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February 2011
 Sunday, February 27, 2011 Join Discussion  (51 Comments)
Western Broadcasting and Earthquakes

While many parts of the United States are known for hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather, here in the West we have a special proclivity for that much-less predictable natural disaster: the earthquake.

Thus, rather than issuing forecasts that send the audience scurrying to Home Depot for plywood to protect picture windows, or clambering down to the storm cellar to wait for the twister to pass, Western broadcasters are occasionally simply caught on the air as the earth begins to shake.

It was exactly 10 years ago that the so-called "Nisqually Earthquake" struck western Washington state just before 11:00 am on Tuesday, February 28, 2001. Seattle's most popular radio talkshow hosts were live 'n local when the 6.8 magnitude tremor hit, and both Dave Ross of commercial station KIRO and Steve Scher of NPR affiliate KUOW agreed to re-enact what happened in their respective studios (for the benefit of video cameras) a few weeks ago.

Click here to see how Steve Scher kept his cool; click here to see Dave Ross demonstrate how he hid under his desk until his inner reporter got the best of him.

Meanwhile, tomorrow's forecast calls for an unknown percentage chance of a major quake somewhere in the western United States. And the outlook for the rest of the week and the weekend ahead is about the same.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Saturday, February 19, 2011 Join Discussion  (1 Comments)
There's a holdup in the Bronx

A screen capture from
Car 54, Where Are You?
Though he didn't write the memorable lyrics (those were by Nat Hiken), John Strauss did write the music for the memorable theme to early 1960s sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?

In Strauss's New York Times obituary (posted yesterday), those lyrics appeared prominently in the lede:

There’s a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem,
That’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.
Car 54, where are you?

Beyond Car 54, Strauss was an accomplished composer for other notable television projects and for Hollywood films. But, I have a feeling I know what he'll be most remembered for . . .

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Friday, February 11, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Broadcast Anniversary of Seattle TV Legend

This week marks 53 years since Seattle TV station KIRO came on the air, and 53 years since J.P. Patches was first seen by local viewers.

In honor of the occasion, I wrote a piece for the and had J.P.'s alter ego Chris Wedes lead me on a video tour of the original KIRO studios atop Seattle's Queen Anne Hill.

Chris, J.P. and the old KIRO facility are fascinating reminders of the Golden Age of Local Television, when the reach of broadcast signals helped create regional boundaries; defined marketing areas for (sometimes) quirky regional products; and generated countless cultural references that helped create a community feel across dozens of communities. It was a different time!

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Friday, February 11, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Varied Approach to Coverage of Mubarak Resignation

The news came right around 8:00 AM Pacific Time today as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak abruptly and somewhat unexpectedly resigned. Media coverage on radio, TV and the web varied wildly.

American radio networks (CBS and NPR) and the BBC World Service were a few minutes behind Al Jazeera in breaking the news, and Al Jazeera English (streamed live via the web here) presented the most visually intriguing coverage: following the short announcement by Vice President Suleiman about the resignation that Al Jazeera carried live, Al Jazeera then switched to a live shot (with audio) of jubilant, flag-waving Egyptians in Tahrir Square with "MUBARAK STEPS DOWN" in the lower third. They stayed with this memorable shot, with no commentary whatsoever, for at least ten minutes.

A quick check of the American TV networks during these first few minutes after Suleiman's anouncement found special live coverage as well, but ABC, NBC and CBS all had commentary along with the incredible footage (the Seattle FOX affiliate was doing a local story at this time).

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, February 08, 2011 Join Discussion  (581 Comments)
Radio Transcriptions Found Hidden in Wall at Army Base

This story is all over the local news around Seattle: the discovery of thousands of old World War II-era and later radio transcriptions from the Armed Forces Radio Network and its successor the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.

For a video version of the story from KOMO TV, click here.

Or, here's the official press release from "Joint Base Lewis-McChord" (JBLM):

8,000 historical AFRS recordings discovered during JBLM renovation

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Renovation efforts at Keeler Fitness Center, part of the “Old Madigan Hospital” complex, have uncovered more than 8,000 radio broadcasts transcriptions. These 16” vinyl recordings, which date from 1942 to 1960, contain popular music and programming recorded by the Armed Forces Radio Service and the War Department, which were provided to military radio stations to inform and entertain servicemembers around the world.

These discs were played on the Madigan Hospital radio station (KMAH) for patients at the hospital, and include recordings by World War II-era musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Eddie Arnold, and Rosemary Clooney. Jazz great Louis Armstrong tunes received considerable air time, and in 1952 he made a personal visit to the KMAH studios.

The recordings were re-discovered by an employee of Advanced Technology Construction (ATC), who cut into a gym wall to install new wiring. In the narrow 16-inch wall space, he found 30 large boxes containing the records. The contractor alerted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s inspector, who called in the JBLM Cultural Resources Program.

Dale Sadler, JBLM Cultural Resources Program, describes it as an amazing collection of Armed Forces radio and Madigan Hospital history. The Cultural Resources Program will preserve these valuable artifacts, and is researching other ways to retain and share this history with other agencies.


While it's certainly an exciting find, I'm betting that very little of this material is rare or particularly unusual, since Armed Forces Radio Network transcriptions were produced and distributed in mass quantities and copies of recordings have circulated amongst collectors for decades.

Who knows, there could be some long-lost gems hidden among the thousands of discs. But first you gotta find yourself a turntable that'll play a 16-incher . . .

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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