29 June 2005

Commercial Radio

Ask anybody what they think is the problem with commercial radio and eight times out of then the answer is either Playlist or the same songs are played too often. Most of the times these are the same thing but what everybody tend to forget is that playlist as such doesn’t mean that station plays very few songs with tight rotation. It has just become the scapegoat for the boring radio that we mostly hear.

I reckon the real trouble with commercial radio is that it never understands the audience and it never tries to increase the public activity of its audience. That obviously the stations have never promised to do. But why after all the years stations don’t understand the audience? Audience seem to be taken for granted and always either under or overestimated. Most of radio listening, particularly on commercial sector is unconscious so you cannot expect people to take notes if you speak on the radio. But you shouldn’t talk to them as if they were absolute idiots. If they are listening they will understand but if you underestimate them they won’t be listening anymore.

Radio in Europe seem to be also too much dominated by the American consultants and theories. I would argue that audience is not similar in Europe than in America. Europeans are very critical towards everything and they will understand if something is copied directly from somewhere else.

My wish is that one day I’ll hear a commercial station in Europe that wants to have intelligent people as their target audience. If that doesn’t happen I might have to start a station myself.

17 June 2005

European Union

Few observations I have made recently. European Union is struggling with the new constitution. It was put on hold as French and Dutch voted against it in their referendums. What troubles me with the whole scenario is not whether we will get a new constitution or not but the fact how much we know about the whole document. I guess I should put that how little we know about the constitution. I certainly do not know anything at all. I am not proud of it but it is the fact. And I spend lot of time watching, reading and listening the news every day. I also have to admit that I was not in France or Netherlands during the campaigns so I cannot say how well informed the voters were but I would still say that not enough. And I do not blame them as I think this matter should have been decided amongst MEP’s and national governments. We have already voted for them so why should we vote how they should decide.

I have also long been troubled by the level EU is handled amongst some people and media. No facts, just sentimental arguments. One would think we are already over that one. I have lived almost two years in UK and so far I have not heard a single anti EU argument based on cold facts. I have heard dozens based on emotions and sentimental values about losing the culture, currency etc. What is next? ... losing the language. I doubt that.

13 June 2005

On Uncle Bob and democracy in general.

A quick review on Zimbabwean critisised democracy.

”We have no change, You’re the first customer today”. I find it hard to believe when I am trying to pay my visa at the Limpopo river as I’m entering Zimbabwe. I put the $50 note away and find the even money for $30. Officer puts that in his own pocket without even trying to hide that it’s his family, not the government who gets my bucks. I am not too bothered and just wish he uses it for something good. He slams the stamp in my passport without saying anything and I leave. It is around midnight on early October 2002 and land reform is the biggest news in the region.

Officer on the border was the first Zimbabwean I met on that trip and he was also the last unfriendly person whom I met. Beautiful people live in a beautiful country but the economical problems are great. I had travelled in Zimbabwe few months earlier and then bank rate for us dollar and Euro, which at the time were nearly the same, was 55 Zim$ for one Euro or USD, but the street, the black-market, value was 500 Zim for one Euro. Almost ten times more which didn’t encourage anyone to pay with credit card or use the ATM:s. Poor where the tourist at the Victoria Falls who only had cards and no cash. This time, few months later I got 750 Zim with one of our coins. few months later, my friends told me, the street rate was 2000 Zim!

People were desperate to get some hard currencies which made life very cheap for a traveller, but the state of the nation troubled even the safari crowds who are known for their arrogance and colonial attitudes in Africa. Most of the shops had run out of bread and the price of the maize meal, which is the most important part of the typical local diet, had rocketed sky high. Petrol stations had very little petrol and the queues were long as Siberian winter. Western media didn’t help either. Their campaign against Mugabe’s land reform meant that most tourist were afraid to come. Mugabe didn’t pay the price for that but the local people, mostly supporters of MDC, the opposition party, who depended on tourism.

I arrived in Bulawayo on that same border crossing night. Our bus broke down couple of times on the way from Johannesburg and it was already 2 am when we finally reached the destination. I didn’t have a place to stay as we were supposed to arrive late afternoon and I had planned to fix one when I get there. I was a bit lost but then our bus driver, Jerry, asked me if I needed a place to stay and when I did, he invited me into his place if I paid the taxi to get there. That was a fair offer from a total stranger and I thanked him and agreed. Taxi fare was very low, something that we pay for bubble gum and we reached his place late at night. The whole family woke up to greet me and we spent some time talking and watching local music channel. Jerry opposed the government but he said there’s very little people can do. Everyone tries to survive but government and ”Uncle Bob” Mugabe makes it difficult. Jerry’s wife was studying in UK at that time so she could support her family and he worked for South African bus company so he also had stable earnings. They were a lucky family. Next morning as I had finished with bath and breakfast that were prepared for me I headed into Bulawayo town centre. Bulawayo is not too big, around 200 000 people but it is the second city in the country and therefore very important centre. Jerry helped me to get the best rates with currency exchange and I thanked him and went on my own ways.

Zimbabwe is one of those countries that not many of its people can afford to travel the world so their way of seeing the world is to talk to the travellers and ask thousand questions. Wherever I went I ended up having a chat about something and never, not even once, I met a person who supported the government. After some time I continued to Harare, the capital and from there to the third town, Mutare, which was already much smaller place next to Mozambiquan border and only the soldiers guarding the President’s palace, I assume, supported him.

All this made me think that MDC should not have trouble taking the power and that if elections ended up otherwise they must have been rigged. So I was very surprised to learn that SADC (Southern African Development Committee), congratulated Zimbabwean people for democratic elections earlier this year as ZANU PF continued in power. South Africa and especially the President Mbeki has received lot of criticism for not acting over the northern neighbour so for west, it was easy to ignore this report and criticise the election even if they couldn’t get their own people to look over them. I was cynical as well. I am still, although probably for the different reasons than Blair and Brown. But lately I have been making some calculations and concluded that if Zimbabwe has population of 13 million and only few million of them live in the three largest cities that leaves massive majority living on the countryside. So if Mugabe and ZANU PF have their supporters there these figure might actually add up. Has these people been bribed with food or money I cannot say so I am not the judge for that.

The whole case of Mugabe is complicated. He was a man for the job in the late seventies and finally 1980 when Zimbabwe became independent and Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime ceased to exist. But the problem is that hardly ever it is the same people who fight for the independence and who can actually run the country during more stable times. And most importantly, this is not a bad thing. Sometimes it is good to have some change in the leadership. Mugabe is an old man and he’s afraid that he will be sued and imprisoned if he steps down from his presidential podium. The majority might have voted for him but there is plenty of opposition and lack of everything from food to petrol. Now, 2005, he has cleaned up poorer suburbs near Harare and media speculated that it was revenge for the urban people for supporting MDC. Obviously there is no evidence of that but it wouldn’t surprise me.

All this leads me to one fundamental question of the political process. Democracy. What does it mean? If implemented democracy means that who has most support rules then Zimbabwe might have had democratic elections. Democracy, as far as I know, does not stand for being a friend President Bush, Condoleeza Rice or Tony Blair. In the world that we live in these just seem to be the judges of who’s right and who is wrong, who can have nuclear weapons and who can’t and funnily enough they themselves can and the nations who are not like them can’t. That in my books is not democracy. As far as I am concerned the main problem with democracy is that everyone have, or at least in theory should have their say but not everyone are equipped with enough information to make the decision. Democracy is not just a right, it is also a duty and that is something we tend to forget. Many countries have fought for their right to vote and so many westeners can’t care enough to appreciate the democracy and vote. But that is how it works. So if majority in any given country would vote for a new Hitler-kind-of-figure as their leader it would be crime against democracy to deny his right to lead the country. It is not the problem with who wins but with the core of whole political theory. I am not saying that democracy doesn’t work. It is not perfect in every situation but it is the best available option. We just need to recognise the importance to find out about the candidate, party or matter that we are voting for.

I also think that the countries that are first to criticise others should have clean record themselves. Do they have democratic media or is all the decision making done on corporate level or to please the advertisers. Is the voting disturbed by technical problems and do the voters have to queue for several hours in order to vote… You know the country that I am talking about so I will not make it more obvious.

Zimbabwe will have to face the inevitable. Mugabe is over 80 years now and future will bring him to the end of his road sooner or later even without the people’s help. Who will take over and what happens are new questions but hopefully we’ll find it out through democratic process and not violence.

8 June 2005


I will start posting here soon when I get some of my articles ready. Thanks for visting and. While waiting you can check the infamous Enemy Board for further wisdom www.publicenemy.com/pb