Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ici Radio France Internationale

Or it would be if you could actually receive it.

The current French spot of bother brings up yet another tangential thought. On shortwave radio this time. More and more international broadcasters are cutting back on the number and target areas of their broadcasts. The BBC coverage is continually being cut. (And the quality of the Beeb's content has dropped dramatically in the past few years; but that's another issue.) Some, like the venerable Swiss Radio International, have vanished altogether. Voice of America is a shadow of its former self. (Sorry. I need to vacate the computer shortly and I haven't got time to find a substitute for that miserable cliche.)

One of the main rationales given for this is that "everyone" is now on line and can hear the broadcasts over his computer. Well, of course, this does over-look the millions in Asia and Africa who may have a radio but no hope of a computer. But more to the point in this little ferverino, it over-looks just this sort of situation as is occuring in France. It took me 20 minutes to finally connect to the RFI website. And I have tried for Lord-knows-how-long ever since to connect to one of the audio links. Completely without success. Now that it would actually be useful to listen to what French officialdom has to say about its "unrest" it becomes impossible. Shortwave radio on the other hand does not become unavailable when it has too many listeners. It can't have too many listeners.

But, of course, you can't listen to an RFI SW broadcast all that easily in North America either. France does not lower itself to broadcasting to North Americans in English. It hasn't for years. (If ever.) Not directly anyway. There is one broadcast in the morning which can be received fairly well, although it's actually directed to Africa. And it helps if you don't mind the American Evangelical station broadcasting at the same time on the same frequency. Fortunately, it is a music programme so you can hear RFI moderately well. (It does get a bit surreal, though, listening to, say, an interview with a French ambassador to Gabon, with the Norman Luboff Choir singing "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" in the background.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes. International broadcasters, please note. If you were actually "broadcasting", you know, over the airwaves, as your name indicates you should be doing, and not just publishing on line, then when crises like these occur you could actually get your point of view before the international public. Instead of being theoretically available on the web but in fact almost completely inaccessible to areas like North America just at the time when it is needed.