Like so many blind and visually impaired people of my acquaintance and of a certain age group, I've had a fascination with radio since I was very young. One day when I was 5 or 6, my mother won some sort of contest among all the employees at the department store where she worked. The prize was a Philco AM clock radio, vintage 1955. Miracle of miracles, she gave it to me and from then on I was hooked!
In those days when the AM band wasn't nearly as crowded as it is today, living in Los Angeles I easily picked up San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. With a bit more effort, I heard Des Moines, Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and even Pittsburgh and Boston occasionally with that wonderful Philco. That's how I got involved in what we refer to as the hobby of DX-ing.
Over the past 50-plus years, I have owned a variety of radios including, beginning around 1975, an old Collins AM/shortwave receiver dating back to the mid-'30s. (For those of you who know about such things, no, it's not for sale.) Thanks to that Collins, I developed an interest in international shortwave stations such as the BBC (Great Britain), Deutsche Velle (Germany), Radio Australia and scores of others airing news and cultural programming in English. Sadly, a significant number of these stations have departed the shortwave bands for satellite and/or the Internet, although a few carry on gamely like determined but out-gunned warriors.
In late 2002, I was invited to conduct disability-awareness training in South Africa. Donna and I spent 15 days in that intriguing country, 10 days in Durban and the remaining five in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Naturally, I brought along a radio, two actually. It was my first real exposure to local radio outside of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We found an FM station in Johannesburg, Jacaranda Radio, which we listened to constantly while there. I still have six 90-minute cassettes of radio stations from that trip; guess it's time to dig them out and listen to them one more time. It was when we returned and wanted to hear some of our South African favorites that we began tuning in to radio on the Internet.
There are literally thousands of stations streaming (the web equivalent of broadcasting), including our own ACB Radio. It went on the air, so to speak, with ACB Radio Mainstream in 1999. There are now five separate streams being offered under the ACB Radio banner: Mainstream, providing talk radio programming on issues specific to blindness; Interactive, giving blind disc jockeys the opportunity to air their own music programs; World, offering an international perspective and programming in several languages; Café, featuring music performed by artists who are blind or visually impaired; and Treasure Trove, providing all the old-time radio anyone could wish.
Earlier this year, ACB's budget committee recommended and the board of directors approved a budget which included the termination of the contract with the ACB Radio manager, Chrissie Cochrane, as of April 30th. In past years when our revenue projections were down, we made cuts in the number of issues of "The Braille Forum" from 12 to 11, or even 10; and in the number and/or amount of scholarships awarded. This year, with a projected $90,000 deficit and following a board decision not to approve an unbalanced budget, we reluctantly passed a balanced budget which included cutting the paid manager position for the remainder of 2009.
Let me say for the record that Chrissie Cochrane took the reins of ACB Radio during a very difficult period and did an outstanding job growing and developing the station. She was especially adept at attracting international programmers. Not surprisingly, her departure was somewhat controversial, particularly among those same international programmers. Unfortunately, a few protested the board's decision by withdrawing their services, and their unique points of view and styles are sorely missed.
Enter the cavalry! We are fortunate that a talented ACB Radio programmer, Larry Turnbull, agreed to step into the breach by volunteering to manage ACB Radio through the end of the year. He is being assisted by a management team including Marlaina Lieberg, longtime ACB Radio programmer, Paul Edwards, chair of the board of publications, and Chris Gray, immediate past president, both of whom are current contributors to the station. Melanie Brunson and I also assist as needed. In his brief time as manager, Larry has already recruited several new programmers, and a few former ones, to the fold.
The point of all this, of course, is to recruit those of you with Internet access to become regular listeners to ACB Radio. Perhaps in time, some of you might take the plunge and do your own programming on one or more of the available streams. There is definitely something for anyone who listens to the radio even for just a few minutes a day. Larry Turnbull is developing plans for the station which promise great things. And, for those of you who do not have Internet access, he is investigating ways of making programs heard on ACB Radio available to you as well. So, as they say in the radio biz, stay tuned!
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