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January 2011
 Monday, January 31, 2011 Join Discussion  (61 Comments)
Space Shuttles, YouTube and PEG Channels

The NASA TV logo
The NASA TV logo.
In the midst of somber 25th anniversary commemorations and recollections of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the eighth anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, it's worth going to YouTube for the wealth of aircheck recordings available from these tragedies.

For the Challenger on January 28, 1986, CNN was the only TV network covering the launch live, and that video is available here.

CBS TV coverage begins just after the loss of Challenger, and many hours of the Tiffany network's video is available beginning with this clip and continuing throughout the day with dozens more.

The only media network covering the return to earth of the Columbia on February 1, 2003 was NASA TV, and the last static-y transmission is heard from the lost shuttle around the 7:30 mark on this clip. Additional coverage continues with several additional clips posted by the same YouTube user.

Existence of a special NASA channel is a reminder of the proliferation of special “PEG” (Public access, Education, Government access) cable channels which were brought about by the 1984 Cable Act.

These (in most cases) hyper-local channels and the thousands of hours of coverage of public meetings they create each year represent special opportunities (as well as challenges) for archivists and future historians of electronic media.

In addition to the local matters discussed in great detail, it's impossible to predict which city council member, school board chair or water district commissioner may some day occupy higher office, making their early TV appearances even more valuable to scholars (or pundits, for that matter).

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, January 26, 2011 Join Discussion  (409 Comments)
WCBS Radio Online Audio Archive

I was searching for audio of Christopher Glenn's masterful radio coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster recently (in advance of this Friday's 25th anniversary) and came across a wonderful archive website with dozens of audio clips from New York radio station WCBS 880.

The Glenn audio is there, along with jingles, commercials, bloopers, and sounders, plus airchecks from Douglas Edwards' last World Tonight broadcast, and coverage of significants news events, including the 1972 Olympic Games hostage-taking, 1971 New York City blackout, and John Lennon's murder in 1980.

Those with an interest in broadcast, history, and/or broadcast history could easily spend the better part of a day downloading and listening to these priceless recordings.

Also worth a visit is the site's homepage, which has vintage images and articles about WCBS (nee WABC) history (all put together by a gentleman named Don Swaim).

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Saturday, January 22, 2011 Join Discussion  (7 Comments)
NPR Story on Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts

NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday today featured a story by Keith Brand on the history of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on radio.

It's well-known that NBC originated regular live broadcasts on Christmas Day 1931 (hosted by the durable Milton Cross), but Brand's story also describes an experimental broadcast arranged by Lee DeForest in 1910.

Brand's story includes a brief simulation of what the 1910 broadcast may have sounded like, including interference created by a radiotelegraph operator who ignored DeForest's request for radio silence during the opera.

The Morse code tones in the simulation are represented as fairly clean "beeps," but it made me wonder if this is what they would have actually sounded like a hundred years ago (I thought Morse code in those years sounded more like jagged bursts of static or short and long "buzzes").

Can anyone confirm the accuracy of the simulation? If it's not accurate, can anyone provide a better description what Morse code transmitting sound like in 1910?

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, January 19, 2011 Join Discussion  (8 Comments)
Reagan Inauguration and Hostage Release 30th Anniversary

The anniversaries of big important events in recent American history (war, transfers of power, NASA tragedies) are coming at a fevered pace this week, and once again, YouTube is the convenient place to turn for such nuggets as:

President Ronald Reagan's complete Inaugural Address (courtesy of CSPAN via YouTube)

Home VCR Airchecks of complete CBS TV coverage of Reagan's inauguration and the near-simultaneous release of American hostages from Iran

In the randomness that is the current crop of what's available on YouTube, the introduction of consumer-level VCRs in the late 1970s is the only likely reason for the abundance of homemade airchecks that date to this era.

It's too bad for anyone interested in history and media history that those annoying, constantly flashing "12:00:00" clocks didn't become living room fixtures MUCH earlier!

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Monday, January 17, 2011 Join Discussion  (1 Comments)
JFK Inauguration 50th Anniversary

January 20, 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. A complete video (from an original color film) of JFK's inaugural address is available from C-SPAN via YouTube.

While much of the technique and technological infrastructure was developed during the Eisenhower administration, Kennedy's was the first American presidency to be thoroughly covered by television from start to finish: from the Democratic National Convention to the debates with Richard Nixon, from inauguration to crisis (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile), from assassination to burial and remembrance.

It's worth poking around the web for the many different versions of these various videos that appear to be available. While the easy access to this material continues to amaze anyone over 40 years old, it's not always easy to tell which videos are raw and unmolested, or which have been edited to reflect a particular viewpoint. Caveat surfer!

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Sunday, January 16, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Flo Gibson, Performed in West Coast Radio Dramas

Prolific audio book narrator Flo Gibson has died at age 86 in Washington, DC. Her New York Times obituary mentions that Ms. Gibson performed in West Coast radio dramas, including Pat Novak For Hire, which starred a pre-Dragnet, much less clean-cut Jack Webb.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Sunday, January 16, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Gulf War LIVE Broadcasts 20 Years Ago Today

Hard to believe that it's already been 20 years since the Gulf War was announced on TV by White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

That late afternoon/evening (January 16, 1991) also featured live reports from Baghdad of air raids in progress, much like Ed Murrow had invented and perfected 50+ years earlier for CBS in London.

In many (all?) instances, the TV reports in 1991 differed from Murrow's radio broadcasts only by including a static graphic element: a headshot of the particular correspondent superimposed on a map of Iraq to accompany the audio-only report.

It was a night of TV as it had once been pejoratively described in the 1940s: radio with pictures!

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Saturday, January 08, 2011 Join Discussion  (1 Comments)
New McLuhan Biography

Other than the TV movie-like Miracle of the Roadside Radio Announcer, it's been a quiet first week of 2011 so far in the world of media and media history.

And that's one reason why word of a fresh biography of Marshall McLuhan was welcome news a few days ago. The New York Times review of Douglas Coupland's just-published Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! makes it clear to me that this is the new year's first must-have media book.

Coupland, who's better known as a novelist, has apparently brought a lively and efficient (just over 200 pages) approach to the man who coined the iconic (if sometimes overused and often misunderstood) phrases "the medium is the message" and "the global village."

The book's title refers to McLuhan's hysterical cameo in the 1970s Woody Allen film Annie Hall.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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