September 6, 2010

The importance of partnerships

I’ve been mulling over the phrase “cross-cultural fertilisation” - it seems to describe Radio Aquitaine perfectly. I’ve been working hard on the station while contemplating its role in a broader European media framework, and the forces affecting media and diversity issues. Democratic, probing journalism builds and strengthens democracies; through entertaining content you can educate and inform. Diversity is a reality and there is a real need for a cross-national, pan-European approach to media ethics and journalism education. I’m big on inclusive partnership strategies and the new media landscape delivers a veritable paradise of opportunities. I look forward each morning to delving into the wider world utilising the internet, and thinking about how RA can link with it.

September 2, 2010


It's ok, Pascale had the station up and running immediately. Sighs of relief, we're back on the airwaves. New broadcasters on the horizon at last, French ones too, yippee. Slowly making contact with other media networks in France, searching for talent. Loving doing this, it doesn't feel like work.

August 30, 2010

Technology frustrations

RA has been off air for three days now and I'm waiting patiently in Australia until University staff in Perigueux return to work (after their summer break), which will of course be tonight my time. Actually, the wait is excruciating. To spend hours and hours working behind the scenes only to have RA fall over is demoralising. I feel I let down our hard working volunteers who spend their time and energy making programs. I'm confident Pascale will have it working in no time, but until then I am unable to move forward with publicity and advertising. We've had a dream run to date so I guess I should feel pleased it's happened at the very end of the holidays, not the beginning.

August 8, 2010

Long time no hear

The moment I hit Australia I'm sucked back into work and unfortunately RA inevitably goes on the back burner. I've been busy teaching, organising industry placements and thinking of creative ways not only to teach my students but get them to cover events as working journalists. Thanks to Tim, Brad and Dan, my dedicated students making programs for RA. RA continues to move and I'm incredibly lucky to have such supportive program makers who volunteer their time and skills, while I'm stuck in Australia counting the days until my next return. 

I have the studio equipment, purchased in Australia and carried in my suitcase half way round the world; I'm amazed the eight track mixer made it onto the plane. Marie Dominique (left) provided invaluable assistance when I visited in June, but we still have some way to go until RA can broadcast programs live. The station is established, now I need to find a business partner in France to help run it as a full-time media entity.

April 8, 2010

A station - finally

At last I can actually say we're "on air". United Nations Radio is now a media partner and we're streaming with several local programs on rotation in our program schedule. We've had frustrating technical issues - at the moment the BBC and local programs play at the same time. I know the BBC is omnipresent but that's a bit rich...

We've had fun/tension working these things out, and late nights. It's still a bit rough and ready, with nowhere near enough local or french language content but there's a station broadcasting, so any budding program makers out there in Aquitaine, do get in touch.

Huge thanks to the amazing Artie from
AirNews who helped move RA from the other side of the world. I'm on the lookout now for an 8 track mixer, mics and headphones for the suitcase studio and interview booth.

March 24, 2010

We're streaming!

I can't believe it, after all this time, nearly three years in the making, and the station streamed today for the first time. Thank you to all those who helped make this memorable occasion happen. I've been smiling all day. Finally I can start to get local programs happening with the promise of regular air-time. Next task is to buy a small mixing desk, a few mics, head phones, couple of cd players and begin to set up a "studio" in the station office. We're moving forward at last...

March 8, 2010

Off line and counting

While I try and teach my students to be interested in other cultures and faiths, and strive for balance - to question, probe deeply and maintain a skepticism crucial to independent journalism, I sit here frustrated because my umbilical cord has been cut. The computer in Perigueux has been off-line for 12 days. I have no access from Australia. I'm waiting for France to finish a one week holiday period before either Clive or Pascal can address the problem. Something to be aware of once we're streaming - off-air for almost two weeks - unthinkable...

Eric has produced a great bilingual, upbeat program, exactly what I'm after. Once I pay the obligatory yearly music rights fees it will be on the site. Hetty has done an excellent Dutch translation of the home page, (looks like RA will be expanding to trilingual broadcasting sooner than I thought). Nick (who runs a professional voice-over business) has offered to make station IDs. Clive and Hetty have also approached several local traders about advertising. Thank you all. The long drawn out technical issue of getting the computer to auto-program and stream remain.

My book to stay sane this month - "Mission Al Jazeera" by Josh Rushing, now compulsory reading for all my students. According to the former military media adviser based at CentCom, Qatar during the invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration "used men and women in uniform to deliver their message and the media were on board, never questioning the ethics of this approach". Where was the Arab perspective during this time? Certainly the focus of Australian media was always supporting America. The media shaped perception, truth and reality; it's a strong beast and best used to promote understanding and respect between cultures.

February 18, 2010

Books to stay sane

Despite full days working at the Institute I have still had time to work on my beloved RA. Bruce has worked hard on a new website It's a lot brighter and engaging. Liam (SIREN/FM) is still working on automating the scheduling software (thank you). Eric has just sent me his first program (can't wait to listen). Clive is holding up the flag at the University in Perigueux, assisted by Clotilde and Marie-Dominique - merci bien. I've excitedly (well it excites me anyway) been logging into the radio computer in Perigueux from Australia. It works beautifully; isn't technology a wonderful thing...

In an effort to curb my frustration at not being able to return to France I'm devouring books - on the train going to and from work, working at my slow computer, in the bank, anywhere really. The wonderful world you're drawn to provides the escape you can't find in reality, until you return to where you really want to be. My favourites so far - Greg  Mortenson, "Three Cups of Tea" and Derick Bell, "Ethical Ambition". Truly inspirational stories when you find you can't get out of bed in the morning, providing a rudder during difficult times. 

February 2, 2010


I am torn in two - french and english friends come to say au revoir. I take refuge in pastis and serve that Australian classic gateau Pavlova which goes down a treat. One of our neighbours gives us a freshly killed and skinned rabbit, handpicked walnuts and handmade walnut oil as a farewell gift. We are honoured. This is the same neighbour who lent us his piano for the duration of our stay so my son could practice his jazz. Our village voisins have been very kind and welcoming. I feel incredibly lucky and depart with a heavy heart.
Several days later I have dinner with friends in Paris, she's just quit her job in the film industry to write novels full-time. She had a publisher for her first book before it was even finished and is currently negotiating a number of offers from french film directors.

Writers are highly respected in France, they're considered a vital ingredient in the development of a vibrant, informed democracy. Indeed Emile Zola's highly controversial letter "J'Accuse", featured on the front page of the newspaper L'Aurore in 1898, almost sparked civil war. And everyone looked to de Beauvoir and Sartre in the 1900s; interestingly de Beauvoir's observations in her biography "The Prime of Life" about capitalism a hundred years ago are just as pertinent today.

How I wish I could stay and continue the journey. Liam from Uni of Lincoln's SIREN/FM is still working on resolving the station playlist issues, Clive and Fiona are maintaining a presence at the University, and with Clotilde hopefully the three of them can generate student involvement. Local content is coming in, slowly. I'm keen to continue but once again have to put all emotions on hold.

January 28, 2010

Meeting numero deux

Ten of us crowded into the charming Café de La Place in Perigueux on Saturday afternoon and together we discussed where to from here. It was a meeting full of enthusiasm and commitment. RA is on the cusp - how I wish I could stay.
As I sadly pack my bags (and emotions), the project once again goes on hold. This time though I leave RA in a far healthier position - several keen and highly competent volunteers have kindly offered to drive RA forward and maintain a presence at the University while I'm away. One week to go et Je suis très triste. Merci to all who came to the meeting to show your support and offer your time. I look forward to working together.

January 23, 2010

Joy! Andrew and Liam to the rescue...

They came dashing in at the last minute like knights in shining armour. Andrew, the Manager and Liam, the Technician from SIREN/FM, University of Lincoln, keep to their word and although not being here in person, perform the incredible and help sort out technical issues using a remote access computer system. It was a totally exhausting but great week. The satellite receivers are working with BBC World Service and Radio Netherlands coming in loud and clear, I've downloaded many audio files for use in programs, the test daily finance update is recorded and despite initial problems with the sound cards we're getting close to scheduling regular programs that will be streamed online. Radio Aquitaine is finally coming together;  slowly the content is building.

At IUT Bordeaux University IV - Clive (local advertising), Pascal (Head Uni technician) and I work via remote access with SIREN/FM at the Uni of Lincoln.

I've worked hard all week, finishing at the University at six tonight leaving Liam in Lincoln, via remote access, solving a scheduling problem. Incredible. My spirits are lifted, and my energy and commitment to the station restored. Next step - regular local programs. Thank you Andrew and Liam from SIREN/FM, Pascal and Alain from IUT Bordeaux University IV for setting up the system, my french neighbour Cyrille for computer advice and David from World Radio Paris for encouraging me to keep the dream alive.

January 19, 2010


I waited and waited and nothing. I wasted precious time waiting and assuming help was coming but found out too late this isn't going to happen. There is so little time now to try and get the station streaming. I arose this morning at 8am however, determined to get this off the ground alone; failure isn't in my lexicon. I drove to the Uni, picked up the satellite receivers I was told wouldn't work in the northern hemisphere (they were bought in australia where I was assured they would), drove them to a town an hours drive away near Limoges to a satellite expert who said "yes, they should work". However, I forgot to get the remote controls so he couldn't program them on the spot, so another trip tomorrow into the Uni and back to Limoges again, and another wasted day when I could've been getting the station linked to the satellite and streaming. I'm almost at the point of giving this away, I'm not sure I can do this anymore. It's too hard, I live too far away, come here intermittently and still have no local broadcasters. What's the point? Who am I kidding - that I can set up a bilingual internet radio station in a country I don't even live in? I must be mad. I've called a meeting this Saturday afternoon in Perigueux and notified all those who've expressed an interest in the past. I'll see how many attend and what comes out of it.

January 11, 2010

Snowed in

What I like about France: Bio is mainstream and the same price as other products, unlike in Australia where you feel like a hippy freak even asking for organic and it's triple the price. And would you ever see an exhibition titled "L'Afghanistan et Nous" in Australia, as I saw in Paris? I very much doubt it, people are far too busy contemplating the size of their mortgages, outdoor bbq's, trying to impress with their iPhones and deciding who to invite to their next dinner party. The French have a political conscience; the storming of the Bastille intuitively runs in their blood. It could've happened again in May '68. There's a socialist spirit that's nurtured in the programs on mainstream TV - extensive debates on history, religion and politics you wouldn't see in Australia. I watched in wonder the other night, an Imam on TV who was so incensed by the direction of the round table discussion he got up and walked out. A brilliant debate I doubt I'd ever see in Australia.

I'm working away on the station, the Uni of Lincoln guys are scheduled to come next week, only hold up could be the snow. It's beautiful and quite serene, silently leaving its profound impact across the country. When you're snowed in however you get bored. I could sit here for hours browsing the web, researching coming events, places to go, acquaintances, former school pals - but it's a trap. This year I've decided to drop out of all social networking, I've just cancelled Facebook and it feels GOOD. The more you dip into virtual reality the less you have of your own. From now on I will make an effort to meet people face to face - far more interesting.

January 7, 2010

Asterix, Edith, Oscar and Jim

After spectacularly spilling an entire bowl of crepe mixture on the newly tiled but as yet un-sealed and un-grouted kitchen floor, we finally leave for Paris at 7am in a sombre mood. My amazing partner (who did all the tiling the night before) calmly wipes it up while I have a melt down. The drive is entertaining - french radio and The Doors.
We arrive in the most beautiful city in the world (even surpasses my love of London) by 2pm and have been fortunate to find a hotel with both a family room and parking for a reasonable price. Come 10pm we're exhausted but my son and I are determined to celebrate New Year so we brave the cold and find the nearest metro. It's a bit like the Hajj, something you have to do once in your life - stand under the Eiffel Tower and witness that brilliant light display followed by fire works along the Champs de Mars. What a way to see in the new year - with my 15 year old son and thousands of others all in awe -laughing, singing and dancing amongst a plethora of floating languages.

Asterix Park was ok (should've taken the boys when they were younger, Puy de Fou down south is brilliant), however I never thought a cemetery could be so beautiful. New Year's day is the day to spend in Paris, minimal cars so driving and parking is relatively easy. My partner lived in Paris for 4 years and gives us a guided tour, including another pilgrimage to see the graves of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.
Montmartre cemetery is somewhat dour and depressing, almost sinister. Père Lachaise with its wide, paved, tree lined walkways is beautiful and ironically, almost uplifting as you inevitably contemplate what it means to live a rewarding life. My 15 year old is delighted to have seen Jim's grave. We decide to stay an extra day in this city of romance, it truly is a remarkable place, but for now the holiday is over, back to work on Radio Aquitaine before I have to return to Australia in only two weeks.