The 1980s as ancient history

There are many people in South Africa who enjoy the radio but I’m definitely not among their number, and I don’t know many who are.

The content, at least from the stations I can receive in Durban, seems to be either pure government propaganda or aimed at an age-group who think that the 1980s are ancient history. I have mentioned this before in these columns and the solution I came up with is to explore the world of radio broadcast over the Internet.

You can certainly find programming for every taste but there are a couple of problems including the fact that you have to know your way around computers and Internet connections to be able to listen. A new product, which arrives in South Africa in October, promises to make the listening experience easier.

The Tivoli NetWorks Radio has an FM tuner, but is also capable of playing Internet stations from around the world. You don’t need a computer to listen because the unit can be plugged straight into an ADSL connection or can connect through any available WiFi connection.

The unit can also be used to access and play music stored on a computer, via Ethernet and WiFi connections, and it can play music from MP3 players and iPods via USB connection.

The NetWorks will be available from outlets around the country (more info from tivoliaudio.co.za) at a price of around R7500. The price sounds a bit high to me but the main drawback is going to be the amount of bandwidth, 40-60Mb an hour, you use when listening to radio over the Internet.

Still, the NetWorks sounds like a gadget I’d be very interested once Telkom’s stranglehold on the bandwidth price is broken. In the meantime, thanks to mail from a reader, I can share a cheaper way of getting access to some decent radio stations.

I didn’t know, but there is a very reasonable package called EasyView which is available from DSTV. It costs a mere R20 per month and you get a handful of television channels, including those from SABC and e-TV.

You also get Al Jazeera, which is not at all bad, and a few other less interesting channels, such as the Parliamentary Service. The real benefit of EasyView, however, is that you get a whole fistful of radio channels which provides a quite a choice.

The channels include three from BBC World and World Radio Network which, until quite recently, were broadcast on SABC in the wee hours, and which were such a boon to the insomniacs among us.

Also included on EasyView are Voice of America, the English Service of Radio Nederland, some Indian-language stations, some religious ones, Classic FM, 702 Talk Radio, and quite a number of smaller local stations from South Africa and Namibia, which play a selection of music.

To access the service, you will need a DSTV decoder, which are pretty reasonable these days, a television, and a satellite dish, whether individual or communal. Getting set up will cost a bit but the monthly subscription is less than a couple of cups of coffee.

The helpful reader also pointed out that you aren’t necessarily stuck with listening only where the TV set is located. You can connect the output from the decoder directly to a HiFi set or to a modulator.

These you can find in some computer outlets or electronics stores, and they can broadcast your chosen station for a limited distance so that it can be picked up by your portable radio in the bedroom.

Dear DSTV, you’ve done a good thing with your EasyView package but now can you please offer one with the news, documentaries and sport TV channels as well? And, while we’re at it, won’t you please for heaven’s sake stop the interminable station branding and the forthcoming attractions.

Watching the trailer for Deadliest Catch five times in an hour is enough to drive otherwise mild people to murder. We got the idea the first time. We understand that there have to be breaks, as there are not enough real adverts to fill the time, but silence would be infinitely preferable to what you’re dishing up now.

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