Saturday, October 13, 2012

One of our broadcasts is missing

During Operation Corporate, the British campaign to regain the Falkland Islands from the Argentinian military dictatorship that curiously enough had a lot of support from British leftists once it had invaded those islands, the Royal Air Force launched a mission to make the runway at Port Stanley unusable. This was necessary because the Argentinian Air Force was using the runway to launch its own missions to make the Royal Navy a lot smaller than it had been before hostilities broke out. The RAF chose for this mission one of the oldest aircraft in its inventory, an Avro Vulcan. This crew of this aircraft had to fly the length of the Atlantic Ocean, drop some bombs on the runway and return. History will record that the Vulcan's crew completed parts one and three of this mission with great success. They flew their aircraft from England to the Falkland Islands and they flew it back again.

Unfortunately they made something of a cock-up of the dropping bombs part of the mission. You would have thought that it would be quite easy for the pilot of an aircraft - any pilot, any aircraft - to find an airstrip and fly over its length, given that lining up a plane with an airstrip is the essential conclusion to any flight. But no, after coming all that way from Blighty to the Falklands, the Vulcan's crew came at the airstrip diagonally. So, instead of dropping twenty-four iron bombs down the length of the airstrip, rendering it useless, the Vulcan dropped twenty-three bombs into the soft grassland surrounding the airstrip and only one into the tarmac.

Today's broadcast of Saturday Morning with Kim Hill was quite similar. The plan was simple. All Kim Hill and her producer, Mark Cubey, had to do was to fly to Frankfurt and make a radio broadcast from the Book Fair. Surely nothing could go wrong. But, just to make sure there was no possibility of error, Mr Cubey was sent ahead on a Pathfinder mission, lighting up the target for Ms Hill. Guests were booked, a venue was found. And a broadcast was made, a four hour live broadcast from Frankfurt to New Zealand. Here is how it was described on the Radio New Zealand website:

Kim Hill broadcasts live from the James Bar of the English Theatre, Frankfurt, on the occasion of New Zealand's Guest of Honour 2012 visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Gentle reader, I am sure you have seen already where the plan went wrong. Having taken their radio show from Wellington to Frankfurt, Hill and Cubey set it down in a pub; at a book fair; on a Friday night, in Germany. The programme can be heard, if not listened to, at the link above. It is a remarkable broadcast. It was all over, bar the shouting, as soon as it started; this for the simple reason that it was set in a bar and there was a lot of shouting.

Already, art historians are speculating that it may have been a form of conceptual radio, a broadcast rendered inaudible by ambient noise, noise made by the people, drunk people, who were surrounding the presenter and her guests but not listening to them. Here was a radio show about a cultural event that the people behind that event made impossible. Here was a cultural event that is terribly important to New Zealand that could not be heard in New Zealand because the New Zealanders at that event were pissed and noisy. Here was a radio broadcast  about a book fair that made the listener want to turn off the radio and read a book.

All  over New Zealand (all over Kelburn, at least) people who went to bed sober and woke up refreshed developed Saturday morning headaches. Meanwhile the Twitter stream continued as if it were any given Saturday and everything was normal. This was their finest four hours, as someone once almost said of another almighty stuff-up.