Using YouTube

Having just published my latest book using two self-publishing services (instead of paying a printer huge sums of cash in the hope of selling them) I wanted to share how smooth and effortless I found the whole process.

Digging deep for YouTube

Well this is a first for me – doing a piece to camera to talk about the options for people wanting to self-publish their book.

Having just published my latest book using two self-publishing services (instead of paying a printer huge sums of cash in the hope of selling them) I wanted to share how smooth and effortless I found the whole process.

The two firms I used were CreateSpace.com and IngramSpark.com and the hardest part of the process was navigating the tax declaration system (If I were living in the US I’m sure it would have been easier).

Then setting up the system to pay me via my NZ bank account also caused a minor hiccup… But nothing too arduous.

Then it was a case of uploading my files so CreateSpace / Amazon could list my Podcasting Made Easy book on the site and IngramSpark would service the bricks and mortar retail sector.

Now, when someone orders my book one of these two firms will print it and deliver it. Then my share of the cash goes into my account.

 

Why we need a universal basic income

The country’s beneficiary system could be scrapped if everyone was given enough money to live on by the government. That’s the pitch of Lowell Manning, president of Basic Income NZ.

The feature below was written by Steve Hart and first appeared in the NZ Herald during September 2015.

In addition to the feature below, you may be interested in my audio reports on pay disparity (recorded in 2014 for the Steve Hart Radio Show).

Part 1: London with Deborah Hargreaves of the High Pay Centre (April 2014)

Part 2: New Zealand with Paul Barber, policy advisor NZ Council of Christian Services (April 2014)

 

Campaign for a universal basic income

The country’s beneficiary system could be scrapped if everyone was given enough money to live on by the government. That’s the pitch of Lowell Manning of Basic Income NZ.

He advocates giving every man, woman, and child a no-obligation weekly payment – plus something toward the cost of housing – that could give them real choice about how they spend their lives.

Lowell manning or Basic Income NZ.
Lowell Manning of Basic Income NZ.

For example, he says a starving artist need not push trolleys at a supermarket to make ends meet, they’d have the money to follow their passion and develop their skills knowing the basics are covered.

The concept of giving people enough tax-free money to pay their bills and take part in society isn’t new – it can be traced back more than a century to philosopher Bertrand Russell’s 1918 book Roads to Freedom.

While the idea gained some popularity in the 1980s, Manning says it was the 2008 recession and the Occupy / One per cent movement that caused people – including some governments – to look at the idea more seriously.



One reason for the renewed interest is that as companies rely on more automation, such as robots on factory floors and self-service checkouts at supermarkets, there will increasingly be fewer jobs. And with some people having less to spend, they stop being an active consumer of the products made by the robots.

Manning says about 12 per cent of the money earned by the country (GDP) is spent on unemployment, welfare benefits, and superannuation etc. Manning reckons the funding for a full basic income scheme is somewhere in the region of 24 per cent of GDP.

“The shortfall will need to come from other sources, such as an increased tax rate on earned income. It means those in work won’t be much better off, but there is a whole range of benefits that come from a basic income over above any physical increase in the money people get.

“It will empower people without work and change the system we currently have, from one of punishment and reward, to one that’s based on worth and dignity.

“There is a fundamental disconnect between work, income and welfare. And that has occurred over the last 40 years, but the difference now is that the entire system is based upon maintaining a substantial level of unemployment to keep wages and incomes down.”

Manning says that disconnect is because labour is no longer essential for production. Companies, he says, have the choice between investing capital in machines or people.

But, given enough money to get by, will people bother to even look for a job or turn up for the one they have?

“It is a deep rooted thing…people want to participate in society,” says Manning. “There will always be a small proportion who choose not to, but with a basic income it will still be worthwhile going out to work. And you’ll have a huge choice around the types of things you do because you are no longer tied to the wage offered by employers. You can go off and do your own thing.”

He says trials of the system have taken place in Namibia. It saw productivity go up, but work participation decreased because people have the money to work fewer hours each week.

“And that’s simply because you want to go to work, you don’t have to go to work.”

In Holland, a trial of a basic income scheme in Utrecht – where people were given €900 (NZ$1600) a week – is to be expanded into neighbouring Tilburg.

“Under my plan you can get rid of WINZ altogether, you wont need it,” says Manning. “Think about the empowerment that will create for people. It will give a huge boost to people’s self-esteem.”

Roger Moore – Goodbye Mr Bond

Roger Moore has entertained me since I was a child and being a Bond fan anyway, I was as pleased as punch to see him take on the role. he was a gentleman, a top chap, and an all-round nice guy.

Goodbye, Mr Bond

I was thinking about actor Sir Roger Moore just last week while travelling on the bus. I remembered him playing James Bond of course and saying in an interview that he blinked every time he pulled the trigger of a prop gun when shooting a villain. This made it hard for movie directors to get the money shot (excuse the pun) of Bond taking out a baddy.

Then I recalled that he was against animal cruelty – including fox hunting – and had volunteered to help children’s charity Unicef. He seemed a jolly good chap in my book.

So it was sad to hear he died this week aged 89. Not a bad innings.



My first memory of Roger Moore was as TV’s The Saint. The show was a hit in the 1960s, and as a child I watched in awe as his character Simon Templar got the girl and beat the baddy every Sunday night. He was always one step ahead of occasional character inspector Claude (Ivor Dean), who added some comedic moments to the show.

The car Roger drove in later episodes of The Saint was a cool sporty number surprisingly produced by Volvo. Who’d of thought! The most boring car company in the world used to make sports cars.

The Volvo P1800 coupe used in the show was white, had been made in 1962 and had the TV number plate ST1. The car was rediscovered in the 1990s rotting away in a farmer’s yard, but an enthusiastic chap restored it during the course of 16 years.

In 1971 Roger became one half of The Persuaders with actor Tony Curtis (Danny Wilde).  Roger (Brett Sinclair) played a well-heeled toff.  Wilde drove a Ferrari Dino 246GT while our eyebrow-raising action hero  sat behind the wheel of a yellow Aston Martin DBS. I know which one I prefer.

The Persuaders was a great show for a pre-teen, it was like The Saint on steroids. Foreign locations, car chases and the then novelty of a wise-cracking Yank  as a foil to the reserved Brit.

But we mustn’t forget the music, for the show introduced me to the work of John Barry. He wrote the show’s theme tune which had a strong synth bass line – just brilliant. From the moment I heard it I knew I wanted a synth.

John Barry went on to arrange the iconic James Bond theme for the first Bond film.  The tune was written by Monty Norman (as established by two court cases, and he’ll sue anyone who says differently).  The dum dee dee dum tune has been used in almost all the Bond films.

Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond was in the brilliant Live and Let Die (1973),  he was the oldest actor (45) to have played the British spy.

James: There seems to be some mistake. My name is…

Mr. Big: Names is for tombstones, baby!

With any reboot of a film series – Moore was essentially replacing the popular Sean Connery – this Bond movie had it all in spades. Great cars, girls (Jane Seymour), locations, a brilliant score, opening song by Paul McCartney, and gadgets galore.

Who doesn’t remember the gas bullet that inflated one baddy to twice the size of Bond’s ego. Or the spinning bezel on Bond’s Rolex watch that cut through rope and also featured a powerful electronic magnet (aren’t we supposed to keep magnets away from watches?).

James: You see, sir, by pulling out this button, it turns the watch into a hyper-intensified magnetic field. Powerful enough to even deflect the path of a bullet – at long range.

M: I feel very tempted to test that theory right now!

Having seen the watch a friend and I spent hours pulling apart my broken diver’s watch and trying to figure out how to fit a high-torque motor and battery into the casing of the watch and turn the bezel into a buzzsaw.

There was no hope, we gave up and years later I learned the bezel spun thanks compressed air – which meant the watch wasn’t on Bond’s wrist when it cut through rope. It’s all props and make-believe. The  watch was sold at auction in 2015 for US$365,000 (and it doesn’t even keep time).

It is worth noting though that Bond is first seen in the film with a new fangled digital watch with a red LED display.

Roger Moore did brilliantly as Bond in Live and Let Die, and he would  have joined the franchise at its outset (instead of Sean Connery) had he not been tied to the TV shows.

He played Bond more times than any other actor, but his spy movies were a mixed bag. Octopussy must be the worst of all Bond movies – the franchise had really lost its way at this point and Roger Moore’s light-hearted take on the Bond character was wearing thin.

Roger Moore in a promotional photo for Live and Let Die.

Among his best Bond outings are: Live and Let Die (just an exciting ride, particularly on the bus), The Spy Who Loved Me (brilliant opening gambit, Jaws, and underwater car), and For Your Eyes Only (fewer gadgets and more grit – but the teen skater was silly).

Among the misses are Moonraker (just too fanciful – even for Bond), Octopussy (I have no words…paper thin plot), and A View to a Kill (Grace Jones is a villain, yeah na). And sitting in the middle, The Man With the Golden Gun – can’t decide if it is a hit or a miss.

Roger Moore had a good run playing Bond, but lacked the look of a hardened killer. But no one has played Bond like Roger Moore, and if there is any criticism of his portrayal of the British spy, we must also look to the script writers and movie directors.

Moore of course appeared in dozens of movies, and another one that comes to mind saw him fight his double. The movie, The Man Who Haunted Himself, is a forgotten psychological thriller from 1970 that’s well worth hunting down.

Roger Moore has entertained me since I was a child and being a Bond fan anyway, I was as pleased as punch to see him take on the role of my favourite spy.

It was disappointing that he made some movies in South Africa during Apartheid  – but when you’re in demand its best to take the work while you can when you work in the entertainment industry. But other than that, he was an actor of the old school, seeking publicity only when it was needed.

A gentleman, a top chap, and an all-round nice guy.

Cheers Roger, take it easy in double O heaven.

Roger Moore: 14 October 1927 – 23 May 2017.

Going hyperlocal really works for radio

If you want advertisers to help support your internet radio station then they will likely be the shops and businesses down the street, not across the water, or even in the next town.

A while back I wrote that just because an internet radio station can be heard around the world, it doesn’t mean the owner should try and take on the whole planet, or try to cater for everyone.

In essence, the basis of my post was that so-called local commercial FM stations had widened their remit to cater for even larger geographical areas – often via acquisition – and that the people they were originally licensed to serve were being left behind.

The local radio DJ often isn’t a local, the station itself may be based in the next county, and newsroom staff are often unable to report on what is going on down the road. This has created a gap in the market.

Why Hyperlocal Matters was a call to action for all internet radio broadcasters to forget the world and concentrate on their backyard. To serve the local community.

Because if you want advertisers to help support your internet radio station then they will likely be the shops and businesses down the street, not across the water, or even in the next town.

Well, one UK-based internet broadcaster has followed my advice and connected with businesses and listeners on their doorstep. He is focusing on the local area and reporting on local sports fixtures and news – both on the air and on the station’s website.

I don’t want to mention the owner or the station’s name today, because the broadcaster is in a growth phase and I don’t want to jinx it for them.

However, in just a few months, by changing the station’s name to reflect the area they broadcast from, by pitching themselves as the new voice of the local area, by meeting with business people in the town and connecting with local people they are already talking about moving to broadcasting via DAB within a year or two – support for the station is that strong.

It’s a great story, and one I’d like to explore further in future posts.

If you run an internet radio station and are struggling to make headway, stop thinking your audience is global. It is local. You are the new local radio station for your suburb, village or town.

Go hyperlocal and connect with the locals.

Why the Electro Voice RE 27D is a brilliant microphone

The first thing I noticed as I spoke was that the RE-27 gently enhanced the lower tones of my voice while delivering a crisp top end – the middle was full of beef.

A long time ago in a far away land I enjoyed time working in radio – it was my passion (still is). And like most people looking for a career in broadcasting back then, I joined my local hospital radio station to get experience and learn the trade.

Not only did I love sitting in front of the microphone, I relished using  all the gear. All analogue of course back then. Big mixers, turntables, jingle cart machines, and reel to reel tape decks. Heaven.

Over the course of a few years I went from hospital radio to Radio Top Shop, to community radio and then eventually got to sit in the studio of a commercial station and did news at a local BBC station.

It was then I came across one of the best broadcast microphones in the world – the Electro-Voice RE-20. At the time you’d be hard pushed to find a radio studio without one, and I’m certain they are still used in plenty of studios today.

Of course it wasn’t long until I had my own little studio at home, but the RE-20 would have been a bit of an indulgence. So a much cheaper microphone would have to suffice. All that old studio gear is of course long gone (wish I had kept hold of my reel to reel though…). What followed was a change of career that had nothing to do with broadcasting.

Podcasting

Fast forward 25 years to 2012 and my ‘radio itch’ had to be scratched – I had ignored it for too long. I decided to start podcasting about the New Zealand sharemarket as I was editing an investment magazine at the time.

Launching the podcast was really an excuse to sit behind the mic, but this time I would send my voice to the world as a weekly MP3.

OK, I needed a microphone; no worries I had a good one from my short stint as an independent documentary maker; a Sennheiser ME66.

Trouble was that in a small room at home with no acoustic tiles or soundproofing the microphone picked up the birds tweeting outside as well as my voice reverberating around the room. It was just too sensitive for the location (great mic though).

And being a shotgun microphone it was also a little impractical as it was so along. I needed a dynamic microphone that was less sensitive and smaller.

The RE-20 flashed through my mind, again I thought it was overkill and couldn’t justify the cost for what was essentially a 5-minute podcast once a week.

Shure SM58

I opted for a Shure SM58 instead. Widely used by stage performers the microphone was OK, but is designed to be yelled into, so not ideal for conversational speech.

It also has a slightly dull response on the top end (treble), so rather than leave the mic controls on the mixer flat, I upped the top end gain to compensate. Despite it not being ideal, I do recommend it to any bedroom podcaster who’s just setting out.

By now I was recording two weekly podcasts and a one-hour music show for community radio stations. The home studio was starting to take shape, and I needed to trade up.

AudioTechnica

I swapped something I didn’t need for an AudioTechnica AT20. Like the Sennheiser it is a phantom powered 48v condenser microphone, but was a few steps up from the SM58, it was small, and delivered a more refined and crisper sound.

It was good – but my satisfaction waned as time went on. To use it well you really had to make sure you spoke toward it correctly – you couldn’t turn away. Putting a windshield on it to reduce pops and plosives reduced the top end response. It was a good mic, but had its limitations/restrictions.

Electro Voice

My dream mic, the RE-20 was nagging me. Go on buy me. I started doing my research and discovered that while the RE-20 is still made, the newer and more expensive RE-27 would likely suit me better (of course it would).

Frankly, I preferred the dull finish of the RE-20’s body than the cheaper looking polished silver of the 27. I can’t fathom why Electro-Voice went for a bright silver finish. But I knew it was the new model I needed due to its higher gain and response profile (yes, I compared the specs).

I’d also need a nice new swivel mount too, the one I had was as cheap as chips and the support springs made a twanging noise whenever it was moved. It was also white and I wanted a black one.

Well, I am now the proud owner of a new RE-27, suspension shock mount and a wonderful microphone swivel arm that is smooth to move, silent, gorgeous and black.

With it all installed and plugged in I popped on my headphones and turned up the mic’s volume control on the mixer. There was silence so I checked my headphone gain control – it was at 7.

I looked at the mic, took a quiet breath and spoke. The sound of my voice punched through the silence with pure unadulterated clarity. Another lesson, some microphones create unwanted noise – hiss and light static – the RE-27 does not.

The first thing I noticed as I spoke was that the RE-27 gently enhanced the lower tones of my voice while delivering a crisp top end – the middle was full of beef.

I hurriedly made a podcast and once that was finished I played it back through my studio monitors. Technically it sounded pretty good.

Next I opened the previous edition of the podcast to compare the two recordings. A week ago I was moderately happy with the AT20’s performance, but up against the RE-27 there was no comparison.

The AT20 sounded dull and cheap (which of course it is at US$99 against the 27 at US$499). Shoot, I’ve just spent 500 bucks on a microphone! What was I thinking?

Bottom line, the RE-27 performs brilliantly and it will likely last a good few years. Not only is the audio from the 27 beyond my expectations, I feel very happy and comfortable sitting in front of it.

I can speak without worrying about creating breath pops, and that means I can relax and sound natural. The RE-27 gives me confidence. It is my new friend.

I just wish it wasn’t that cheap looking colour. However, a black foam windscreen takes my mind off the silver shine when I’m using it.

How to record great video

The lower prices of everything digital means almost anyone can own an HD video camera. That’s great news, because videoing stuff can be great fun. However, some camera owners confuse technical standards with their ability to record good, clean, usable footage that is suitable for public consumption.

The lower prices of everything digital means almost anyone can own an HD video camera. That’s great news, because videoing stuff can be great fun. However, some camera owners confuse technical standards with their ability to record good, clean, usable footage that is suitable for public consumption.

A colleague tells me this week he has just finished a “painful” 4 minute promo for a company whose MD shot the video himself, using his [reluctant] staff as presenters.

They didn’t use a tele-prompter, so each member of staff is seen with their eyes flicking off camera  to read the next line of their presentation.

The MD didn’t have the option to plug in a separate microphone, so the camera’s built-in mic was used. Built-in microphones are designed to pick up everything, and this one performed as expected. This meant the background ambient noise was – in places – louder than the speaker’s voice.

A professional would have plugged in a mic and clipped it to the presenter – so only the voice is recorded.

Some of the video was shot in a big room that caused sound to reverberate and echo, other shots were in the street where traffic noise drowned out what the ‘presenters’ were saying.

There’s an old rule that goes along the lines that a viewer will watch almost any quality video picture, but if they can’t clearly hear or understand what is being said, they will switch off. Yes, audio is more important than the picture.

My friend’s client hoped he could use software to clean up the audio [ever tried removing room reverb? It’s impossible], and assumed the video editing software could remove the dark shadows over some people’s faces.

Yes, modern software can do an awful lot to improve audio and video, but the cost of the hours spent doing this – because there is no quick fix unlike in TV shows such as CSI – would have been better spent hiring a pro camera operator with the gear needed.

Get it in the can, is the general rule. Fixing bad footage up later is always expensive and full of compromises.

On his way to delivering the finished DVD to his client, my friend says it occurred to him that the cost of dental equipment has come down in price so much that he could start drilling his family’s teeth – and save money.

“It’s no different to Joe-Blow buying a camera and thinking they can shoot quality footage,” he reasons. “Why wouldn’t I do my kid’s teeth – I’d save a fortune?”

And just a quich word about smartphone video. Please, turn it sideways so it looks like your widescreen TV – and THEN press the record button. Please let me know if you’d like to join the campaign against vertical video.

If you want to shoot your own video, and you only have access to a domestic camera with a built-in mic…

  • Find a quiet place to record, really listen for the background sounds and consider that they will be recorded.
  • Place the camera as close to the presenter as possible, because you need the mic to pick up what they are saying nice and clearly.
  • Look for shadows over their face and body – they will move as the sun goes around.
  • Use a tripod for super-steady shooting.
  • Don’t press-gang staff into appearing in your company video – their reluctance will show in their face and eyes.

Feel free to link, but no copying or republishing without written permission from the author. Copyright Steve Hart.

Dreaming of my 1973 Opel Manta

My new car was a million miles away from the one it replaced. Chalk and cheese you might say.

A sports car, metallic blue, two doors, 1.9ltr engine and it stuck to the road like glue at any speed. It accelerated to the urban speed limit in a trice and powered along  motorways without breaking into a sweat. And the sound from the engine? Imagine the roar of a lion blended with the sweet breath of angels on steroids.

It was 1982 and I had just ditched a rusting Hillman Hunter estate for a 1973 Opel Manta A series coupe. I was 22, and going places,

Turns out the 4 cylinder engine was an odd one, an Opel Cam-In-Head (CIH). According to Wiki, its name derives from the location of the camshaft which was a compromise between an overhead valve and an overhead cam layout. It was an evolutionary dead-end and not adapted for other engines used by the carmaker.

My friend Andy helped me find the Manta. There was no internet back then of course, so he led me to car yard after car yard across the county of Essex in the UK.

But over a few weeks I didn’t see anything that felt right. The cars were too normal, too rusty, too large, too small, too thirsty, too much to insure, or the wrong colour – even though I had no particular colour in mind. I didn’t want to be seen driving a boring car; it was the 80s and I was choosing life.

A Capri? Nice, but everyone had one. A Pontiac TransAm? They were quite popular, but too flashy for my style.

A Pontiac TransAm, with extra relish for the Knightrider TV show.

Eventually we came across a typical Arthur Daley-style used car dealership. Having been to every other showroom, there were few places left to explore and I think even Andy might have wondered what he had taken on in offering to help me. (No good turn goes unpunished).

We arrived at Arthur’s about 6pm. And there it was. A gleaming Manta. I’d never seen anything like it.

This car looked a bit like a shortened Ford Capri, had a pointed nose, aluminum wheels, and round rear lights like those on a Ferrari.

The round tail lights of the A series Opel Manta.

 

Just one careful owner my son, all the rest were idiots. Actor George Cole playing dodgy car dealer Arthur Daley in TV’s Minder.

 

It looked pristine, impeccable interior, manual transmission. And unlike my old Hillman Hunter, I was told the Manta’s heater worked. And it had a brand new MoT certificate.

But there’s no way I could afford this. I mean, look at it! It’s glorious.

Why are you even showing this beautiful car to me?

How much have you got to spend my boy?

I have exactly 1800 pounds.

That’s exactly how much this car is.

Where do I sign?

An Opel Manta A series, 1973, exactly like the one I owned in the 1980s.

I felt like the man about town driving home. Then the wheels came off. I kid you not.

I was reversing into a spot outside Andy’s house a few days after buying it when the steering suddenly felt funny. I stopped, got out and couldn’t help but notice one of my front wheels was horizontal. Literally 10 minutes earlier I had been gunning down the A127!

Andy called the dodgy dealer and he sent a recovery truck to collect it. Arthur reckoned I had bumped up the kerb causing something to break, but that wasn’t the case at all. I treated the car like a golden goddess made of porcelain.

After some argy bargy, including me calling the police over a possible dodgy MoT ticket, Arthur agreed to fix it and I got a call to say it was ready.

Oh dear.

The recovery vehicle chap had dented the nose of my pride and joy. But Arthur turned his back as I pointed to the damage. But, but, but…

Driving the Manta was a dream though. Sometimes shifting up to fourth was a struggle if I wanted to stay below the urban speed limit of 30MPH.

On the motorway it was glorious and seemed to have unlimited power. Road handling was solid, which is why it did so well in rallies at the time.

Working nights as a DJ I’d often drive home at around 3am and regularly saw a police car following me. I mentioned it to Andy in passing one day and he roared with laughter.

Apparently, just for a grin, he had told some mates with blue uniforms that I was a ‘wheelman’ — a get away driver for criminals. The police stopped following me and I was never pulled over.

One night I was cruising home along the London Road and there was just one other car some distance behind me. The traffic lights turned amber and I came to a smooth stop as they turned red.

Moments later the other car went through the red. I sat still, listening to Madonna on Laser 558, and then out of the shadows crept a police car. What a magic feeling that was as I swept by the driver blowing into a plastic bag.

One embarrassing thing happened though. I arrived late for my show at a radio station one Sunday afternoon. Pulled up, jumped out the car, engine still running, and locked the door as I shut it.

So while I did my show the police were called, broke into my car — without causing any damage like true pros — and turned the engine off.

The Manta also got my wife and I to our honeymoon destination. Neighbours tied tin cans to the bumper and decorated it with ‘just married’ signs. Andy also used it to ferry a friend’s bride to the church.

One day though the engine started playing up. It wouldn’t idle steady, seemed to have a huge flat spot when accelerating and just wasn’t running smooth at all.

I had it serviced, but the issue returned within days. I bought a Webber carburetor but the accelerator linkage on the new carb wasn’t where it should have been, but with a bit of bending, twisting and bodging I got the cable to connect.

I can’t tell you how many lost Sundays were spent fiddling with the engine, and mechanics — the people who should know about these things — were unable to fathom the problem. I was now throwing good money after bad.

No matter; it was drivable, reliable, It just didn’t perform as designed.

My partner and I went everywhere in it across the UK. And despite it not working brilliantly, my Opel Manta always started and never left me high and dry — it always got us home.

A few years later the end came. Reversing into a supermarket car park next to a trolley pen I opened my door to look as I reversed — it was freezing, raining, dark, and I couldn’t see what I was reversing into. My door was bent backwards when it hit a bollard and the panel creased. Oh well.

A friend bought it off me for £350 and the hunt started for a replacement. I am so embarrassed by what I bought next I can’t mention it here.

But 33 years on from saying farewell to the car I enjoyed driving the most, I am looking to own one again.

The Opel Manta is a classic now — which is a strange thing to discover. It also means I am old and possibly having a mid-life crisis.

Truth be told, I have been keeping my eye out for an Opel Manta for the past 10 years without any success. So I may have to import one from Blighty.

All photos used have been pulled from the net.

Smart meters – still waiting for the benefit

I think it was 2012 that I received a letter from my electricity provider telling me the ‘good news’ that I was to have a smart meter fitted to my home.

Thankfully, I had already done my research and had already decided I didn’t want one. And at this point I expect someone to yell out that I am a “left wing conspiracy theorist”. Well, I might be, it just depends on your politics and who – in the end – is deemed to be correct.

You see I am a bit old fashioned, and if something appears to be working well I say leave it alone. I came to this way of life in the 1990s when I ‘played’ once too often with the operating system of my Apple Mac.

I dug such a hole for myself that I had to wipe the hard drive and start again. I was one of those people who would fiddle to see what happened next.

Like I did when I was 11 and pulled apart my uncle’s reel to reel tape machine until I had nothing but an empty wooden box and a million parts on my bedroom floor. I put all the parts back in the box and closed the lid – hoping no one would ever want to play a tape ever again.

So, back to the smart meter. The power firm wasn’t having any of it when I said I did not want one. They insisted I must have it because my meter’s validity was to expire in 2015.

Getting nowhere fast with the nice call centre staff I wrote an email to the firm. Still the letters came to confirm the installation date.

That was then I saw that a small firm from Tauranga was doing the installation. Mmmm.

I wrote to its managing director and said I’d hold them responsible should the smart meter cause me any problems – such as catching fire, health issues, or sudden huge power bills (I don’t believe they are totally reliable for measuring energy usage).

Within hours of sending the emailed letter I was offered a replacement analogue meter. The man at the installation firm said it would be cheaper. Analogue meters cost $15, while smart meters were $70 (I’m certain the power firm’s shareholders would be interested in that).

And to the point of this post. The power firm tried one last pitch before conceding I could  refuse their smart meter. I was told that if I didn’t have a smart meter that I would not benefit from the company’s special offers for cut price power.

Well, it’s been 4 years and I have yet to hear of any special deals offered to people with smart meters.

I have to say that I still feel good about not having a smart meter on my bedroom wall. And unlike some people, my power bills have not shot through the roof.

It is not compulsory to have a smart meter installed – no matter what anyone or any company says. It is after all your home, and all the power firm needs to do is measure your power usage. An older style (modern) analogue meter will do that.

And before you are offered an opt-out form to sign – for anything – watch this.

 

Imprisoning immigrants is big business

According to the makers if this 30-minute documentary, the detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which “immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products”.

Brave New Films says the Corrections Corporation of America, The Geo Group, and the Management and Training Corporation run more than 200 facilities across North America.

These facilities feature 150,000 bed spaces and rake in a total profit of close to five billion dollars a year.

Because these detention centres are paid based on the number of people held behind bars,  it is claimed there is little to no incentive to speed up the legal processes and let the detainees leave the facility.

How banks create money out of thin air, lend it out and charge you interest

It’s a common misconception that banks use their savers’ money when making loans to people such as you and I to buy something we don’t have the cash for.
In reality, the money we borrow is created by the banks out of thin air at the time it is borrowed.

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Why it’s time to change money

It’s a common misconception that banks use their savers’ money when making loans to people such as you and I to buy something we don’t have the cash for. In reality, the money we borrow is created by the banks out of thin air at the time it is borrowed.

They can do this under our Reserve Bank’s rules. When you take out a loan, the bank simply types the loan amount into its computer and adds the credit to your account. I know, you want to call me a liar to my face.

When the loan is (eventually) repaid the original loan amount is deleted from the bank’s computer, and the bank keeps the interest (doubles and triples all-round).

The system is called credit creation or risk based lending and is based on the perceived risk the bank takes lending out this money.

But don’t take my word for it. Consider this from the Bank of England publication Money Creation in the Modern Economy: “Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money.”

Now, lending on housing is low risk so banks only need to hold about 8 per cent of the money they lend in mortgages. If a bank lends you $500,000, it only needs to have $40,000 in its vault. What a wizard wheeze this is.

Lending to businesses and helping job creation, research and development, is a riskier undertaking, so the banks hold more than 20 per cent of the money they lend in reserve. One only has to look at the housing market to see which types of loan banks prefer to make.

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the London Financial Times, said in 2014: “Why should we let such a social creation [money] be handed over to profit-seeking private enterprises?”

It’s a good question, and one that is increasingly being asked — but by only a few fool-hardy politicians.

According to the Reserve Bank the amount of money we the people owe the High Street banks is $233 billion dollars — and that’s just the household debt. As a nation we are spending 163 per cent of our disposable income. We are living on debt.

Sad to say that under the current system the debt can never be paid off. Even if we all tried really, really hard.

Here’s why. Think of our economy as a bathtub. Money is introduced into the bathtub as loans by the banks. Money leaves the bathtub when repayments are made. For our economy to grow, more money (debt) must go into the bath than leaves.

If all the debt could be paid off the bath would be empty and none of us would have any money — because apart from our notes and coins — money is debt.

Those looking to reform the monetary system say that instead of banks having the power to create interest-bearing debt, the Reserve Bank should issue our money debt-free.

Now, before you choke on your tea and spill it over your credit card statement showing 20 per cent interest, consider this; the Reserve Bank already has the power to create money because it produces our notes and coins.

This cash makes up 3 per cent of our money supply and the rest is digital debt created by private banks. All the Reserve Bank has to do to bring itself into the 21st century, buy a computer, and create the debt-free digital money we need.

And to keep money creation well out of the way of politician – because  we all know they couldn’t  be trusted with such awesome power –  a new independent body would have autonomy to manage the money supply as it sees fit.

This does not mean there would be no more interest bearing debt. Banks could still lend money — but not a cent more than is in their vault. This will stop rising house prices.

They could also continue to provide chequing and savings accounts, offer foreign exchange and sell insurance. They just won’t have a license to create money out of thin air.

Under this system, once the bank loans are repaid the money can be lent out again.

The government could use the interest-free money the Reserve Bank creates for infrastructure projects, roading, social  housing, schools and hospitals.

People would be put to work building the things we need (without having to raise taxes or rob Peter to pay Paul).

To find out more see https://www.positivemoney.org.nz/

De’Longhi Distinta toaster – second slice

My post about the awful De’Longhi Distinta toaster seems to be pretty popular and hit a nerve based on the number of hits the post has had.

After mentioning  it on Facebook – like one does – Melannie from De’Longhi wrote to say her company is “proud of this toaster”. Ho, ho!

She writes: “The issues you’ve described sounds like it’s a fault of that particular machine, not the range.”

Oh dear. I checked, and sure enough found a consumer review that mentions, in not such flowery language, the very issues I identified.

I share it with you here. These guys gave the De’Longhi Distinta toaster 3.5 stars out of 5. Way too generous in my opinion. I give it 1 star because it looks good.

As a functioning toaster. It sucks big time.

Suzanne Snively of Transparency International on corruption in New Zealand

This is an interview I recorded with Suzanne Snively of Transparency International New Zealand on 22nd April 2014 to talk about corruption, and the corruption ‘perception’ index.

This is an interview I recorded with Suzanne Snively of Transparency International New Zealand on 22nd April 2014 to talk about corruption, and the corruption ‘perception’ index.

Turns out the New Zealand organization is mainly funded by government, and says there is no corruption within government departments.

It was first broadcast as part of my weekly Steve Hart Radio Show.

 

The worst toaster, ever! The De’Longhi Distinta

While the DeLonghi Distinta toaster looks great, its performance as a toaster is sadly lacking. You see, it makes two types of toast. Underdone, or burnt.

It’s pointless me starting out by saying that I never complain, because when something isn’t to my expectations I always complain. I am British after all.

So…Out shopping with She Who Must Be Obeyed for a non-stick frying pan a few months back and I’m led to a shelf of toasters.

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The world’s worst toaster. The DeLonghi Distinta.

I agree, the toaster being pointed to – a De’Longhi Distinta – looks very modern, is finished in a nice beige (to go with our kitchen cabinet doors) and has two retro style dials. Very quickly, money changes hands and it’s smiles all-round.

Now, the fact we didn’t need a new toaster was neither here nor there. The stainless steel 4 slicer in our kitchen had served us well (given it’s only me that routinely eats toast) and it handled everything.

From thin sandwich bread (used in emergencies) to those stodgy so-called tea cakes you find everywhere (do they all come from one very boring bun plant in South Auckland?). I mean, can one actually buy an English tea cake anywhere in New Zealand?

On returning home my functional, trusty-but-tired toaster was put in the recycling bin, and the new all-singing, all-dancing beige wonder was unboxed and put in pride of place. In the fire hazard that is the toaster garage – you know, the worktop cabinet with a vertical sliding door you daren’t lower.

It’s been about 3 months now, and I am yet to obtain a golden brown, perfectly scorched slice of anything from this torturous toaster. One can’t even fit half a current bun in its slots.

While the De’Longhi  Distinta looks great, its performance as a toaster is sadly lacking. You see, it makes two types of toast. Underdone, or burnt. There is no middle ground. I guess some joker called it a Distinta because it’s Italian for ‘distant, eh!’. Getting a decent slice of toast is a distant prospect.

I could cut the lawn while it warms up. Hot coffee turns tepid while its elements turn pinkish red, and some sections of the latticed heating elements even remain an icy grey. I can almost hear the toaster laughing at me.

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Some bright spark decided to fit the shortest power cord I have ever seen on any kitchen appliance. Now, a short cable wouldn’t be too much of an issue, had the designer not put the crumb trays (there are two) at the rear of said toaster.

One has to pull the toaster out of its little home and unplug it to remove the trays. My old toaster had a single front loading crumb tray (eminently sensible).

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In short, the De’Longhi Distinta is the worst toaster I have ever had the misfortune to own.

If it were a car, it would be a Delorean – although unreliable, it would at least be a time machine – because you need to leap forward the 20 minutes this toaster takes to warm up.

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The Delorean time machine as seen in Back to The Future. One should come free with every Distinta toaster.

If the De’Longhi Distinta  were an electric vehicle, it would be a Sinclair C5. Seems like a great idea, looks cool, but in practice it performs well below expectations, and you look like an idiot every time you go to use it.

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The Sinclair C5 electric motor and pedal powered single seater tricicle.

If it were a pop song it would be The Birdy Song – seems like fun at first but after you’ve heard it a few times you want to drive your car into a wall at full speed.

Someone pass me the  keys to the Ford Focus…I fancy a drive.

Why LinkedIn has lost its way

When LinkedIn first surfaced as a professional networking site in May 2003 it was well-regarded and attracted truly professional people. The people one might want to touch base with, but have zero chance in normal day-to-day circumstances.

When LinkedIn first surfaced as a professional networking site in May 2003 it was well-regarded and attracted truly professional people. The people one might want to touch base with, but have zero chance in normal day-to-day circumstances.

It was like Facebook, but with a touch of (noun) je ne sais quoi. The site  attracted people who did not share photos of what they were eating, didn’t state the bleedin’ obvious and one really could join the site knowing you’d be rubbing digital shoulders with fellow professional around the world.

It was a site that often featured interesting conversations.

Today though, it has slipped somewhat to become quite pedestrian. And just like Facebook one finds people sharing banalities along with those ridiculous posters (see below). Why do people feel the need to share such stupid things. It’s meant to be a professional networking site.

LinkedIn should not be the place for these pointless posters featuring hackneyed phrases. And frankly I can’t hide them fast enough from my timeline.

I’m so over seeing them, along with blatant self-promotion and sales pictches that I am weening myself off the site altogether (along with Facebook).

And then there are the requests to connect on LinkedIn sent be people one doesn’t know, and who are not even in the same or related business.

Since LinkedIn started I have opened and closed two accounts. I am now on my third, and I can’t see that lasting much longer.

The only real positive experience I have had from being on the site is a welcome approach from Microsoft late last year to work for them as an editor on one of its news sites in New Zealand. Great job, poor timing.

Below, as seen on professional networking site LinkedIn moments before this post was published.
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Radio 2.0 – how the net is disrupting broadcasting

The golden age of radio is long gone. Today, we have cookie-cutter DJs playing more or less the same music and commercials as the next station on the dial.

Music is often selected by a computer program based on the time of day along with a few other parameters few outside the industry get to hear about. Save to say, someone in marketing probably schedules the music you hear.

By Steve Hart
The golden age of radio is long gone. Today, we have cookie-cutter DJs playing more or less the same music and commercials as the next station on the dial.

Music is often selected by a computer program based on the time of day along with a few other parameters few outside the industry get to hear about. Save to say, someone in marketing probably schedules the music you hear.

The broadcaster will also have more than one powerful and expensive transmitter, and pay hefty fees to licence each radio frequency it uses. But are the days of wireless transmission slipping away?

Visit the website of your favourite station and you’ll likely find an option to listen live online or download sections of the week’s shows for your future listening pleasure.

Play on demand (POD) is not only affecting TV broadcasters, it is quietly seeping across the radio industry too. Helped along by a demand from people who want to listen to what they want, when they want – a thirst for choice that’s quenched by faster, cheaper, broadband.

The traditional radio business model is being undermined by professional DJs and upstarts who are operating 100 per cent online using a mixture of automated and live broadcasts – often using some pretty basic equipment.

These internet-only stations don’t need a licence to broadcast, the expense of a transmitter, premises to locate it or people to maintain it. All they need is a computer, a selection of MP3 music files and to sign up with a firm that provides internet broadcast services.

The cost of entry can be as little as $1000 a month for a serious player, although packages can start at $20 a month for the keen amateur – let’s call them bloggers of the online broadcast world.

Among the dozens of companies that offer people a way to deliver their selection of speech and music to the world include Live365.com, ShoutCast.com and StreamLicensing.com. There’s even a free option at listen2myradio.com (but you do get what you pay for).

The prices these firms charge vary according to the quality of the audio and the number of listeners who can listen to a broadcaster at any one time.

Unlike wireless radio, listening figures can be accurately measured – right down to how many people are logged in to listen at any given moment in time. Advertisers love this transparency.

It’s early days for internet-based radio, but make no mistake, this new breed of broadcaster has the power to disrupt the established players in much the same way as the internet disrupted newspapers.

In a way, we are on the verge of a new ‘golden’ era of radio. Internet-based stations play music selected by the DJ (like it used to be) – listeners tune in to hear a particular DJ’s selection of music, or gravitate to online broadcasters who specialise in one particular style of music, be it non-stop trad jazz, 50’s doo wop, 60’s ballads, 70’s rock or 80’s club music.

Smart broadcasters have already adopted their own online radio streaming services and some are even making money by selling ads for online ‘transmission’ only.

Despite the fact that listeners ‘pay’ to listen to an internet station with increased bandwidth usage – transferring some of the cost of broadcasting from the provider to the listener – studies show that people are increasingly listening to stations online – at work, in the car, at home and with their smartphones etc.

According to US advertising agency TargetSpot, internet radio listenership has reached 42% of adult broadband households in the US, that’s up 8% on 2010.

Its May 2012 report also reveals that while internet radio use grows, broadcast radio listening is holding strong with 65% of broadcast radio listeners spending the same amount of time listening.

Authors of the report say this is evidence that access to content is facilitating listening and that listeners are not unilaterally choosing online over broadcast radio, but rather the device that works best for them at a particular time and place.

For example, someone with an iPhone using the free Tunein Radio app, could be walking along Auckland’s Queen Street listening to a broadcaster based in London. Smartphones are the new portable radios.

The TargetSpot survey also found that 47% of people aged 18 to 24 spend less time listening to broadcast radio than they did a year ago.

For listeners tuning in between 10am and 10pm, the study finds consistent digital usage patterns throughout the entire listening day – the only exception is the 6am to 10am drive period, which is still owned by broadcast radio. However, as in-car internet connectivity increases, internet radio listening may extend here as well.

Being internet based has also led to listeners interacting more with broadcasters’ websites. The TargetSpot survey reports that engagement with online audio carries through to websites as listeners search for new music, artist or band information, and playing video clips.

This interactivity is helping stations, even small operations run by a few volunteers, build relationships with their listeners. Advertisers like to build relationships and engage with people who might buy their products.

 Advertising

According to New Zealand advertising agency The Radio Burerau, commercial radio attracts 11% of national advertising revenue, one of the highest shares in the developed world.

The TargetSpot survey reports that as the digital audio space evolves, so does its consumption patterns.

It says the audience for internet radio is large and growing; with connected devices facilitating increased listening. It says the online listening audience has become more valuable – the increased engagement levels and interaction with listening experiences individually and socially has translated to higher effectiveness for internet radio advertising compared to one year ago.

Both ad recall and response rates increased, with 58% of people recalling having seen or heard an internet radio ad within the last 30 days compared to 52% in 2011, an 11% increase.

Of those listeners, 44% responded to an internet radio ad compared to 40% in 2011, a 10% increase versus last year.

Media technology consultant Skipi Pizzi, in a report published in June 2010 called ‘The Mobile Internet: A Replacement for Radio?’ writes that the growth of online radio listening will continue and that some of this growth will be at the expense of broadcast radio.

He says a “relatively slow transition is now in evidence among nearly all demographic groups, and within all radio listening venues” such as home, work, car, and personal devices.

“This gradual cross-fade will continue between broadcast and online radio listening, but the transition will never be complete,” he writes. “A permanent baseline of broadcast listenership will remain, regardless of the ultimate growth of internet radio.

“It is unlikely that a typical station will ever see its online listening audience greatly exceed its broadcast one – or afford the bandwidth costs, if it did – although a broadcaster’s ‘online time spent listening’ may surpass that of its over-the-air services – the latter has already been observed.”

Pizzi says an increasing number of new devices – fixed, mobile and handheld – will include both broadcast and online radio listening capabilities.

“In this ‘mixed’ environment, listeners will take up a ‘best available device’ approach to seeking out the content – not the channel – they desire in their current situation,” says Pizzi. “Podcasts of broadcast content also play an increasingly important secondary role.

“Broadcasters should respond to these trends, not by trying to choose any single delivery approach but by using an “all of the above” platform methodology, with minimal duplication of content and careful programming of each service appropriate to the usage behaviors observed for the respective delivery methods.”

Pizzi says rather than being preoccupied by the question of internet vs. broadcast, the key for station owners is the development of compelling visual content to enhance their radio services.

 Bandwidth

Despite the ease of access to internet-based radio stations – via web browsers and smartphone apps – the downside for the listener is that they will use costly bandwidth all the time they are online.

People can use the free wifi offered in many public places, but at home, the bill payer may have something to say as little Jimmy uses up the monthly bandwidth allowance listening to GothRock FM out of LA.

Having said that, bandwidth is getting cheaper and one day there may not be any monthly caps or limits on broadband usage in New Zealand. Maybe.

Until then, wireless broadcasters just about have the upper hand with their expensive transmitters. But once bandwidth is removed as a barrier, and as the ownership of smart devices grow, people will think nothing of listening to stations broadcasting the music, documentaries and news they want to hear.

The bottom line is that radio broadcasters the world over are on notice that a quiet revolution is undermining their business model – listener patterns will change and advertisers will go where the [niche] audiences are.

Traditional broadcasters need to understand that the threat to their businesses will probably come from a teenager with a PC in their bedroom.

Feel free to link, but no copying or republishing without written permission from the author. Copyright Steve Hart.

Edward R Murrow, Speech October 1956

WIRES AND LIGHTS IN A BOX
Speech to the RTNDA, October 15, 1958
This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts. But I am persuaded that the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television in this generous and capacious land.

I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard, the one that produces words and pictures. You will, I am sure, forgive me for not telling you that the instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you of the fact that your voice, amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other, does not confer upon you greater wisdom than when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other. All of these things you know.

You should also know at the outset that, in the manner of witnesses before Congressional committees, I appear here voluntarily—by invitation—that I am an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I am neither an officer nor any longer a director of that corporation and that these remarks are strictly of a “do-it-yourself” nature. If what I have to say is responsible, then I alone am responsible for the saying of it. Seeking neither approbation from my employers, nor news sponsors, nor acclaim from the critics of radio and television, I cannot very well be disappointed. Believing that potentially the commercial system of broadcasting as practiced in this country is the best and freest yet devised, I have decided to express my concern about what I believe to be happening to radio and television. These instruments have been good to me beyond my due. There exists in my mind no reasonable grounds for any kind of personal complaint. I have no feud, either with my employers, any sponsors, or with the professional critics of radio and television. But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture, and our heritage.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or perhaps in color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: “Look now and pay later.”

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must indeed be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive quite literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then perhaps some young and courageous soul with a small budget might do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done—and are still doing—to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant.

I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry’s program planners believe. Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence. I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is: an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.

Several years ago, when we undertook to do a program on Egypt and Israel, well-meaning, experienced and intelligent friends in the business said, “This you cannot do. This time you will be handed your head.” It is an emotion-packed controversy, and there is no room for reason in it.” We did the program. Zionists, anti-Zionists, the friends of the Middle East, Egyptian and Israeli officials said, with I must confess a faint tone of surprise, “It was a fair account. The information was there. We have no complaints.”

Our experience was similar with two half hour programs dealing with cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Both the medical profession and the tobacco industry cooperated but in a rather wary fashion. But at the end of the day they were both reasonably content. The subject of radioactive fallout and the banning of nuclear tests was, and is, highly controversial. But according to what little evidence there is, viewers were prepared to listen to both sides with reason and restraint. This is not said to claim any special or unusual competence in the presentation of controversial subjects, but rather to indicate that timidity in these areas is not warranted by the evidence.

Recently, network spokesmen have been disposed to complain that the professional critics of television in print have been “rather beastly.” There have been ill-disguised hints that somehow competition for the advertising dollar has caused the critics of print to gang up on television and radio. This reporter has no desire to defend the critics. They have space in which to do that on their own behalf. But it remains a fact that the newspapers and magazines are the only instruments of mass communication which remain free from sustained and regular critical comment. I would suggest that if the network spokesmen are so anguished about what appears in print, then let them come forth and engage in a little sustained and regular comment regarding newspapers and magazines. It is an ancient and sad fact that most people in network television and radio have an exaggerated regard for what appears in print. And there have been cases where executives have refused to make even private comment on a program for which they were responsible until they had read the reviews in print. This is hardly an exhibition of confidence.

The oldest excuse of the networks for their timidity is their youth. Their spokesmen say, “We are young; we have not developed the traditions nor acquired the experience of the older media.” If they but knew it, they are building those traditions and creating those precedents every day. Each time they yield to a voice from Washington or any political pressure, each time they eliminate something that might offend some section of the community, they are creating their own body of precedent and tradition, and it will continue to pursue them. They are, in fact, not content to be “half safe.”

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize. Of course, to undertake an editorial policy, overt, clearly labeled, and obviously unsponsored, requires a station or a network to be responsible. Most stations today probably do not have the manpower to assume this responsibility, but the manpower could be recruited. Editorials of course would not be profitable. If they had a cutting edge, they might even offend. It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use this money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that will be paid for that is not libelous, obscene, or defamatory. In that way one has the illusion of power without responsibility.

So far as radio—that most satisfying, ancient but rewarding instrument—is concerned, the diagnosis of the difficulties is not too difficult. And obviously I speak only of news and information. In order to progress it need only go backward. Back to the time when singing commercials were not allowed on news reports, when there was no middle commercial in a fifteen minute news report, when radio was rather proud, alert, and fast. I recently asked a network official, “Why this great rash of five-minute news reports (including three commercials) on weekends?” And he replied, “Because that seems to be the only thing we can sell.”

In this kind of complex and confusing world, you can’t tell very much about the why of the news in broadcasts where only three minutes is available for news. The only man who could do that was Elmer Davis, and his kind aren’t about anymore. If radio news is to be regarded as a commodity, only acceptable when saleable, and only when packaged to fit the advertising appropriation of a sponsor, then I don’t care what you call it—I say it isn’t news.

My memory, and I have not yet reached the point where my memories fascinate me…but, my memory also goes back to the time when the fear of a slight reduction in business did not result in an immediate cutback in bodies in the news and public affairs department at a time when network profits had just reached an all-time high. We would all agree, I think, that whether on a station or a network, the stapling machine is a very poor substitute for a newsroom typewriter and somebody to beat it properly.

One of the minor tragedies of television news and information is that the networks will not even defend their vital interests. When my employer, CBS, through a combination of enterprise and good luck, did an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the President uttered a few ill-chosen, uninformed words on the subject, and the network thereupon practically apologized. This produced a rarity. Many newspapers defended the CBS right to produce the program and commended it for initiative. The other networks remained silent.

Likewise, when John Foster Dulles, by personal decree, banned American journalists from going to Communist China, and subsequently offered seven contradictory explanations for his fiat, the networks entered only a mild protest. Then they apparently forgot the unpleasantness. Can it be that this national industry is content to serve the public interest only with the trickle of news that comes out of Hong Kong, to leave its viewers in ignorance of the cataclysmic changes that are occurring in a nation of 600 million people? I have no illusions about the difficulties reporting from a dictatorship, but our British and French allies have been better served in their public interest with some very useful information from their reporters in Communist China.

One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and, at times, demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks, with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales, or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is after all not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice presidents, and at the same time—frequently on the long, same long day—to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs.

Sometimes there is a clash between the public interest and the corporate interest. A telephone call or a letter from the proper quarter in Washington is treated rather more seriously than a communication from an irate but not politically potent viewer. It is tempting enough to give away a little air time for frequently irresponsible and unwarranted utterances in an effort to temper the wind of political criticism. But this could well be the subject of a separate and even lengthier and drearier dissertation.

Upon occasion, economics and editorial judgment are in conflict. And there is no law which says that dollars will be defeated by duty. Not so long ago the President of the United States delivered a television address to the nation. He was discoursing on the possibility or the probability of war between this nation and the Soviet Union and Communist China. It would seem to have been a reasonably compelling subject with a degree of urgency—a test. Two networks, CBS and NBC, delayed that broadcast for an hour and fifteen minutes. If this decision was dictated by anything other than financial reasons, the networks didn’t deign to explain those reasons. That hour and fifteen minute delay, by the way, is a little more than twice the time required for an ICBM to travel from the Soviet Union to major targets in the United States. It is difficult to believe that this decision was made by men who love, respect, and understand news.

I have been dealing largely with the deficit side of the ledger, and the items could be expanded. But I have said, and I believe, that potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising. There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or in the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse. I do not suggest that news and information should be subsidized by foundations or private subscriptions. I am aware that the networks have expended, and are expending, very considerable sums of money on public affairs programs from which they cannot receive any financial reward. I have had the privilege at CBS of presiding over a considerable number of such programs. And I am able to stand here and say, that I have never had a program turned down by my superiors just because of the money it would cost.

But we all know that you cannot reach the potential maximum audience in marginal time with a sustaining program. This is so because so many stations on the network—any network—will decline to carry it. Every licensee who applies for a grant to operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity makes certain promises as to what he will do in terms of program content. Many recipients of licenses have, in blunt language, just plain welshed on those promises. The money-making machine somehow blunts their memories. The only remedy for this is closer inspection and punitive action by the FCC. But in the view of many this would come perilously close to supervision of program content by a federal agency.

So it seems that we cannot rely on philanthropic support or foundation subsidies; we cannot follow the “sustaining route”—the networks cannot pay all the freight—and the FCC cannot, will not, or should not discipline those who abuse the facilities that belong to the public. What, then, is the answer? Do we merely stay in our comfortable nests, concluding that the obligation of these instruments has been discharged when we work at the job of informing the public for a minimum of time? Or do we believe that the preservation of the Republic is a seven-day-a-week job, demanding more awareness, better skills, and more perseverance than we have yet contemplated?

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation. Heywood Broun once wrote, “No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch.” I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won’t be, but it could. But let us not shoot the wrong piano player. Do not be deluded into believing that the titular heads of the networks control what appears on their network. They all have better taste. All are responsible to stockholders, and in my experience all are honorable men. But they must schedule what they can sell in the public market.

And this brings us to the nub of the question. In one sense it rather revolves around the phrase heard frequently along Madison Avenue: “the corporate image.” I am not precisely sure what this phrase means, but I would imagine that it reflects a desire on the part of the corporations who pay the advertising bills to have the public image, or believe that they are not merely bodies with no souls, panting in pursuit of elusive dollars. They would like us to believe that they can distinguish between the public good and the private or corporate gain. So the question is this: Are the big corporations who pay the freight for radio and television programs wise to use that time exclusively for the sale of goods and services? Is it in their own interest and that of the stockholders so to do? The sponsor of an hour’s television program is not buying merely the six minutes devoted to commercial message. He is determining, within broad limits, the sum total of the impact of the entire hour. If he always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologist will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or “letting the public decide.”

I refuse to believe that the presidents and chairmen of the boards of these big corporations want their corporate image to consist exclusively of a solemn voice in an echo chamber, or a pretty girl opening the door of a refrigerator, or a horse that talks. They want something better, and on occasion some of them have demonstrated it. But most of the men whose legal and moral responsibility it is to spend the stockholders’ money for advertising are in fact removed from the realities of the mass media by five, six, or a dozen contraceptive layers of vice presidents, public relations counsel, and advertising agencies. Their business is to sell goods, and the competition is pretty tough.

But this nation is now in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command to empty the minds of their subjects and fill those minds with slogans, determination, and faith in the future. If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us. We are engaged in a great experiment to discover whether a free public opinion can devise and direct methods of managing the affairs of the nation. We may fail. But in terms of information we are handicapping ourselves needlessly.

Let us have a little competition. Not only in selling soap, cigarettes and automobiles, but in informing a troubled, apprehensive but receptive public. Why should not each of the twenty or thirty big corporations, and they dominate radio and television, decide that they will give up one or two of their regularly scheduled programs each year, turn the time over to the networks and say in effect: “This is a tiny tithe, just a little bit of our profits. On this particular night we aren’t going to try to sell cigarettes or automobiles; this is merely a gesture to indicate our belief in the importance of ideas.” The networks should, and I think they would, pay for the cost of producing the program. The advertiser, the sponsor, would get name credit but would have nothing to do with the content of the program. Would this blemish the corporate image? Would the stockholders rise up and object? I think not. For if the premise upon which our pluralistic society rests, which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right decision. If that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image but the corporations and the rest of us are done for.

There used to be an old phrase in this country, employed when someone talked too much. I am grateful to all of you for not having employed it earlier. It was: “Go hire a hall.” Under this proposal the sponsor would have hired the hall. He has bought the time; the local station operator, no matter how indifferent, is going to carry the program—he has to. He’s getting paid for it. Then it’s up to the networks to fill the hall. I am not here talking about editorializing but about straightaway exposition as direct, unadorned, and impartial as fallible human beings can make it. Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information. Let us dream to the extent of saying that on a given Sunday night the time normally occupied by Ed Sullivan is given over to a clinical survey of the state of American education, and a week or two later the time normally used by Steve Allen is devoted to a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East. Would the corporate image of their respective sponsors be damaged? Would the stockholders rise up and complain? Would anything happen other than that a few million people would have received a little illumination on subjects that may well determine the future of this country, and therefore also the future of the corporations? This method would also provide real competition between the networks as to which could outdo the others in the palatable presentation of information. It would provide an outlet for the young men of skill, and there are many, even of dedication, who would like to do something other than devise methods of insulating while selling.

There may be other and simpler methods of utilizing these instruments of radio and television in the interests of a free society. But I know of none that could be so easily accomplished inside the framework of the existing commercial system. I don’t know how you would measure the success or failure of a given program. And it would be very hard to prove the magnitude of the benefit accruing to the corporation which gave up one night of a variety or quiz show in order that the network might marshal its skills to do a thoroughgoing job on the present status of NATO, or plans for controlling nuclear tests. But I would reckon that the president, and indeed the stockholders of the corporation who sponsored such a venture, would feel just a little bit better about both the corporation and the country.

It may be that this present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflects the political, economic and social climate in which it grows and flourishes. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable, and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information, and our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live. I would like to see it done inside the existing framework, and I would like to see the doing of it redound to the credit of those who finance and program it. Measure the results by Nielsen, Trendex or Silex—it doesn’t matter. The main thing is to try. The responsibility can be easily placed, in spite of all the mouthings about giving the public what it wants. It rests on big business, and on big television, and it rests on the top. Responsibility is not something that can be assigned or delegated. And it promises its own reward: both good business and good television.

Perhaps no one will do anything about it. I have ventured to outline it against a background of criticism that may have been too harsh only because I could think of nothing better. Someone once said—and I think it was Max Eastman—that “that publisher serves his advertiser best who best serves his readers.” I cannot believe that radio and television, or the corporations that finance the programs, are serving well or truly their viewers, or their listeners, or themselves.

I began by saying that our history will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

We are to a large extent an imitative society. If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small fraction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure might well grow by contagion. The economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure—exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.

To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent, and insulated, I can only reply: there is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse, and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance, and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Stonewall Jackson, who is generally believed to have known something weapons, is reported to have said, “When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.” The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival. Thank you for your patience.