Thursday, November 27, 2008
When I was a child, my dad and I used to sit in our basement tinkering with an old radio that, for reasons still unexplained, had incredible powers of reception. Late at night, we could pick up stations far from our home in suburban Toronto--New York City, say, or Chicago. The idea that sounds had travelled over such a long distance fascinated me.
As a young adult, I discovered the world of short-wave radio, tuning into the BBC World Service and music stations with commentary in languages I didn't understand.
Then came the Internet. Hallelujah. Not only could I choose from countless radio stations around the world that streamed their content online, and tune into scores of Internet-only stations, I could also download podcasts. And here's a funny story: iTunes has led me to rediscover a show I can also get the old-fashioned way, over the air on trusty CBC Radio One.
It's not that I didn't already enjoy "Dispatches," a world affairs show hosted by the thoughtful Rick MacInnes-Rae. After all, the show uses a Mark Knopfler track ("What It Is") as its theme song. And reports cover the globe--this week, stories ranged from drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau to stand-up comedy in Jordan.
The problem was that I could never remember when the darned show was on.
The Internet has saved me from my own absentmindedness. Now each week's episode downloads automatically onto my computer, and from there to my trusty iTouch. (For those who don't want to bother with podcasts, you can also listen online at the site above.)
This got me wondering what other opportunities there are to eavesdrop on the world from my quiet Ottawa office. Here are a few choice discoveries.
Global News: A twice-daily news digest from the venerable BBC. (The BBC is actually a mother lode of world news--text, audio, and video--in several languages. Just go to the main BBC site and start digging. I can get lost there for hours.)
Audio News: The podcast service of the International Herald Tribune.
Pambazuka News: A weekly podcast on African issues by Fahamu, a social justice organization.
Radio Japan Online: News podcasts (in English and many other languages) from the Japan Broadcasting Corporation.
Radio France International also has an extensive English-language section where you can listen to world news online; podcasts are available in French.