Monday, 8 February 2016

Discovering startups 3: Interview with Roberto Macina, founder of Qurami

Roberto Macina, founder of Qurami

Roberto Macina is the founder of the Qurami, an application that helps you not to waste time during the queue. We asked him some questions for an interview.

1) When and where were you born?
I was born in Rome on May 29th, 1984 and I’ve always lived there.

2) Where did you study?
I studied Computer Engineering at “Rome III” University.

3) How did you get the idea of Qurami?
The idea of Qurami first raised while I was studying. It actually happened during a queue at the University administrative office. Looking at my iPhone I just thought: “there must be an app to avoid the line with a smartphone, without losing my time here”. Well, there wasn’t. And I invented it.

4) How much money did you need for launching Qurami? Was it hard to be financed?
I immediately involved other people to help developing my idea from a technical and commercial point of view. Initially I just used my personal money to start the project. Then we joined the Incubator Luiss-Enlabs and, thanks to the growing network of contacts and the first happy clients, we received some financing. To convince the investors we tried to go beyond our good idea: we created a great team of experts in multiple fields, developed a credible business plan and improved the technical quality of the app.

5) How many people work for Qurami and what kind of contract do they have?
Currently there are 14 people  working for the Qurami project. Contracts range from fixed-term to open-end contracts, plus some consulting services.

6) The headquarter of Qurami is near the mani station of Rome (Termini), why did you choose that place? Wasn't it better to be outside the centre?
Our offices are located in the Luiss-Enlabs incubator, inside Termini railway station in Rome. The location is great, there are a lot of other innovative companies and a continuous series of events on entrepreneurship and technology. We really feel to work in the hearth of a vibrant business environment.

7) What is the business model of Qurami? What's the percentage you get from Apple and other companies?
Our business model is very simple. Qurami is free to download for the users while clients pay an annual fee to use the app. The cost varies with the number of premises.

8) If an italian wanted to create a start up about an application, would you suggest him/her to stay in Italy or to move to Silicon Valley (assuming he/she has the chance to move)?
We have created our company in Italy and from here we are expanding to several markets. It’s possible to do good business in our country, but it’s vital to always have an open approach and think globally.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Hateful Eight of Tarantino, Cinecittà and 70mm film

Cinecittà (Rome) is hosting 70 mm film format of The Hateful Eight of Quentin Tarantino.

Cinecittà was opened on 28th april 1937 by Benito Mussolini in south-east of Rome. His idea was to create a city of cinema (Cinecittà means città del cinema, city of cinema), a propaganda machine which could compete with the propaganda of german and american cinema. Today Cinecittà is kind of museum, living with memories of past. In the pic, we can see scenery created for the film Casanova (1976) made by Federico Fellini.

Teatro 5 (theatre number 5) seen today; it was favourite's theatre by Federico Fellini. In these days it is hosting the 70 mm film format of The Hateful Eight, latest film of Quentin Tarantino.

Inside the Teatro 5 of Cinecittà, they built an imitation of the Minnie's Habersdashery, the lodge used in the majority of the film.

Ironic sign: "Please, be careful to the snow on the floor"

People can see the old studios in Cinecittà. Why not trasform a studio in a new Imax Theatre? There is no Imax theatre in all centre of Italy.

The screen for the 70 mm film projection

The bar inside Cinecittà

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Interview with Graziana Grassini

Graziana Grassini (here her official site) is a biologist, chemist and enologist and we had the chance to ask her some questions for an interview. We thank her for the interview.

1) Where were you born?

I was born in Scarlino, a rich medieval town spanning the Follonica shores on the Maremma in Tuscany.

2) What was your first encounter with wine like?

I have been interested in wine since i was young. After the matriculation diploma in technical and industrial chemistry, i decided to open a laboratory that specializes in food and agricultural analysis. The laboratory, which i still run, is a welcome technical outlet that also boosts my work in enology. When I started analyzing and testing wine, there was a trigger that motivated me to learn more about this world. I also became more conscious of the complexity of wine making and as i am drawn to challenges, I took this one up willingly. Consequently I decided to pursue my studies with the aim of increasing my knowledge and expertise of wine. I followed a degustation course and in 1986 I graduated from the Technical Agrarian Institute of Siena as a specialist in viticulture and enology. In 1991 I was conferred the title of Enologist and in 2003 the degree in
Biological Sciences with a specialization in wine studies.

3) Before you became an enologist, which wines were your favourites?

The white wines produced in the north of Italy, specifically from Trentino Alto Adige and of course the famous red wines of my region. I am fascinated by the scents; in fact I would have liked to become a creator of perfume (also known as "nose" of scents). However I have discovered in wine the possibility of expressing my knowledge and expertise by consulting for the estates that produce white wines characterized by intensity and complexity.

4) Among the wines you have helped produce, which is the one you feel most proud and why?

This is not an easy question as is it quite difficult to pinpoint a specific wine, mainly because I feel the wines are like children so I consider them equal in importance and quality. However if I had to choose, I would say the white wines that I helped produce in Tuscany and Puglia, which are tworegions not usually suited for white wines. So this was a gamble which I feel I have succeeded in winning. The first white Tuscan wines I had produced when still quite young were Rondinaia and Convento del Castello del Terriccio. Following these were: the Vermentino Pagliatura by Fattoria di Magliano; the Val di Mare by Pakravan Papi: a very pleasant Riesling by Riparbella of Pisa; the Cenaia Vermentino by Torre a Cenaia; the Fossette by
Alberto Longo: my first white wine of Puglia which was a Falanghina; the Fiano Salento IGP by Agricole Vallone and l'Allegro: a Vermentino by Cantina i Vini di Maremma. Obviously I have to mention the red wines too, but out of all I am particularly fond of Sassicaia 2009.

5) What do you think of the agricultural industry that is biological and biodynamic in nature?

I believe in biological agriculture, and whenever possible I buy and consume organic products. This is because the latter are regulated and carefully controlled, at least from a technical and theoretical point of view. I also support biodynamic agriculture.

6) Nowadays, wine marketing is as important as wine production. what do you think about this? Should enologists concern themselves with communications and PR for wine?

Marketing, communications and PR are essential in the wine industry. It is useless producing very good wines if the customer is not informed about them. Among many things, one has to think about the label, the organoleptic characteristics, the connection with the terroir, and the philosophy behind the production. As to who should be responsible for such marketing, I believe there are different roles to follow. Both the proprietor of an estate and the enologist need to work together to promote the wines, to communicate their enthusiasm and passion for the wines they produce. Communication is a science and as such needs to be undertaken with competence and attention, so the enologist needs to work in collaboration with such communication experts.

7) How did your contract with Tenuta San Guido come about and what has been your contribution to the wines of the estate?

I am not an employee of Tenuta San Guido, but a consulting enologist. In October 2009, Giacomo Tachis was retiring so I was contacted by the Marquis Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta and the director Carlo Paoli so I would evaluate the wines at the end of the fermentation process. This brief engagement turned out to be successful, and one that gave me great satisfaction as well as responsibility; consequently, this marked the
beginning of our collaboration, I offer my expertise on all that involves wine production and then the Marquis makes the final decisions.

8) Due to the fact that you are the enologist of more than one estate, on average how many times in a year do you visit and consult with all of the estates you collaborate with?

The number of visits depends on the estate, the type of agreement, and my  role. At least I visit the estates once a month; however, this will vary  from one estate to another, so it could be anything from once a week to once  a month. I am always on call and available to answer to the needs of the  estates, as I believe that in order to obtain excellent results, the estates  have to be followed rigorously, and one has to work hard to ensure that a  wine produced is a great one ... it is somehow like raising children.

9) According to you, which is the area or region in Italy that holds promise and that could surprise us in the future?

It is difficult to guess which area might surprise us in terms of wine.  Certainly our country offers land and vineyards that are rich, and that have already reached their full potential. Based on a personal but scientific
intuition, I believe that from now onwards, the major promises and surprises will be in the hands of those who invest in research and communication.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Interview with Mike Adams 2

(part 1 is here)

4) How long time did you need to wite the book about "Lee de Forest" ? Why were you specially interested about him?
As a professor I also like research and writing and I am good at it. I was introduced in 1988 to the de Forest papers held by the San Jose History Center, but it wasn't until 2008 that I started going to the archive and scanning the documents and organizing a possible de Forest story. My book, Lee de Forest, King of Radio, Television, and Film, was published in 2012 by Springer Science. Because I was able to retire and go to half time at the university I started to develop an outline for the book, a table of contents, etc, and I looked for all the known de Forest research sources to tell a complete story. It took about a year to research and write, another year for editing, sending out to experts for read/review, and as I look back on my files, I was contacted by the Springer-Verlag Physics Editor Chris Coughlin in November, 2009, about the possibility of proposing a book, I submitted the proposal and received the contract by March 2010, began the massive organization process of sorting through  thousands of documents, finished the research and much of the draft by the end of 2010, editing, visuals, reviews, re-write, production in 2011, release in December 2011.

I was interested in de Forest for several reasons: First, he was a fellow scholar, but he was a PhD from Yale, and in 1899 there were few who even attended college. So he was a real scholar. Second, in the early 20th Century he looked at the transmission of morse code dots and dashes, then called wireless, and saw the possibility of sending audio - the voice and music - using his modification of the technology. You can say that he was one of the primary inventors of radio! He not only received patents for the technology but he started several early radio stations, first sending opera music in New York in 1907 as reported in the Times. He used his inventions of his vacuum tube he originally developed as a receiver of radio audio, as an amplifier of sound, and as an oscillator/transmitter of radio to create in 1918 a system for writing sound on film for synchronized motion pictures. For this he received an Oscar. So my career - Radio-TV-Film - parallels the work of de Forest, although as they say at the awards ceremonies, "I couldn't have done it without him!"

5) Digital radio standards (DAB, DRM, HD Radio) struggles to success in most countries, what do you think about it?

DRM appears to be one more solution to allow more signals, more programming on limited bandwidth. Two problems: One, is that there are too many standards and that always causes problems with world wide adoption, and the other is that there is not enough viable, sales-worthy content for all the channels that can be created. Also, I believe that radio will end up streaming on the Internet and that is a world-wide standard. The digital radio formats that require specialized receivers are only interim technology. This is why HD failed in America.

So rather than talk about radio stations "fighting the battle" to survive, let's talk about what radio, TV film really is: it is entertainment and information designed to attract an audience, employ thousands of technical and creative people (my former students) and it is either advertiser or government-supported. Whether it is delivered by an FM transmitter to a bedside radio or by WiFi to a phone, it is really just content and the listeners/viewers will not care where it comes from. We can't say it is "radio" or "TV", in the traditional sense of a big transmitter on a high hill broadcasting to homes, or "film" as just that on a screen in a darkened room in a shopping mall. There is plenty of competition in media and while the Internet in theory "democratizes" content by allowing anyone to broadcast to anyone who will watch or listen, (or read like this blog) it still requires the best writers, producers, directors, talent, etc., to get an audience, and that usually means a big studio, Warner Bros, Comcast. Radio stations have tried to compete with the Internet by adding HD, but the radio manufacturers did not follow through with decent receivers, and the traditional broadcasters have not really programmed these extra channels so anyone cares. There are thousands of choices out there where there used to be a few to a few dozen stations, radio and TV.
So the past is AM and FM and the TV station. The future platform that everyone wants in media is twofold: In 2013 the owners and programmers want to own two things of yours. They want to send their content to your smart phone/tablet and your car dashboard. This is how the future looks to the those who program Radio, TV, and Film.  This is why we owe something to de Forest and why my publisher titled the book "king of radio, TV, and film." 

I invite readers to visit the de Forest Web: and the "Lee de Forest, King of radio, TV, Film"  Facebook page. On that I have a number of early de Forest sound films.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Interview with Mike Adams 1

Mike Adams wrote a book about Lee De Forest and i interviewed him about it. This is first part of the interview.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born in the small town of Newark,Ohio, now a suburb of Columbus. The year was 1943.

2) What is your first memory of radio?

So my first memory of radio was during the last 10 years of its life as a so-called "full service" media. Rather than the formats of music, news or talk as it is today, beginning in the 1930s through the late 1950s, most radio stations followed this schedule:

(1) Morning show with entertainment and news and guests (like the Today show on TV) 
(2) Soap operas, shows for women (it was assumed that the man of the house was working and the wife who stayed at home as a home maker would want to be entertained and informed by issues of family, fashion, food, child-rearing, etc.)
(3) Kid shows in the mid-afternoon to entertain the kids, shows like the Lone Ranger and Superman.
(4) News at 5 or 6 for dad when he came home from work
(5) family shows, like TV today, game and quiz shows, mysteries, drama, comedy, cowboy, music, only without the pictures.

By 1960 all of these shows had moved from radio to television and radio became a delivery vehicle for popular music.

So I was a typical radio listener and I listened daily, I had my favorite shows. This experience led me to want to understand how the radio worked from a technical point of view so I did tear apart many old sets to see the parts, and I went to the library often and checked out books on how radio worked. I was also reading books on the radio industry, what went on at a radio station, careers in radio, thinking about my future beyond that of a kid.

3) How many years did you work in radio industry and what are the best memories of that time?

So when I graduated from High School in 1960 I attended Ohio University as a Radio-TV-Film major and immediately I began working for the college station, WOUB-AM. (There was a small FM version but in 1960 AM was the dominant technology and most AM stations used their FM transmitters to carry the programming of the AM channel. In 1960 radio we had one foot in the past and because of rock and roll music's popularity we saw a different future for radio.) At WOUB I was a news reporter and a disc jockey, the latter was my preference and would be my future. I was so interested in radio that I neglected to attend classes so I flunked out. By then I was working at the local Athens, Ohio commercial radio station, WATH.

After a few years in Athens, I applied for and received a job at the big Columbus, Ohio top-40 station, "The New WCOL." This was an important era (the 1960s) for AM top-40 radio, and I worked there for 10 years (1963-1973) as a DJ, program director, production director. It was the most exciting time to be in radio, the DJs were important, we were connected to the listeners, the music industry, and in a way that has not happened since. Then the local top-40 station had over 50% of the audience, unheard of today, and then there was no competition from Internet, satellite, even FM was carrying the same audio as their AM main stations. All of this popularity of radio was helped by the Beatles and other British groups, and in America it was Motown. It was the music.

But working a radio station - even a popular one, even when you believed you were a big "star," was getting to be routine, boring, not so real. I was in my mid 20s and I did not think I was good enough to be a major radio star and I did not really care for an industry based on selling things to people that they mostly didn't need. Plus by the late 1960s there was a whole world of music out there that didn't fit the 3 minute top-40 format.

Meanwhile I had unfinished business - College. When I moved to Columbus for WCOL, I lived right on North High St, the Ohio State University neighborhood. I applied and began to attend part time and by 1973 I had received a BA in Speech and an MA in film. In 1974 I left radio behind and moved to LA, living first in Hollywood then Venice, and besides working for a documentary film company I began to teach part time at a college. I liked it, I eventually (1988) received a tenure track job at San Jose State University. It was here where I am now the Associated Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts that I came full circle. I was hired to teach radio, TV and Film, but I was also hired to be the faculty advisor to KSJS-FM, and I am still advisor today, 25 years later. In the back of my mind I always remembered how satisfying the college radio experience was, so I still have it. With commercial radio experience behind me, I returned to college radio, but in charge. 

To be continued

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Interview with Keith Somerville

Keith Somerville, 2010

Keith Somerville is an expert of media in Africa and he accepted this interview.

1) When and where were you born? Where did you study?
 I was born in Chiswick, London, in January 1957; I studied at St Clement Danes Grammar School, the University of Southampton and then carried out research in International Politics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Later, I passed a postgraduate teaching certificate at Brunel University.
2) What is your first memory of a radio?
My first clear memory is the start of BBC Radio One when I was ten.  Pop music all day long. I now cannot work without music on in the background.

Keith Somerville in Zambia interviewing Kaunda on 1991

3) How many years did you work for BBC?
28 years - I joined the BBC in March 1980 and worked for 8 years monitoring foreign radio stations (from the UK and then from southern Africa) and then moved to the BBC World Service as a radio producer and then moved on to producing and presenting documentaries and then editing programmes.  I also had spells on the Africa desk at BBC online news and finally worked for the BBC College of Journalism. I now teach journalism and humanitarian communications at the University of Kent and run my own website on Africa: Africa - News and Analysis.

4) How did you get the idea of writing your book about radio propaganda? and how long time did you need to write it?
It developed over a long time.  I was running a live programme on air at the BBC when news came though that the President of Rwanda had been killed on 6 April 1994 and then followed the course of the genocide and use of radio. This added to my awareness from monitoring radio of its use for propaganda.  When I started in academia it was soon after the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008 and it, too, involved the use of radio to spread hatred. At that stage I started investigating hate radio in Kenya.  I started writing the book and doing archive research of Nazi radio and Serb/Croat radio in early 90s.  The writing started in late 2010 and I finished writing the book in January 2012. I am now writing a history of Africa since 1974.

5) What is your opinion about digital radio?
It adds to the mix of delivery forms available but stations are ditching short-wave too soon - especially the BBC World Service in its broadcasting to Africa.
6) Do you think that Al-Jazeera is "stealing" audience from BBC World Service in Africa (or in the world, generally)?
It is competing, I wouldn't say stealing. It has very good coverage of West and North Africa and adds to the rich mix of broadcasting and online news and comment that is available.  It has an appeal in parts of Africa because it is not a Western media group and comes from a different viewpoint, though a very valid one.
7) Do you think that, in a world full of information (blogs, tweets, etc..) mainstream media like BBC are still useful?
I would say even more important as much new and social media like Twitter are unverified and in many ways unverifiable. You still need to know where key news is coming from and that is has been checked. It puts a greater onus on broadcasters like to the BBC to be right rather than just first.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Interview with Martin Upton about financial crisis

Martin Upton

Martin Upton has a background in financial markets and risk management.

1) Where did you study and where are you teaching now?

I studied at the University of East Anglia and the University of Leeds. Now I am Head of the Centre for Accounting and Finance at the Open University Business School.

2) On summer 1992 Bank of England and Bank of Italy were "fighting" against traders not to devalue british Pounds and italia Lira; since summer 2011 ECB is "fighting" against traders in order to keep low interest rates for government bonds; do you find any similarities between the 2 situations?

The similarity is that in both cases traders and investors took the view (in 1992/3) that the GB Pound and the Italian Lira were over-valued (at the ranges set for these currencies against the DM in the ERM) and that in 2011/12 traders and investors took the view that the bonds issued by the governments of Spain, Italy and Greece were over-valued (i.e. their yields were too low - and, by inference, their bond prices too high - given the background economic fundamentals of those countries). In both circumstances the view was taken by traders/investors that it was financially rational to sell Pounds & Lira in 1992 and to sell Spanish, Italian and Greek government bonds in 2011/12 since the market view was that in each case these assets were over-valued.

3) At the end of summer, on 16 th september 1992, british government decided to withdraw the british Pound from ERM (followed by italian government doing the same with italia Lira); do you think that the lesson learned is that it's useless (and a waste of money) to "fight" against traders on specific circumstances?

(Note that membership in ERM was not withdrawn but only "suspended"). I think both episodes – particularly the ERM debacle - show that trying to maintain the price of a currency or of bonds (or indeed other assets) above the levels perceived by the market as being their ‘correct market price’ is ultimately doomed to failure. The history of the UK provides plenty of examples of how the government and the Bank of England tried to defend the value of the Pound against economic logic only, in the end, to have to give way to market forces. The ERM debacle was only one such episode – see also the periods up to the devaluation of the Pound in 1949 and 1967.

4) In Europe there's a lot of talking about a anti-high yield mechanism (the ECB will buy government bonds when they reach very high yield), do you think it could solve the problems? I personally think it will be even worse: the traders could bet even more easily if they are 100% sure that the ECB will buy government bonds when they lose value.

Well such a mechanism would put a ‘floor’ on the bond prices (or ‘cap’ on the bond yields) so it would to a degree discourage those trying to make money by short-selling. Investors will also draw some comfort if they know of the maximum downside to their investments in such bonds.

5) It's been more than 2 years of talking of "saving the Euro", do u think that one currency can work with one central bank, 17 different ministries of finance and 17 different public debts?

My view has always been that you can’t have a stable single currency zone if you don’t have a single fiscal zone. The problems faced by the Euro zone show that you can’t have a single interest rate environment in a zone where member counties go ‘solo’ on their fiscal policies. Hence the rescue of the Euro has seen a move towards a greater centralization of fiscal policy decision making. Additionally the different nature of the member counties’ economies (particularly the differential importance of the housing market to them) weigh against the workability of a single currency.

6) The ECB decided to help some governments (like italian and spanish one) buying government bonds in the secondary market. Understarding that help is help, why not buying straight in the primary market ? Buying in the primary is giving money straight to the state, while buying in the secondary is giving money to the traders! So, ECB wants to "fight" traders (who bet against Italy and Spain) ... buying their devalued bonds! Don't you think that the ECB could avoid the hypocrisy and buy bonds straight from the primary market?

I suspect that the ECB only wants to act as the ‘buyer of the last resort’. If it bought primary issues the expectation in the markets would be for the ECB to be the ‘buyer of the first resort’ – and the size of the investments made by the ECB would potentially balloon. Buying in the secondary market maintains a defence against falling bond prices and helps underpin confidence in the primary market.

7) If there is a break up of the monetary union, what do you think it will happen? In the transition time, do you think people will try to use foreign currency (if there is enough of it for an area of 330 million of people) ?

Hard to speculate on this one. I suspect that the support of Germany and pressure from the US will continue to ensure that the Euro remains patched up. The worry is though that the crippling economic consequences of the budgetary restraint being applied to GreeceSpain and Italy – and Portugal and Ireland too – will create growing political and social strains. If a country does leave the euro zone its new currency (or restored legacy currency) would trade at levels implying a massive devaluation against other currencies. Additionally further support would be needed for the banking system – and not just within the country leaving the zone.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Interview with Paolo Tiefenthaler about Casale del Giglio

Paolo Tiefenthaler, oenologist of Casale del Giglio

Paolo Tiefenthaler is the oenologist of Casale del Giglio, he agreed to be interviewed.
1) When and where were you born?

I was born in Trento, on 9th february 1967.

2) How old were you when you started being interested about wine?

I started to be interested when i was very young, let's say primary school-middle school, cause i grew up in a beautiful area full of grapes, Valle di Cembra.

3) What did u study to become an oenologist?

I studied in istituto agrario di San Michele all'Adige, 6 years of oenology and i studied in Germany.

4) When and how did you start working for Casale del Giglio?

I began to work for Casale del Giglio on august 1988 after leaving a famous tuscan winery (i had a 10 month scolarship there).

5) Since 1985, what are the milestones for Casale del Giglio?

The milestones are: 1985 the beginning of the experimentation; 1989 large-scale planting of grape varieties; 1994 the first bottle of Mater Matuta [the best bottle of Casale del Giglio, a blend of 85% syrah and 15% of petit verdot].

6) How did you choose the grape varieties?

I come from a place with a strong tradition of wine and the first thing i decided was not to plant grape varieties only because they were famous in other areas; i tried to plant the grape varities that were suitable for this area [area of Casale del Giglio, in Lazio]

7) Which is the best selling bottle of Casale del Giglio?

The best selling bottle is Shiraz (in the pic above).

8) Will you ever choose to make a wine with native grape varities? (Casale del Giglio chose international varities)

If you talk about native grape varities to me (i'm from Valle di Cembra), i do agree; but if you talk about native grape varities related to Pontine Marshes, it's almost impossible to talk about it (before the 1930's there were only marshes there).

9) How important is marketing in wine?

In the world of the wine, marketing is importnat, but it must not be more important than the nature itself. The making of the wine and the marketing must help each other.

10) How many bottles does Casale del Giglio make, per year?

Casale del Giglio has 170 hectares, we make 90 quintals of wine per hectare; we make 1,200,000 bottles per year.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Interview with Philip Seib

Philip Seib is professor of journalism and public diplomacy and professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. He is authot of many books, including The Al Jazeera Effect: how the new global media are reshaping world politics (2008); on next february we will have in bookshops his new book called Al Jazeera English: Global news in a changing world.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born on 1949. Arlington, Virginia, USA.

2) When did you become interested about journalism and public diplomacy?

Long-time interest in how journalism affected policy and politics. Focused on public diplomacy beginning in 2007, when I came to the University of Southern California, which is home of the Center on Public Diplomacy.

3) Al Jazeera was born on 1996, how long time did you need to understand the importance of Al Jazeera for the muslim world?

After the 2000 intifada and the 2001 attacks on the United States, it became clear how important Al Jazeera was to Arab audiences.

4) Al Jazeera english was born on 2006, (beside experts like you) do you think it has been having a real impact towards english speaking audiences?

Through its coverage of events in the Arab world during 2011, Al Jazeera English proved that it is an important journalistic source for English-speaking audiences around the world.

5) On february your new book about Al Jazeera english will be out: what's the main idea behind that book? What's the difference between this new book and the book you wrote on 2008 (the Al Jazeera effect) about Al Jazeera?

The Al Jazeera Effect was about the general importance of satellite television and online news in changing the politics of the Middle East and the rest of the world. Al Jazeera English is more tightly focused on this one channel, and how it brings news of the Global South to the Global North.

6) I watched Al Jazeera english during the egyptian uprising (25th january-11th february 2011) and i thought that the non-stop live coverage of Tahrir Square and the reports were all pro-uprising and were encouraging the "revolution". Do you think that encouraging (even against a dictatorship) an uprising with biased reports is fair journalism?

Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English feature what might be called "activist journalism". Some purists would disapprove, but others would commend AJ/AJE's role in serving a broad public.

7) How important was Al Jazeera in encouraging the Arab spring?

Extremely. For instance, AlJazeera brought news of events in Tunisia to Egyptians in ways that Egypt's government-run media would never have allowed.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Interview with Daniel Walsh

Daniel C. Walsh is an assistant professor at Appalachian State University in the Department of Communication. He wrote the book "An air war with Cuba: The United States radio campaign against Castro" (publisher Mcfarland) and he accepted to be interviewed.

1) Where and when were you born?

I was born in Greenville, North Carolina, USA December 2, 1969.

2) What is your first memory of listening to a radio?

I guess my first memory of listening to a radio is riding around in my mother's station wagon. I also remember as a child playing radio station where I would pretend to be a radio announcer and introduce records on a turntable. When I got older I put a walkie talkie up to the stereo speaker and then would go to another room with the other one to make it seem like a real radio.

3) When did u become interested about US propaganda towards Cuba?

I became interested in U.S. propaganda for Cuba when I was in graduate school at Marshall University. I needed a research topic for one of my classes and thought it would be interesting to examine Radio Marti. I thought it was interesting that the United States spent a lot of money on a Radio Free Europe type station for Cuba yet Fidel Castro was still in power. I created a proposal for evaluating the effectiveness of Radio Marti but never actually did the study. A few years later, the Elian Gonzalez custody battle forced people to think about relations with Cuba again. I thought the topic should be studied and wished I could have actually completed the study I proposed. When I was getting my Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina a few years after that, I began thinking about picking up where I left off. The United States and Cuba were still adversaries and Radio Marti was still on the air so I thought it was a legitimate topic.

4) In Cuba there is a dictatorship, how difficult is it to get fair reports about audience studies in Cuba?

Research of Cuban audiences is extremely difficult. One of the primary ways in which the United States obtains information about radio listeners in Cuba is by interviewing immigrants to the United States. The validity of these results is questionable. A Cuban who decides to leave the island and come to the United States may not be a typical Cuban. That person has demonstrated positive feelings toward the United States. One would assume they might be more likely to have positive feelings about Radio Marti as well.

There is a television version of Radio Marti called TV Marti. Practically no one has seen it because the Cuban government has jammed the signal. Radio Marti gets through because a radio signal is more difficult to jam. Officials at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana have conducted their own research in Cuba regarding TV Marti and found that most people on the island cannot see it.

A few years ago the U.S. did a telephone survey of people in Cuba and asked them if they listened to Radio Marti. Most people said they did not. A lot of these people thought that the phone calls were from Cuban officials testing their loyalty to the revolution. A people of the interviewees asked that someone from the government stop by to repair some things. It was obvious that they thought the interviewer was a Cuban official.

5) You are building an archive of international broadcasts, which are the main radio stations in your archive?

The archive of international radio broadcasts was supposed to include Voice of America, Radio Marti, the BBC, Radio Vatican, and as many other radio operations as possible. When I tried to analyze Radio Marti for my dissertation I found that I could not obtain recordings of the station. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act makes it illegal for the federal government to release recordings of radio broadcasts of Radio Marti, VOA, Radio Free Europe or other operations to U.S. citizens. This stipulation was included in the 1948 to prevent the federal government from being in a position to disseminate propaganda to the domestic population the way the Nazis did prior to WWII. The restriction was still in place more than 40 years later.

The law makes no sense in that it only prohibits U.S. officials from releasing recordings or transcripts of programs to U.S. citizens. It does not prevent a U.S. citizen from having these materials. U.S. officials are allowed to disseminate these materials to people outside the United States. The broadcasts encourage listeners to request the materials. What this means is that a U.S. citizen who wanted a recording of a Radio Marti broadcast could have someone in Canada request the information and then mail it back to the person in the U.S. This is legal. That's what I did. to get recordings of Radio Marti. The interesting thing about it was I got the idea from people at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the people that originally originally told me that they couldn't release the materials.

This made no sense to me. I also realized that it made it extremely difficult to research these stations. There is almost no transparency and no way for the public to hold the stations accountable. I thought it was ironic that we fund the broadcasts but cannot listen to them. I thought it would be easier for people like me who wanted to analyze international radio broadcasts if there was an archive of recordings. Vanderbilt University has an archive of television news programs dating to 1968. I was trying to do the same thing for international radio.

The archive is currently on hold. In December of 2010, I contacted some amateur radio groups about recording programs and contributing to the archive. One person said my proposal was a scam and accused me of trying to manipulate people into bypassing copyright restrictions. Most international broadcasts are in the public domain. This person also told me that he or she would be turning my name over to the FBI, CIA, FTC and other authorities. I don't think what I am trying to do is illegal. I contacted officials in Washington who didn't really give me a definitive answer. They said that some of the material is copyrighted because it comes from people contracted to produce content. They didn't say much more than that. I have suspended the operation for now (no recordings were ever collected). I am hoping that some people will express interest and offer to help. No one has so far.

6) Do you think that propaganda radio stations are still useful ?

I do not believe that radio broadcasts are effective propaganda tools in that they cannot "force" a population to overthrow a government. There are examples of how radio broadcasting can be used to create a false sense of reality but that is only if the person is willing to believe. Radio propaganda cannot cause a person to do or believe something the person does not want to do or believe. I think Cuba is the perfect illustration of this. The United States has bombarded the island with propaganda for more than 50 years and the people there have not taken up arms against their government. They don't want to.

I believe that there is still a need for informational (not propaganda) international radio broadcasting. In the early years of Radio Marti, the station covered stories on AIDS and the Chernobyl disaster. Neither had not been covered by Cuban media. The Internet and social media have diminished the role of radio broadcasting in developed parts of the world but not in some of the underdeveloped areas, which tend to need the information more than anyone. Cuba has Internet access but it is limited and often monitored by the government. I think radio also overcomes literacy barriers, which is still a problem for many regions. Until the Internet can be perfected and eliminate the reading requirement, there will be a need for international radio.
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