Old Media Becoming Vestigial at Warp Speed
One of the great thrills of traveling far from home—Nairobi, Cairo, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Amman—was to wake up in the middle of the night and turn on my tiny, portable shortwave radio with a pillow speaker.
Suddenly breaking through the myriad static would be “Lillibullero,” the BBC’s signature tune at the top of the hour, always sounding tinny, as though it were coming over an old 78-rpm phonograph. This would be followed by series of beeps and a voice with a very English accent coming out of the blackness of a hotel room in a foreign land:
Beep ... Beep ... Beep ... Beep ... Beep ... Beeeeeeep!
This is London. The news read by John Smith.
After a day of seeing strange and wonderful sights, eating alien foods and hearing the babble of lingua franca, BBC World Service was more than just informative. It was oh-so-soothing to know that God’s in his heaven, and all’s more or less right with the world.
The announcement last week that the BBC is giving up shortwave service to Europe was sad, but inevitable. As the BBC explained it:
This change was made in line with listener trends in radio. Increasing numbers of people around the world are choosing to listen to radio on a range of other platforms including FM, satellite and online, with fewer listening on shortwave.
Another splendid information source has caved-in to modern technology.
Yet I don’t mind. I travel with a laptop and can get news instantly from all over the world at any time of the day or night.
The Questionable Future of Radio
In the late 1940s, my uncle Eric Hatch had a splendid house overlooking Great Paconic Bay between Long Island’s North and South forks. I remember Eric had an early black-and-white television set. One Saturday we watched a college football game, and later we watched the evening news—no doubt the 15-minute “Camel News Caravan” with John Cameron Swayze, who always had a highly visible ashtray and a Camel cigarette sign on his desk.