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April 2011
 Saturday, April 30, 2011 Join Discussion  (35 Comments)
A Big Week for Live Broadcasting

It's been quite a week for live broadcasting, even if the audience isn't necessarily listening via terrestrial radio or watching via rabbit-ears television anymore. Regardless of end-user devices, the basic act of sharing live sound and images with distant audiences has rarely seen a more active week.

Some of the highlights include:

Game Seven of the Stanley Cup playoff series between the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night (full disclosure of bias: many on the West Coast were rooting for the ultimately-victorious Canucks)

President Obama releasing his long-from birth certificate, and Donald Trump claiming credit moments later on Wednesday morning

Devastating tornadoes and their aftermath in the Southern US on Wednesday evening

The Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William and Kate) early Friday

If only the Space Shuttle Endeavour launch had not been delayed on Friday, this could well have been one of the most diversely triumphant weeks in live broadcast history. Perhaps it says even more about how much we take for granted this ability to listen and watch history that nobody even noticed.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Thursday, April 28, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Brief History of the TelePrompTer

The death earlier this month of 91-year old Hubert J. Schlafly, Jr. has occasioned the New York Times to publish an obituary that reads like a brief but fascinating history of the TelePrompTer.

According to the Times, the "first teleprompter was designed by Mr. Schlafly, an electrical engineer; Irving Berlin Kahn, a nephew of the composer Irving Berlin; and Fred Barton Jr., an actor who first proposed the idea."

Soap opera actors were among the first to use the earliest versions device, which scrolled large text on rolls of paper. The Times says the breakthrough came at the 1952 Republican national convention, when former President (and former commerce secretary during commercial radio's chaotic birth in the 1920s) Herbert Hoover used a TelePrompTer and called attention to it during his remarks.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Monday, April 25, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Struggles at the BBC

The New York Times today published an interesting piece about the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

For much of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, there was ample handwringing over which was better: the American system of commercial, competitive, market-driven, for-profit broadcasting, or the radio and TV monopoly of the BBC in Great Britain. At the time, the argument could be made that each was superior, or (at least) that each had much to recommend over the other. The matter of which was "better" was never really settled, but it was fun for sociologists, politicians, educators and historians to argue about.

Then, beginning in the 1950s, each system began to respond to societal changes and audience demand by becoming a little like the other. Competition was allowed in Great Britain through the introduction of private broadcasting, while in the US, a nationwide network of public broadcasting began to emerge (though it would not formally coalesce until the 1960s in the case of TV and the 1970s for radio).

Nowadays, broadcasting (commercial and non-commercial) in both the US and the UK faces new challenges to funding and to serving rapidly changing audiences. It we're lucky, it should be fun to watch and to listen to.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Thursday, April 14, 2011 Join Discussion  (1 Comments)
TV Milestone: More Soaps Down the Drain

One of the longest-surviving institutions of the age of network television (and, before that, network radio) took another hit today, as ABC announced cancellation of the soap operas All My Children and One Life To Live.

In an age where "unscripted programming" and forensic thrillers dominate television, it's not hard to see where the remaining soaps may also be headed. Still, it seems like the soap opera formula (long, drawn out story arcs, over-the-top characters, and ample amounts of romance performed by low-paid up-and-coming actors) would lend itself, in capable hands, to sustainable growth and maybe even an expanding audience in the social media age. Characters (rather than the actual actors who play them) with Twitter feeds, alternate "what-if" storylines distributed through YouTube, and fan pages on Facebook seem like a natural fit for engaging young viewers, but who knows?

Both programs will have enough time to wrap up current stories and pay adequate tribute to cast, crew and viewers. All My Children will run until September; One Life To Live will run until January.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, April 13, 2011 Join Discussion  (52 Comments)
WSM Tower Added to National Register of Historic Places

The distinctive barrel-shaped broadcast tower of Nashville's WSM has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to a press release issued by the station today, and to a blog post (with a cool photo) from the Tennessean website.

This probably does not come as a surprise. After all, WSM has been home to the Grand Ole Opry broadcast for decades, and the WSM tower even has its own Facebook page.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Saturday, April 09, 2011 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Mourning the Radio President on the West Coast

FDR prepares for a radio broadcast.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
While this coming Tuesday, April 12 will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, it was also on April 12 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died (some 84 years later in 1945).

The public and especially the broadcast media aspects of FDR's death would foreshadow much of how JFK would be mourned a little more than 18 years later. President McKinley's 1901 assassination came many years before the rise of broadcast, and President Harding's death in 1923 predated the major radio networks (and the ability to easily link stations for a transcontinental broadcast of proceedings in the nation's capital).

Thus, it's worth looking back at how the announcement of FDR's death and the ceremonies that followed were shared nationwide by radio. Many newsreels and audio recordings are available online, and I last year for wrote this account of how Seattle took (and, first, received) the news.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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