Thursday, November 10, 2005

Radio and me:

My love of radio started when I was a small boy living in India.

I used to love to listen to cricket broadcasts from around the world, Australia playing England for the Ashes, either in England or Australia, India against the touring English side, which was called the M.C.C, and of course, the performances of the West Indian superstars, especially the three W’s, Walcott, Weekes and Worrell, who later became Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Frank Worrell, as well as the great rivalry between India and Pakistan with such great names as Mushtaq Ahmed, Vijay Hazare, Ghulam Ahmed., rolling off my tongue

Politics never entered the equation of my listening experience.

My listening of cricket was so intense that my late grandfather, K. C. Mammen Mappillai, who laid the foundation of the Malayala Manorama newspaper to become the largest circulating one in India (presently over a million copies daily), encouraged me to write a summary of cricket test matches that I listened to on the radio for printing in the newspaper, when I was less than 10 years old. He even paid me for my efforts.

Seeing my very first article published in the Malayala Manorama, receiving the appreciative comments from my mom and dad, raised me to revere the field of journalism. It was not just reading and listening that drove me on, but the thought that I could use that knowledge gained to communicate to literally thousands of unknown individuals who also wanted to know, fired me beyond my wildest dreams.

After that phase I moved into the more sedate music phase. I listened to American and British pop and jazz music as played by the most popular Radio Station at that time in India, Radio Ceylon, as it was known then. Even the school going was set against the time checks provided by that station.

After the music phase, I entered the BBC Comedy phase where I greatly enjoyed the comedy that was heard over the radio, such as "The Goon Show" with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe. Also the superb programmes by Gilbert Harding as the "Round Britain Quiz", "The Brains Trust", and "Twenty Questions" attracted me greatly.

All through the early years, the old valve radio set was the main means to receive these Short Wave broadcasts. There were very few programmes on Medium Wave as the Indian Radio network, known as All India Radio, was just getting its legs.

I got my first transistor set when I set off to Delhi University where I was to live in the college hostel. My mom knew I was a radio addict and she knew it would keep me glued to my study table if I had this constant companion. One of the very best presents I ever received.

There, I had to listen through headphones, as it was not allowed to use a radio in our college hostel rooms.

My interest in news got a boost when the Chinese attacked India on October 20, 1962. Many of my friends were glued to my radio set to hear what evil had befallen our troops, especially as we had fathers of many of our college friends in the army. The student in the room very next to mine, had his father, a Brigadier, who was captured by the Chinese.

We listened to news from stations outside of India to get accurate news of what was happening as the Indian News was being filtered. The idea was supposedly not to demoralise the population!

That was my first taste of the censorship practiced by a country at war. I hoped that it would just go away, as I got the feeling that freedom of news and the truth was far more important for a national whose country is at war. Propaganda may sound nice, but when one knows the spin is totally against the grains of truth, then one gets worried as to what else is being spun.

Those days we were able to pick up BBC World Service as well as Voice of America. From these we were able to glean more accurate news than delivered to us by our Indian News Service and even the local newspapers.

I carried the same radio set with me to England in 1963. The same set entered me into a new phase of listening - as the Medium Wave channel in England, quite bankrupt in India, was filled with programs, news, discussions and music.

Late evening was spent listening to Radio Luxembourg, which was the top station for the latest pop music, till pirate radio stations off the coast of England, like Radio Caroline, came on stream. BBC dominated the news scene with a series of stations. I even got used to listening to a couple of series, such as the Archers, although British Comedy still remained my staple diet. All four of us who shared the flat would gather around to listen to some of the great shows of that time, as "Round the Horne" with Kenneth Horne, Hugh Paddick, Kenneth Williams, Betty Marsden and Douglas Smith. "Steptoe and Son" with Wilfrid Brambell as Albert Steptoe and Harry H Corbett as Harold Steptoe was also a favourite.

Right through till 1984, this Short Wave and Medium Wave experience was sufficient for my diet.

My wife, Annikki, also became a radio fan as she carried out her housewifely duties and she also tried to listen to very weak signals of the Finnish Broadcasting Station when we were living in India.

When we came to Finland, I bought a second hand radio cum 4” screen black and white television. Besides entering into the world of miniature TV screens, I got interested into the world of FM, as the broadcast was crystal clear. However, this was in the Finnish language, which I did not understand too well in those days, so BBC on Short Wave remained my staple diet.

When travelling to India on vacation, I bought the best digital radio set that was available at that time, from Dubai, which greatly enhanced my Short Wave listening experience.

Digital radio

This digital set replöaced an absolutely superb Russian radio that I had obtained in Finland.

With the advent of a desktop computer in our home for the first time in 2000, the Short Wave radio was replaced by listening to the CDs I could play on this device. Since I was getting live news on the internet through various web pages, my interest in the traditional radio became less and less.

Then came the anger at Bush and his policies in the run up to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. I was desperate to get information and give information about the anger that I felt against the injustices of the Bush regime.

Then, in iTunes, I discovered the world of Internet radio and, which was carrying broadcasts of Liberal Talk Show Hosts, Mike Malloy and Peter Werbe, who were broadcasting on the now defunct Thom Hartmann came onto the scene as he stood in for one of these hosts, and I got hooked on him.

My anger at the US and Americans was dissipated very quickly as I suddenly realised that there was a whole army of people in the US who shared my beliefs. From that time onwards, Liberal Talk Radio from the US became the godsend that I had been looking for.

With the advent of broadband connection and with the Mac computer becoming more universal in the types of programmes it could run, such as RealPlayer and Windows Media Player, other than just iTunes and Quicktime, this has been an exploding experience.

When Peter got fired by ieamericaradio, I must have been the only non-US citizen in a far-way land who wrote a stinger to the radio station!

The closure of was great depressing moment of my life as Mike (and Peter a few weeks ewarlier) had departed from my life. I lobbied Air America to get Mike back on the air.

Then came Guy James, several KGO liberal talk show hosts, Mike Webb and Air America radio into my life - and things have looked bright since.

What you will see written in subsequent blog entries is my post-2000 experience as I discovered several great Liberal Talk Show Hosts.

I also discovered many right wing Talk Show Hosts.

It became easy to distinguish between the two. The right wing hosts focused on very local sources and local issues, which obviously got them huge local audiences, but they missed the global picture.

This took me back to my life in India, where the censorship of issues was being played out, and I could read the distortion from that side of the fence with no problem at all.

It is not to say I did not find a few on the left of the spectrum who also distorted the truth, but these got thrown in the garbage heap very quickly, just as the right wing hosts.

I listen almost constantly, when I am computing, to the Liberal Talk Show hosts. Thanks to the absolutely dedicated service of people like Ben Burch, who archives many Liberal Talk Shows on his site, The White Rose Society, and Shelby LaPre, who runs the stream in iTunes, this has been a point in my life that I could contribute to the debate in my own small way.

I will be telling you some of this in later postings as I continue in my endeavour to rate Liberal Talk Show Hosts for those interested in knowing which shows to listen to on their computers.


Post a Comment

<< Home