control. Again that does seem strange to take money destined to one broadcaster to be taken away to another competitor. The only advantage is that you have another station offering news(as that was to be one of its strands)produced by a new and hopefully unbiased organisation but again as much of its output will be gathered from news agencies as is already used by all news channels in the UK already how much different can it be and since this idea was muted some years ago, has anyone heard anything more on this proposal?

Since then, we have also had more news channels start up Al-Jazeera English service and soon there will be a news station financed by the French Government and I understand others will follow next year. Channel 4 very much want to push that they will offer an alternative competition for Public Service radio wise to rival the BBC. But why does it need to be them? So far on their service carried on the net all they have offered are programmes based or associated with the old music show The Tube, Popworld, Big Brother and perhaps the only real quality programme which is based on Channel 4 News this is now heard weekday mornings on a station that Channel 4 is involved with known as Oneword.

Since it came under new management the listings I have seen suggest that the content aimed at younger elements of the audience have been dropped.

A Channel 4 spokesperson talks up content that is contemporary speech and music wise but we get that already across the board with the existing commercial radio industry and yes BBC. And Big Brother is quality?

So Channel 4 are really looking to run the system and content. At least the alternative wants more to run the licence more neutrally by not having input onto the content of those stations that they carry. Others unknown companies could bid for the licences but with approx 105 days to get your application in, that's not long for such an important slice of the UK's broadcasting future. Why the rush? Should I be suspicious that the decision seems to be being made so quickly. The stations could be running as early as 2008. And of course not all 10 stations are necessarily going to ready all at the same time. They could in theory come on stream at a variety at times.

I would love to see some more speech orientated broadcasting but I don't want to see more talking heads, I am unsure that we need even more news. Music wise there are golden oldie stations, Rock and pop abounding. Many years ago before Classic FM was awarded a National Licence and to be fair has proved to be popular and gained an audience not necessarily only interested in "Pop" or "Chart" music I seem to remember that there was an applicant or talk of a station playing music based on musicals etc...I still believe that there is room for a station playing melodic music and that could take in so many genres under such a large umbrella. Music from the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's. Vocal and instrumental of many kinds not heard already these days. Digital radio can narrow cast to a specific audience, on the other hand if its a national station there could still be enough listeners to make it viable and if its trying to promote more of a public service remit perhaps it should be looking just at getting the largest ratings.

Like A Virgin...

I know its an old joke and not very original but I could not resist!

When Virgin relaunched and was associated with Chris Evans(A DJ in the UK for all readers outside of these shores)I wrote for some publicity photo's and was surprised to receive a T- Shirt as a gift.

Virgin has gone through many changes and I suspect in its case through the advent of DAB Radio, Internet streaming, Satellite and so on it has deservedly managed to be one of the strongest commercial music radio brands in the Britain.

Using the above has allowed it to expand its services and offer quality sounding broadcasts and from their point of view all the above digital platforms and what may come it makes sense to embrace the new technology.

I can always learn something and James in an earlier posting on my blog has told me one thing that is news to me and perhaps to many across the nation(and if this is so I am happy to relay this information here)

Virgin Radio if you live in London is offering more than the service heard on the AM wavelength, via DAB you can hear the following:

The original AM Virgin station.
Virgin Extreme offering new music.
Virgin Classic Offering the best of the rock genre.
Virgin Groove Offering Soul, Disco and Motown
Virgin 105.8FM as heard in the London Area.
That's some choice.

The good news being that if you have access to a sky satellite system you too can hear these extra stations.

I know that Virgin is there to attract a particular audience but wouldn't it great if they could divert a spare channel to play music that by some is seen as probably not commercially viable but as digital radio can serve a smaller and more narrowly defined audience and can be run on a smaller budget possible a station playing easy listening music in the future. I dislike the term but by that I mean the artists that have a large catalogue of material that was not always defined by a chart position. The artists that sang during the 30's, 40's, 50's, the big bands and orchestras that played light music. Is it really out of fashion? How many of the established artists and new artists have suddenly delved into the older material and produced and recorded material that normally has no place on radio anywhere these days but they are selling great numbers of cd's etc...often without the radio promotion behind their success.

We have Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart realising that there is an audience alongside the music they have been known for over the years and totally different in some cases to the rock music they made a career out of. Whether its a cynical exercise, the sales are there. I enjoy such a wide range of music but I would like to see someone still offering more than just a couple of hours that we now get on BBC Radio 2 as featured in programmes such as Desmond Carrington and/or David Jacobs. The easy music may be harder to find but its still available in the States and other countries across Europe.

Then we have big sellers of today that managed to cross over from different genres. You'll know from an earlier entry I recently purchased cd's by Diana Krall, Patrizio Buanne and Madeline Peyroux. I bought it because I heard some of the music and liked it. We have a new DAB station starting on Christmas Day promising to do what Classic FM has and run by the same company this time with jazz and Madeleine Peyroux has been mentioned as being a featured artist. I did not know that I was listening to jazz. There are so many pieces of music neglected and I still think that some of this music still should be heard. Even the BBC has given up and apart from the specialist programmes or features usually heard between 7pm-10pm on Radio 2. Most of their music output is now available via commercial radio the only difference being that BBC Radio still is able to broadcast more live concerts and events and the main reason is the lack of programming being broken up by advertisements. The BBC Radio will tell you and pay tribute to many artists alongside todays performers and say about their place in musical history but then rarely play anything by them. Of course you have to promote and bring on new talent but there has to be room to appreciate the great performances of the past.

Maybe the next stage of Radio in the UK when we are offered more National Radio from Commercial radio rather than what has been based on a local/regional model until now will offer us so much more.

And some radio stations know the worth of putting their name against or promoting an artist on tour even if they do not play that artists music, we have Dionne Warwick appearing in London at present and its getting promoted by...LBC 97.3FM which is...a speech station not a music station.

I appreciate Virgin Radio's James Cridland popping in and reading my thoughts and takes the time to leave comments and put me right on matters regarding broadcasting especially as being mainly a listener I have to search for information and obviously miss much of what is happening. Especially as my blog is not always about broadcasting.

I don't see myself as a radio anorak, its more that I have an affection for the medium and hope that it will survive and grow stronger.

I go back to Radio Luxembourg listening under the bedclothes. Let us not forget we are talking of only a three year period 1964-1967 for Pirate Radio. Radio's 1,2, 3,4 and BBC local Radio from then until 1973. From 1973 onwards the commercial radio business. And now here we are talking of digital delivered services in a number of ways. That's a lot of change in a relatively short space of time. Compared to the approx 40 years previous to all that.

Though, I did struggle to hear one final Pirate from the coast of the Netherlands in the early 70's Radio Northsea International.
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Also listening to Radio 270 off the Yorkshire coast(Caroline and Radio London was unavailable as far as I know in the North East of the UK or my radio could not pick it up. Above some of the DJ's of the Station which included Paul Burnett and Phillip Hayton(Yes, that's the BBC Newsreader)

I see the Pirates that we had in the 1960's in a totally different light to those that broadcast these days and mess up the listening of legitimate radio stations in major cities so I can understand the appeal of DAB in cities such as London.

If you get the chance to read the history of Radio Luxembourg from its early days to its English Service close down some years ago and Radio Northsea International what a story these stations have to tell.