Radio Days: The keys to constructing collective identities

Transnational Radio Encounters (TRE) is an ambitious research project. It pulls together radio researchers with varying scopes from across the Northern European hemisphere. Together, they research the overlaps, influences, styles and technologies that have made radio to what it is today.

A Report from the Transnational Radio Encounters workshop, Geneva, 13-14 March 2014.
By Erwin Verbruggen, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

The TRE project is funded by HERA, an important fund for research in the humanities. After starting off in September, the group held its first workshop in the Swiss city Geneva in March. The town is home to the offices of Euroradio, a division of the European Broadcasting Union, which is a member of and technical partner in EUscreenXL. Historically, the organisation’s roots are much intertwined with radio’s babysteps: starting as the IBU, the International Broadcasting Union, the organisation regulated bandwiths and technology. After the world wars, the organisation arose from its ashes as EBU-UER and still regulates technological underpinnings of broadcasting systems around and beyond the continent. Its offices in Geneva – city home to the League of Nations and Unicef – was built in the 1990s and, as one of the project members grinningly explained, upon completion its architects almost sued the organisation for putting satellite dishes on its roof.

Six research groups

The Transnational Radio Encounters project is rather akin to the effort EUscreenXL is putting on. It’s a combination of six radio archives – including my own, the Netherlands institute for Sound and Vision, and EUscreenXL partner Danish Broadcasting Corporation – and researchers from Finland, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands – amongst which the alma mater of the project, Utrecht University. In six research groups, the researchers investigate five different aspects of the radio spectrum: How trans-border radio reception influences the construction of identity; what challenges the changes in public service broadcasting bring to European radio cultures; how tranmissions and collaborative institutions have played a role in the development of European radio; the technical mediascape of international broadcasting and the focused radio transmissions for minority groups: local radio stations focused on arts, LGBT, or minority ethnic communities.

In the first session, Christian Vogg (Head of Radio, EBU) and Mathias Coinchon (Curator, EBU Digital Radio Summit) started off by introducing the small crowd of archivists and academics to the work developed by the Euroradio’s technical services. Although rumours about radio’s decline as a mass medium have increased in the digital age, Vogg pointed out that Europeans still listen – on average – to three hours of radio per day. An impressive number. What’s the longest time you regularly look at any website?


Radio has been struggling to get both feet in a digital environment. For various reasons, Coinchon explained. Airwaves are cheap, lots cheaper than broadband. Airwaves are also trusted: many emergency services (and even, reportedly, some spy agencies) make use of its tried and tested infrastucture. So why switch to the web, again? Because it’s a new world out there and all of our devices – including our motorised equipment, such as the many shiny vehicles that were on display at Geneva’s annual car fair – are looking at ways of interjecting the web into our every interaction with a machine.

To this, Peter Lewis, scholar from London Metropolitan interjected that what he learned from his students was that “Young people don’t listen to radio – only forced to listen in the back of their parent’s car”. Arguably, the rise of excellent radio programming available on demand over the web and the many innovative formats developed by radio stations around the globe prove the contrary. And as Vogg carefully responded: “I’m more optimistic for radio than for TV.” Roberto Suàrez Candel (Head of Media Intelligence Services, EBU) then presented his highly interesting report about how public service broadcasting in a digital and multiplatform scenario is redefined and repositioned. A heartily recommended read, which is available in our library of resources on Online Access to Audiovisual Content.

Audio arts

After Alec Badenoch explored with us the historical trajectory of transnational radio broadcasts – and questions about who owns and how we can access these publicly broadcasted materials – we went on to cross the city in search of the building of Radio Télevision Suisse (RTS). At that location, EBU’s Ars Acustica group was in a parallel meeting. The group has existed for 25 years and is an international gathering of radio makers interested in various forms of sound art, acoustic spheres and electronical noise. Researchers, artists, technologists and radio makers all gathered round and were served a man-made concerto of artistic non-tunes.

On Day 2, we were drawn in to theory again by Kate Lacey, who just published her book Listening Publics, an overview of the ways in which listening can be a political action – as measured through development of new medias. All the ways we currently see media and modern media marketed are shown as ways of talking back, of expressing opinion. Lacey defended the stance that there is value, there is community, there is debate in listening itself, in ‘listening out’, as it where, and that we should stop looking at listening as a passive act.

Per Jauert, Stephen Lax and Marko Ala-Fossi explored the various technological debates that have flourished around digital radio: from the advent of broadcasting regulations – and the upcoming end of them in Finland – to the British Digital Economy Act, all trying to control and install demand-oriented approaches to service and content provision. Peter Lewis, Caroline Mitchell and Lawrie Hallett together explore radio as a community model, created by and for highly localised communities that are brought together by an interest (like art or listeners’ sexual orientation) or ancestry (migrant radio). As one of their interviewees put it: “I no longer listen to the BBC – it doesn’t represent me”. An example of how community radio can sometimes cross over to the mainstream is the Bristol Kitchen Radio – a radio broadcasted literally from the kitchen table, who posted a global request for people dancing in their kitchens online and were picked up by CBC in Canada.

Transnational Radio Aesthetics

Jacob Kreutzfeldt, Golo Föllmer and – in a reprise appearance – Mathias Coinchon then dissected how radio and broadcast technology influence the aesthetics and identity of specific programmes and channels. Specifically of interest was Coinchon’s overview of the ‘loudness wars’ – ever more professional multiband processors allowing radio stations to increase the overall volume of the songs and tunes they blast out over the airwaves. General conclusion: it’s bad for sound quality, but good for sales and, generally, a big fat can of worms we’re not likely to get out of any ttime soon. Erik Granly Jensen explored the history of a Greenland radio base and its role in world politics – an exhilarating power struggle between Danmark and the US over this mass of ice.

In the final sessions, archivists took the stage: Mark Flashman from BBC’s R&D department discussed the wonderful BBCWS online platform – a crowdsourcing linked data tagging tool for World News Programmes. The department is wrapping up its development into a commercial offering, callled COMMA, a cloud marketplace for media analysis. It was my honour to introduce the EUscreenXL and Europeana Sounds projects to the gathered academics – much of interest because EUscreenXL has a comparable approach in scholars (through the VIEW Journal and participation in user pilots) working together with archivists and technologists, thus broadening their understanding of how online collections are formed. Europeana Sounds took off last month and is an exciting consortium that is looking ahead at a big round of experiments with crowd involvement on existing platforms, such as UK Sound map and Het Geluid van Nederland (The Sound of the Netherlands). As a final top-off for the public part of the workshop, Peter Overgaard and Martin Luckmann from Danish Radio presented the pros and cons of their CHAOS backend portal for archive asset management, that will be used in the project to gather examples of programmes. All in all, a varied two days, and we’re much looking forward to seeing the results coming out of this gathering of radio brainiacs.

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Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies issue 26 now published

scopeScope is a fully peer-reviewed online journal edited by staff and students in the Department of Culture, Film and Media and Institute for Screen Industries Research at the University of Nottingham. Scope provides a forum for discussion of all aspects of film and television history, theory and criticism.

Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies issue 26 has been recently published.  The open-access resource is available here:



Ski flying in Planica comes back this weekend!

In 1934 a small alpine valley in northwestern Slovenia started its history making in ski jumping and ski flying. The first giant ski jumping hill in Planica allowed a man to ski-fly over 100 meters and then over 200 meters for the first time in history.

The first world record (92 meters) was done by a Norwegian, Birger Ruud. Two years later Josef Bradl from Austria landed at 101 meters  – a distance that turned ski jumping into “ski flying”. After the Second World War, Planica was renovated and 1948 was another successful year with a new record of 120 meters by a Swiss Fritz Tschanen. In the fifties new ski-flying jumps in Oberstdorf, Kulm and Vikersund took away Planica’s primacy until a year of 1969 when Planica took back its dominat role as the first ski jumping hill in the world.

Who would not remember the extraordinary jump of Manfred Wolf from The German Democratic Republic, when he set a new world record with a 165 meters and other heroes and world record holders such as Helmut Recknagel, Jiří Raška, Bjørn Wirkola, Heinz Wosipiwo and Walter Steiner. In 1994, the 50th anniversary of Planica, Toni Nieminen reached over 200 meters as the first man in the history. Until today, the record has been pushed close to 240 metres. It seems like the limits of Planica will never be reached!

Explore EUscreen Virtual Exhibition about Planica and find out more about the history of ski flying.

ski jumping

Lost & Found in Translation

IMG_7143_smallThe challenge of translating and subtitling EUscreen’s 40,000 items of television and film content was explored in a special one-day workshop held in November London.  The workshop, aimed at reaching a wide range of general users via translations, was one of a series of three ‘sandpit’ events being held to develop pilot projects targeted at particular communities. Two more ‘sandpit’ events will be held to engage with academic researchers and the creative industries.

Report by Rob Turnock, RHUL

The ‘sandpit’ event was attended by professional AV translators and linguists and was designed to help develop a pilot project to subtitle EUscreen content. With EUscreen television and film material currently provided in 14 different European languages – with two more on the way – subtitling is seen as an important way of making content more accessible to a wider range of online communities.

IMG_7219_smallThe event was hosted by the BUFVC, and EUscreen colleagues from KB, Aalto, Noterik and Royal Holloway worked over the day with the translators and linguists from institutions including the BBC, Imperial College London, Nottingham University, Royal Holloway and the University of Bologna. Tasks and discussion organised in the workshop had three main objectives: to find out more about current AV translation practices; to find out how to involve translators in the translation of EUscreen content; and to understand what processes, mechanisms and tools might be required to facilitate this.

Over the day, the workshop generated numerous important insights. One of the most significant was that there are large groups of professionals, students and fansubbers who may be willing to volunteer to translate EUscreen content into a variety of different languages. Work will be needed, however, to build and sustain a dedicated community of EUscreen translators, and tools will be required to both support the community and to deliver subtitles. Following the London ‘sandpit’ on 17 September this work has already started. These workshops represent an exciting engagement with professional communities outside of the EUscreen Consortium, and it is hoped that this will lead to a wide range of benefits for user communities across Europe.

FIAT/IFTA Seminar on Television Documentary


On 13 and 14 March, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision hosted the third seminar of the Television Studies Group of the International Federation of Television Archives (FIAT/IFTA). The seminar focused on television documentary and included a range of documentary practitioners, including former commissioning editors, filmmakers, and film critics, as well as a range of documentary scholars, who discussed their work on documentary history, modes, and practices.

Report by Willemien Sanders & Berber Hagedoorn

Day One: Producing Documentaries

The first day was dedicated to practitioners in the documentary industry. British commissioning editor of BBC’s Storyville Nick Fraser kicked off with a highly personal plea in favour of public service documentaries. He sees a role for documentaries as being complementary to print journalism. Fraser is keen on documentaries as conveyers of some sort of truth, of representing reality and being informative about it. Unfortunately, he and Dutch film critic Hans Beerekamp, were scheduled to speak at opposite ends of the day. Beerekamp revealed that he disagreed with Fraser’s comment, published in the Guardian, on Oscar nominee The Act of Killing, the controversial film Joshua Oppenheimer made about and with Indonesian 1960s death squad killers. A conversation between them might have been illuminating, if only because The Act of Killing includes many aspects discussed throughout the two days – such as documentary historiography, the use of interviews, re-enactments, and the role of participants.

Dutch television journalist Twan Huys hosted consecutive conversations with former public broadcasting commissioning editors Kees Ryninks and Cees van Ede, Romanian filmmaker Andrei Ujica , Dutch filmmaker Pieter Verhoeff, Belgian filmmaker Eva Küpper and British film critic John Wyham, who showed a brilliant clip of Ken Russel’s 1962 film Pop Goes the Easel and went on to talk about art documentaries and the lack connection of most to art’s richness. Most speakers observed that documentary as we know it is in decline and alternative business models develop slowly. Although Netflix, for instance, allows for creative docs, it will not (yet) pay for production. The day ended with the presentation of the 14th DVD box in Sound and Vision’s Dutch Documentary Collection, which includes 9 early works by Johan van der Keuken. Producer Pieter van Huystee was the lucky receiver of the first box.

Day Two: Researching Documentaries

The second day was dedicated to academics and their research. Paul Kerr (Middlesex University, UK) kicked off with an argument about the effect of economic and political developments, rather than technological developments or audience choices, on documentary film production and scheduling. Throughout three panels, a wide range of scholars followed, discussing an equally wide range of topics. Presentations on historical initiatives like the NBC Washington Documentary Unit (Tom Mascaro, Bowling Green State University, USA) and US/Canadian/British/Australian collaboration through Intertel (Lisa Kerrigan, British Film Institute, UK), and the way Dutch filmmakers got acquainted with and inspired by foreign filmmakers and their film (Bert Hogenkamp, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Hilversum), shed light on transnational collaboration.

Discussion of the way the Dutch programme Andere Tijden (Different Times) mediates demands of television with demands of doing (academic) history (Berber Hagedoorn, Utrecht University, the Netherlands), and the way various mediators or go-betweens, such as scientists, tv-presenters and reporters have, in various TV programmes from the UK, tried to bridge the gap between science and television audiences (Tim Boon, Science Museum, London, UK) shed light on the relationship between science and television, or, rather, on doing science on television. Presentations on the representation of documentary subjects as embodied emotional individuals (Annelies van Noortwijk, University of Groningen,the Netherlands) and on the way documentary participants co-shape documentary texts and self-present in the process (Willemien Sanders, Utrecht University, the Netherlands) discussed different ways of understanding documentary protagonists.

In addition, there were presentations about the various ways interviews have historically been used to create different kinds of dialogues (Christian Hissnauer, Georg-August Universty, Göttingen, Germany), the way Dutch filmmaker Ed van der Elsken tried (and failed) to propagate the use of super-8 film (Susan Aasman, University of Groningen,the Netherlands), and the development of an advanced classification system for documentary and non-fiction film to argue the lack of diversity of documentary forms and formats on Serbian public service and commercial television (Zorana Popovic, University of Belgrade, Serbia).

The many presentations go to show that research in the field of documentary is diverse and is thriving. The time for plenary discussion was limited, but luckily the bar offered ample opportunity to continue a lively exchange of ideas.


A New Look for the EUscreen Portal

The EUscreenXL project was set up with two key objectives: to increase the amount of audiovisual material which can be accessed via Europeana, Europe’s cultural platform, and to expand the amount of television-related material on the EUscreen portal and to improve the user experience A dedicated task force has set to work on a redesign of the EUscreen portal.

The work of the task force has been ongoing since October 2013. As part of this process some significant decisions have been made regarding how the EUscreen portal should evolve. The task force’s main objective is to improve the look and feel of the portal and ensure that materials on the portal are displayed in an informative and appealing manner. The task force analyses website statistics in order to monitor user experience and keeps track of comments left on the site. The main purpose is to use such information to understand the site users and to ensure that the portal meets user expectations.

The group met for the first time in Amsterdam in November 2013, in order to define the key aspects of EUscreen and to map the user requirements for the portal. The workshop centered around creating an overview of the required portal pages and making more detailed sketches of some portal pages, e.g. the homepage.

mappingrequirements_04_small  mappingrequirements_02_small

The main outcome of the workshop was the creation of new portal overview…

mappingpages_small   homepagesketching_01_small

The current task force activity focuses on defining the purpose of specific portal webpages and creating wireframes. The portal development ties in with different user engagement pilot activities that take place within the project and investigate questions such as: how to provide translations for videos coming from this many international sources? How to engage digital humanities researchers with this unique international resource of audiovisual history? And how can the creative industries benefit from the archives that can be consulted through EUscreen?

The new, re-developed EUscreen portal will offer users different tools to find and perhaps also provide context around the wide variety of texts, sounds, images and videos in the collection. Users could create virtual exhibitions or facilitate the use of videos, photos, audio and images in the classroom. Users, especially translation students and professionals, will be encouraged to add subtitles to the videos and use the content for learning purposes. To this end, subtitling tools would have to be developed and integrated into the portal. An early version of the portal will be released in June 2014.

EUscreenXL responds to EU copyright consultation

EUscreenXL’s objective is to provide online access to audiovisual archives and collections. EUscreen as a foundation represents its members. It voices the opinion of audiovisual archives in complex discussions about copyright regimes and copyright reform by advocating for widespread and equal access to Europe’s audiovisual heritage. A few months ago, we reported on the dialogue Licenses for Europe, in which a dedicated Audiovisual-Heritage Working Group took part. Shortly afterwards, in December 2013, the European Commission announced a Consultation of the review of EU copyright rules.

Adriaen van Ostade. Un homme d'affaires dans son cabinet, 17 c. Louvre INV. 1683.The aim of the consultation was to ‘gather input from all stakeholders’ and was sent out to individuals, institutions, companies and lobby groups alike. The EU identified a broad set of areas in the copyright rules to be discussed, among which territoriality in the Single Market, harmonisation, limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age, and others. The consultation is an important step in a conversation about copyright and an impressive 11.117 contributions were received. One of these was the contribution from EUscreenXL, as the questionnaire contained many topics relating to the barriers and benefits of bringing audiovisual heritage online. In relevant cases EUscreen aligned it’s response with the views as phrased in the Europeana response in this stakeholder dialogue. Some partners of the project, such as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Ina and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, prepared a separate response. All the position papers sent in will soon be available from the European Commission’s website.

Over next years EUscreen will actively contribute  to the debate on copyright reform. In May, we’re coming together with experts at the Europeana headquarters to discuss these topics for audiovisual archives – let us know if you’d like to be part of the discussion. We will further advocate for harmonisation of EU copyright rules so audiovisual archives can improve online and on-site access to their collections  in these rapidly changing environments. We are looking forward to the outcomes of the consultation and to continuing this important dialogue. You can find and download our response here.


Call for Papers on Convergent Television(s)

CfP: VIEW Journal of European Television History and Culture Vol. 3, Issue 6

Convergent Television(s): Political Ideas, Industrial Strategies, Textual Features and Audience Practices.

Since the 1980s, media convergence has become a buzzword for media studies, a crucial site for academic debate and research and especially a major topic of interest for politics, media industries, technics, and audiences. The complex process of media convergence combines technical issues linked to digitization, political ideas of deregulation, corporate strategies of merging, and grassroots’ cultural practices.

TV studies have been discussing the topic of media convergence from many different angles and perspectives: political, institutional, technological, industrial, textual, and cultural issues of convergence have been put to the forefront. The theme of the Fall 2014 issue of VIEW seeks to shine a light on past and on-going processes of convergent television in different national and historical contexts. We welcome contributions that face the topic of convergence from different disciplinary and historical points of view.

Proposals are invited on (but not limited to):

  • Archaeology of TV Convergence: convergence before digitization;
  • Historical cases of successful and/or failed convergence in broadcasting;
  • National or international policies (especially at European level) that are specifically addressed to favour TV and broadcasting convergence;
  • Strategies of convergence (and effects of divergence): how different national broadcasters are confronting the challenges of media convergence and digitization in an innovative (or regressive) way;
  • Historical case studies in terms of convergent business strategies: how TV companies combined with other media or even other than media companies;
  • Players of TV convergence: national or multinational production companies committed to original content production;
  • Technical devices and affordances: how technology has affected the way of producing, distributing and use TV content in a more and more convergent manner;
  • The textual features of Convergent TV: how media convergence affects traditional TV genres, styles and aesthetics
  • Convergent TV formats, transmedia narratives and forms of branded content entertainment;
  • Changing audience habits and practices.

Contributions are encouraged from authors with different expertise and interests in television history, media studies, television studies, media history, political economy of communication, media economics and media industries, audience studies, television professionals and archivists.

Paper proposals (max. 500 words) are due on April 15th. Submissions should be sent to the managing editor of the journal, Dana Mustata ( Articles (2-4,000 words) will be due on July 1st.

For further information or questions about the issue, please contact the co-editors: Gabriele Balbi ( and Massimo Scaglioni (

About VIEW Journal of European Television History and Culture

VIEW Journal logoVIEW, Journal of European Television History and Culture ( is the first peer-reviewed multi-media e-journal in the field of television studies. Offering an international platform for outstanding academic research on television, the journal has an interdisciplinary profile and acts both as a platform for critical reflection on the cultural, social and political role of television in Europe’s past and present as well as a multi-media platform for the circulation and use of digitized audiovisual material.

The journal’s main aim is to function as a showcase for a creative and innovative use of digitized television material in scholarly work, and to inspire a fruitful discussion between audiovisual heritage institutions (especially television archives) and a broader community of television experts and amateurs. In offering a unique technical infrastructure for a multi-media presentation of critical reflections on European television, the journal aims at stimulating innovative narrative forms of online storytelling, making use of the digitized audiovisual collections of television archives around Europe.


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