ThinkTank 2012 – Leipzig – Reports – @The Radio Feature in the Digital Age – 27/28 January

‘Think Tank is here’

The International Think Tank Leipzig develops fast and promisingly and I shall keep you informed about all steps of it.


Please feel invited! to write your own nutshell and mail it to:
Peter Leonhard Braun
leobraun@prix-europa.de

 

Please feel inspired to write a small paragraph, maybe just some lines to explain the situation we are in, the necessities for change and your understanding of the future of radio (feature) …   putting the whole matter in a nutshell.

 

  • UPD 28/1: Exciting two days, a fascinating round of devoted radio makers, thrilling discussions. But questions remain. 
  • UPD 27/1: follow the ‘ThinkTank’ photo’s
  • UPD 27/1: follow the ‘ThinkTank updates’ by Twitter @IFC_radio
  • UPD 25/1: All nutshells we receive from now onwards will not be distributed by this web site anymore but instead will be put on to the blog for the International Think Tank Leipzig. You may continue the dialogue by commenting on the blog, all nutshells from the very beginning you will find there and of course all  new ones.
Here is the address of the blog
http://think-tank-leipzig.blogspot.com
You can also find it linked from the webpage of the Medienstiftung Leipzig
http://www.leipziger-medienstiftung.de/?page_id=2540&lang=en

 

Finally this impressive concert of communication will be joined by Willem Davids on this IFC website
http://ifc.posterous.com/think-tank-is-here-report-the-radio-feature-i
 

 

First 10 nutshells: below this …
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19/1- Overture … Here is the very first nutshell, from Liam O’Brien/RTE a message to all of us. 

“Radio is the best medium in the world. It’s very simple premise is to broadcast sound messages and it’s been doing this for over 100 years. As time has progressed, radio has too  –   but it is a very slow beast. Today’s radio – in general terms – is not hugely different from what you might have heard 30 years ago. Of course techniques have improved but the ‘job’ is still the same. However, when you look at how dramatically other broadcast mediums have changed – we must understand that radio struggles with change. Now, with the digital age – we have the opportunity to imagine a new future – and a rapidly changing one. There are huge worldwide audiences out there and with that comes a huge freedom. We need to understand that 100 years of development can now happen in months! And radio needs to keep pace. So what are we to do? We must think, imagine and look outside our boundaries – this is a whole new universe that we stare into. We must provide solutions.”
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19/1-  Overture… and here comes the second nutshell  –  this time from Simon Elmes/BBC. 

“The radio feature is the highest form of art-concealing-art the medium proposes. Programme makers construct their reversion of reality that artfully finds compelling stories in the banal, the everyday, the ‘normal’. The people are the story and the tellers of the story, and the artistry of the maker conspires to offer articulacy to the inarticulate, to discover beauty in the trashcan, to build a story that will stir hearts and challenge minds. It’s making Hamlet from Tower Hamlets, The Seagull from Southampton docks… Yet now it finds its artistry challenged by a medium whose day-to-day idiom is the readymade, the transient, the baggy, the brief, the haphazard… Does the feature-maker undo his / her artistry, unmake the perfection? …create the Artfully Artless?  Ponder on.”
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20/1-  Overture nutshell no 3 by Kari Hesthamar, NRK

“There is a big hunger for radio journalists at NRK to do crafted radio and to have the tools for this, both in every day production and in longer formats. Our impression is that  the focus on this has become stronger the past years. The radio feature group at NRK have a yearly course that runs over one and a half weeks where we train people in the basics of storytelling on radio; interviewing techniques, dramaturgy, narration and sound. We also do a lot of teaching both in house and at the institutes of journalism. This results in crafted radio documentaries and in better radio also in shorter formats aired daily. Our strength and challenge is our long format of 45 minutes, which has a build up that demands concentration. We are today not allowed to podcast documentaries that contains more than 3 minutes of music, which is a great problem for us. We discuss our future in the web world a lot. Our documentaries are in general published on the front page ofNRK.no, which is the second largest website in Norway, because they see what we make as exclusive stories told in a way that the public want and that newspapers and other websites can’t offer. We also publish all our features on facebook and twitter. We have an increasing number of listeners, but see the opportunity to listening on demand as crucial for our future. Our experience is that the radio documentaries are popular among all ages, but for the young to listen we are especially dependant on podcast and online listening.
In short – the way of distributing the stories is in rapid change, but the interest for good stories and important topics never change.”
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20/1- Overture nutshell no 4 by James Cridland, Media UK
“When I started in radio, the only way to record audio was a large bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder, which I lugged from the studios to interviews in factories, pubs and hotels. The only way to edit audio was to deftly use a razor-blade, a chinagraph pencil and some splicing tape in large, purpose-built studios. The only way for listeners to hear to that audio was through a carefully-edited AM or FM broadcast; and the only way to listen was live. And for a listener who wished to take part, they could do so by writing a postcard, or calling from their home telephone. In 2012, I can record audio, edit it and make it available directly from my mobile phone. On their computer or phone, listeners can listen whenever they like, wherever they are; and share audio every bit as technically good as our own. Radio – and the media – has changed. Are we changing with it?”
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20/1-  Overture nutshell no 5 by Helmut Kopetzky, Independent
“hier ist meine nutshell (Coco-size) … 

In most of my 40 years of radio-making feature has been a wide, solid, well-bordered  road – coming from the past and (with necessary repairs and improvements now and then) leading into a mere endless future. For myself, “feature” and “future” have been synonymous words. The highway called Feature had a variety of different lanes, but in general the direction was rather common sense. 

Since a couple of years feature-people, more or less confused, are gathering at a crossroad with road signs in many directions. Inscriptions say: “Programs On Demand”, “Interactive Formats”, “User Generated Contents”, “Back to the good old Factional Documentary”, “Investigative Concepts”, “Faction” or “Docu-Fiction”, “Interactivity”, “High End for Audio Freaks” etc. – lots of Stairways to Heaven – and all of them fading away in a distance, swallowed by the mist of our unknown medial future. 

As an AUTHOR with a singular voice, own points of view and certain aesthetic preferences I’m asking myself : Which of those diversions will offer the best chances for my professional survival and for what I understand as “radio feature” or “extended journalism” in general ? My personal aim is to rescue the CORE of all that. Those essentials are: Single voices (First person singular) amongst the medial cacophony; the fantasy stimulating strength of sound in it’s own rights – no multi-medial applications and distractions for example; radical debate–provoking positions; personal languages and  elaborated text & sound-compositions. 

I’m excited by new possibilities and helpful tools in the process of radio-making (which I use excessively, “being digital” since 1995). But: The medium is NOT the message. And I refuse to consider myself as an appendix of industry-steered “social” trends of communication.

Where to find a shelter for my individualistic, selfish, zeitgeist-ignoring concept ?”
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23/1-  Overture nutshell no 6 by Willem Davids, NTR

 

The Author have the last word!
Since the existence of internet in the digital age -now about 20 years-, I’ve talks with international (feature) authors about the limitless possibilities of the Internet.
In all those years -until yesterday- is there still a huge fear of many authors to submit their work digitally.
I’ve heard:  “Do not, because anyone can do with it what he wants, …”  or: “No, I do not want to, because I have the rights …” or: “I lost control over MY work …“. 

Fortunately there are exceptions. Authors who think ahead, without fear!
But if it continues with a few exceptions, as for years, then we have serious problem. 

Developments (2012 and further) are not hopefull.
In recent months are important international worldwide and local websites, with (legal) access for sharing creative work, prohibited because complaints from authors! 

I think a fruitful discussion have purposes, only if authors are willing to set aside their whining, their childish fear and (latest) prefer to close digital share- platforms and -websites. 

Call: Authors (feature makers included) come on!
Be careful, before you make a ‘museum piece only’ of yourself. 

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23/1-  Overture nutshell no 7 by Else Barrat-Due, NRK

 

 

Our audience, especially the younger generation, is leaving the good old radio. When they listen, they find what they want on the net and most of all: on smartphones and iPods. The listening experience is liberated in time and room. This gives another kind of freedom to the listeners. Just like in the music industry it is important that our sound expressions can be found on itunes, spotify, youtube, etc. 

What challenges does this fact give us?
That distribution on new platforms is important. We need to find new ways of reaching people where they actually are.
The problems of meeting this development is tied to getting the rights from the artist’s organizations.
Another question: Will distribution on new platforms demand other kinds of production, other types of genre, other types of drama? The media is the form? That we do not know yet.
What the net can offer and which might be of interest is the interactive possibilities with the listeners, which again can affect the form.
Also, all the affectionados now have access to equipment to record and edit radiodrama. And they have the means to distribute it. This might lead to competition, but also to a renaissance for the radiodrama. 

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23/1-  Overture nutshell no 8 by Irène Omelianenko, radiofrance

 

 

some mini-nutshell from Paris
All these words related to crafted radio: documentaries, features, horspiel, creation…
This feeling in prizes as Europa, Italia, URTI, Longueur d’ondes (in Brest) than we are a small team in the whole  world on the same road made of voices, sounds, humanity, composition…
When we broadcast it is also to reveal  to someone ear the secrets lying under the sounds, there is a topic, perhaps a story but also a mystery. “Thunderclap and sound of wings ” to quote René Farabet.
It’s a place where soul is beating, where the path is elaborated to share a creation.
Today  documentaries may have a life outside of FM broadcast, in Radio France we offer podcast during seven days and listening in streaming on our site during 500 days.
These documentaries are making for some of our listeners a sound library. And we try to make it by adapting author’s right with the french society called SCAM.
At the same time we feel that we are hurried up to make fresh proposals, to marry ourselves with internet, with i phones, with or without pictures?, with or without interactivity?, to change our formats, to go faster as is supposed  going the world.  We feel somme mutation is waited .
There is also 5.1 and binaural diffusion.
I just comme back from a presentation by our multimedia department of a piece of sounds made in Tlemcen ,  registered in 5.1 and diffused with drawings.
Are we ready and do we want this metamorphosis.
Sorry for my bad english 
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23/1-  Overture nutshell no 9 by Simon Elmes, BBC

 

 

First the good news.  Classic radio documentary is in generally good health in the BBC. Features and feature-type programmes are still plentiful and craft standards have risen in recent years. In the severe cuts announced in October 2011, serious speech radio (including documentaries and drama) escaped significant reductions.  Time for producers to make programmes has traditionally been less than in other countries (especially Scandinavia) but is being protected and not reduced.  Audiences are rising. 

The big challenge stems from the audience: shortening attention span, multi-tasking, impatience with programmes that ‘don’t deliver quickly’ and the loss of ‘radio culture’ amongst key future demographics (15-35 year-olds) threaten future health. Many of this group simply don’t own a radio, even a DAB set.  The absence of radio devices on certain platforms (especially smartphones) is a serious threat.  Despite the advantages of podcasts – and they are in the ascendant – in a noisy marketplace, the quiet seriousness of sustained feature-making of up to one hour in length is necessarily going to be a luxury that fewer people will wish to enjoy.  We need to find forms and approaches to both editorial and technological challenges that respond to those needs. 

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23/1-  Overture nutshell no 10 by Edwin Brys, EBU Masterschool

 

 

(pumpkin sized nutshell)

Some remarks :
–       On the internet you find a lot of literature about the position and challenges of radio within the digital universe and multimedia environment.
–       Radio seems to remain a device that still defends itself well and the number of web radio’s is overwhelming.
–       This interest in radio might be based basically on commercial grounds, on the social and cultural mission of public broadcasting organizations and on the mission of community radios.
–       In the debate about radio in the multimedia context radio feature does not to seem a frequent topic.
Basic assets of the traditional radio feature :
–       oral history
–       the voice of the citizen
–       reports on changes in people and society (social relevance)
–       marriage between information and aesthetics
–       using the stylistics and grammar of the medium radio 

New possibilities since multimedia applications :
–       increased access to programmes ( when and where you want) 

–       worldwide distribution 

–       on a lot of different devices (Arte-radio) 

–       meta information about topic, people, place via endless amount of links. 

–       adding visuals, now-playing information, latest news-headlines, etc 

–       creation “communities” around broadcasters, programmes and programme makers 

–       interactivity / active input and feedback from media users 

–       reaching new audiences for audio through the other media ( Le Monde –website presents the highlights of the main morning radio news shows) 

–       radio could invest more time and energy to catch extra audiences through other devices 

–       radio feature makers could offer more formats adapted to other channels and slots than the traditional ones ( many already do but do not present this shorter and more humble part of their work to international competitions such as Prix Europa) 

–       there seems to be a lack of reflection and initiative on these new challenges from the part of the broadcasting managers , and therefore, 

–       radio feature makers do not feel the urge to explore new ways of production, programming and distributing, as their managers do not ask them for 

–       one consolation : the best programmes or formats have been invented by creative people, not waiting for demands from the management, but with a great feeling for innovation, originality and the often not outspoken wishes and interests of the public. 

–       We could more often offer excerpts of our features to other media 

–       Via the web, your radio documentary isn’t any more a stand alone programme, but is linked to a lot of other media production on the same topic, target group, etc. 

–       Features from the past can be updated anytime via links on internet 

–       Producing a radio series ( like VPRO Radio in 7 parts on new China), feedback from listeners can influence the next episodes. 

but :  – immense choice and freedom for media use  versus
media user who expects professionals to offer well ready made, relevant, pleasant 

programmes ( propose me, inform me, seduce me). “I cannot seduce myself”. 

–  internet is a chaotic jungle. Please guide me.
– the aim is not re-inventing existing media ( ex. radio on the web, with some pictures 

video’s  = re-inventing television, at its worst) 

–       any merge of media into a new multi-media production should be based on the
professional qualities of the makers. Don’t expect a talented radio maker to get the same 

excellent results as a television maker.  At least , this is not obvious. 

–       quotation from ? : “broadcast radio delivers mass audiences. Do the small niche stuff on the internet”
–       aren’t there any limits to the capacity of consumption for the media user?
–       we should take care not to move from a personal story , told by the programme maker, to a  a jungle of links and feeds (Wikipedia)
–       one medium might be more suitable to tell a story, another to facilitate collective gathering of information.
–       radio is excellent for storytelling, but too linear and too instant consuming for dee contextualization. The encyclopedia function fits much better to internet.
–       radio over the television is more popular than over the internet
–       another quote : “ there is no time for nostalgia”
“ there’s always a step backward” 

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