Sunday, July 15, 2007

July 2007: NASWA "Easy Listening" column

The best new program on shortwave in many years?

Radio Netherlands’ The State We’re In

For years, Jonathan Groubert has been increasingly associated with high-quality, award-winning programming from Radio Netherlands; most recently, he was the host of the weekly EuroQuest magazine show. Several months back, Radio Netherlands announced that EuroQuest would be ending, and Jonathan was in the process of developing a new series for Radio Netherlands. That series debuted at the end of May, and Radio Netherlands has clearly invested a significant portion of its talent to create what is now termed its “flagship” program, The State We’re In. No matter how you listen, The State We’re In is one of the most interesting new public broadcasting programs created in recent memory; what’s even better is that Radio Netherlands still uses shortwave to get the program to us in North America. Hooray!

So, why the hubbub? The program itself is about “…how we treat each other…;” the subtitle for the program is “Human rights, Human wrongs, and what we do about them.” The State We’re In is a magazine program; it runs roughly 50 minutes each week, with a series of stories each running 5-10 minutes each; several of the stories surround a common theme. The theme for the June 30th edition of The State We’re In is Religion; the theme a week prior was Adoption.

One of the reasons The State We’re In impresses is that several well-known members of the Radio Netherlands team in addition to Jonathan Groubert participate in each wek’s program. Eric Beauchemin, who produces the majority of Radio Netherlands’ weekly documentaries, takes a look at human rights stories in the news over the past week in one segment; Michelle Ernsting (Sound Fountain) is the program’s editor, Dheera Sujan (Sound Fountain, Vox Humana), Marnie Chesterton (The Research File, Newsline), Marijke van der Meer, Fiona Campbell, Hélène Michaud (A Good Life, Documentaries), Tim Fisher (Euro Hit 40), and Bertine Krol (Dutch Horizons) all are regular contributors. Another interesting name in each week’s credits is Jim Russell. No, you won’t recognize his name from any Radio Netherlands programming; Russell was the creator of the USA public radio program Marketplace, and now provides consulting services to public radio organizations in the area of program creation; he’s credited as a Creative Consultant for The State We’re In.

I like this program a lot. The first reason is the host: It's clear Jonathan Groubert has done this before -- he has a remarkably relaxed air about him as host and interviewer. He also asks questions they way that one would ask questions of someone in a pub -- as in, "now, wait a minute, why do you believe what you believe?" He has me saying to myself, "that's how I would chat with that person if I were in his shoes..." Hearing people like Eric Beauchemin, Michelle Ernsting, Chris Chambers, and other longtime Radio Netherlands presenters along with Jonathan G., in the same program is impressive, knowing the skill and capabilities all of this team bring to the radio craft.

Program subjects are frequently topical from a newsworthy sense – for example, much focus in the program’s first month has been on the Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip. While these subjects are broadly relevant, they are simultaneously intimate, using one-on-one interviews and profiles to help paint a highly personal picture of the subject being explored. Two weeks back, Jonathan interviewed a Gaza-born, Gaza-based journalist, who daily risked his life to take video and produce reports for outside broadcasters. Jonathan helped you get to know the individual as well as the overall sense of despair that currently pervades Gaza; this intimate, one-on-one approach reminds me of another personal favorite program, the CBC’s As It Happens.

You would think that a program with human rights as its major theme could consistently dreary on a regular basis, but The State We’re In regularly mixes in stories that inspire the listener. For example, in the June 16th edition, which had “Press Freedom” as its theme, there was a story about a 24-year-old citizen journalist in rural Darfur, Sudan who publishes a magazine about the local region that is – literally – posted on a tree in the center of town. Others post comments and corrections on the stories she writes; she adds them to the stories she “posts” on the tree. The woman’s initiative, and dedication, are unique given the day-to-day challenge faced by refugees in Darfur.

The State We’re In airs on shortwave to North America at 1100 Saturdays (11675 kHz), 2000 Saturdays (15315, 17735, 17660 kHz), plus 0000, 0100 and 0400 Sundays, on 9845 kHz (0000, 0100) and 6165 kHz (0400). Additional midweek airings of an edited 30-minute version can be heard 1130 Tuesdays (11675), 0027 and 0127 Wednesdays (9845), plus 0430 (6165).

In addition to the shortwave airings, listeners to the World Radio Network in North America via Sirius satellite radio or local rebroadcast can hear the long-version of The State We’re In Saturdays 1200 and 2200, plus Sundays 1900; WRN listeners can hear the midweek edition Tuesdays 1230 and 2229.

On the internet, The State We’re In can be streamed on-demand and can be downloaded in an MP3 file. A podcast version is also available. Prior editions, so far, can be listened to in their entirety, or can be downloaded by individual story. Radio Netherlands’s English language service is also available 24 hours per day in a live stream; the live stream schedule is shown at, and link to the live stream is provided on that page.

Radio Netherlands isn’t the only organization behind The State We’re In; the Washington, DC-based public radio station WAMU is also shown as a sponsoring organization, though The State We’re In doesn’t appear yet on WAMU’s schedule.

As one might expect for a newly-launched program, the website for The State We’re In offers several opportunities for listener interaction. You can reach the website for The State We’re In via the usual Radio Netherlands website (, but the program also has claimed its own domain, The website offers a forum (which wasn’t operating when I recently checked it) and a chance to pose a query or conundrum to Shabnam Ramaswamy, a young Indian woman who has demonstrated Solomon-like justice without benefit of legal training nor official status; her approach is even supported by the local police.

Other new Radio Netherlands programming

There have been other changes to Radio Netherlands’ programming in addition to the launch of The State We’re In. Here’s a rundown of other programming that joined the Radio Netherlands schedule as of the end of March


This is a program featuring conversations with people who have a connection with the Netherlands; I outlined this program in the April Easy Listening column. Flatlanders airs on shortwave at 1130 on Thursdays; 0027, 0127 and 0427 on Fridays; 1900 Saturdays, and 0000 Sundays.


This is a weekly 15-minute listener-comment / “mailbag” program, hosted by Mindy Ran. One segment consists of commentary from Perro de Jong. Most of the letters are simply read in the studio; some comments from Yours Truly on The State We’re In were aired in the June 23rd edition of the program. Echoes airs to North America Saturdays at 1942, Sundays at 1142 and 2042, plus Mondays at 0042, 0142 and 0442.

Arts & Culture

This is mostly a mix of art- and culture-focused features that previously aired in either Vox Humana or as a Documentary; shortwave air times to North America include Wednesdays 1130, plus Thursdays 0027, 0127, and 0430. Once each month, a newly-produced series, Radio Books, airs in this timeslot; Radio Books is an eclectic collection of short stories by Dutch and Flemish writers presented for the first time in English translation. Radio Books will become a weekly feature as of the Winter 2007 schedule.

Other programs currently on the Radio Netherlands schedule previously discussed here include Network Europe, Research File, Amsterdam Forum, and the daily Newsline current affairs program. All these programs can be heard in Radio Netherlands’s daily shortwave broadcasts targeting North America, as well as via the World Radio Network, live webcast, on-demand streaming, and podcast.

As you review this list, you’ll see some familiar programs are no longer aired: Documentaries, A Good Life, Vox Humana, Dutch Horizons, and EuroQuest have all ceased (or possibly just suspended) production. This certainly gives further emphasis to the importance of The State We’re In on the Radio Netherlands schedule.

Other summertime changes

Radio Australia

The University of Melbourne's Asialink Center promotes understanding of the countries of Asia and creates links with Asian counterparts. Radio Australia has begun to air a series of lectures entitled Five Minutes to Midnight, dealing with the Doomsday Clock, which was established in 1947 at the University of Chicago to reflect concerns over the risk of nuclear war.

The initial MP3 file from the program is available, and one can subscribe to a podcast, but the program doesn't appear in the program schedules offered at the Radio Australia website. It appears to be a very occasional series, airing once per month or less. I’ll update the schedule via the NASWA Flashsheet, my blog ( and the swprograms list.

Canada’s CBC Radio One

While the CBC’s domestically-produced English language spoken-word programming is no longer aired on shortwave, many shortwave enthusiasts still listen to the CBC via its online streaming and Sirius satellite radio outlets.

The CBC traditionally puts several regular series on hiatus, and launches new series or brings back old ones for a repeat performance. I tend to miss these, but this year I have made notes on them just as the CBC’s summer season has started. Here’s what you can expect from now through September 2nd that’s different:

Afghanada, August 6th – August 31st: This widely-regarded dramatic series that probes the war in Afghanistan through the eyes of Canadian soldiers. Every day, Canadian soldiers on the ground confront the chaos and violence of life in Afghanistan. Afghanada offers a grunts’-eye-view of the conflict, mirroring events currently taking place overseas. Airs Weekdays 1130 AM local time (see notes below); Afghanada is not on the Sirius satellite radio schedule.

All The Rage: Steven Page (of the Barenaked Ladies rock group) takes an entertaining look at fads and trends through the ages…and uncovers the surprising ways they connect to our lives today. Tuesdays 730 PM and Saturdays 11 AM, local time; Saturdays 1400, Sundays 0000, Tuesdays 2230 and Wednesdays 0230 (all times UTC) on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Climate Currents: Anna Maria Tremonti distills some of the highlights of The Current's climate change coverage into a compelling series of portraits of the people and places affected by climate change and provocative discussions of the issues Canada and the rest of the world will have to deal with. Mondays at 930 AM and Thursdays 730 PM local time; Mondays 1230 and 1530, plus Thursdays 2230 and Fridays 0230 on Sirius.

Crossing Boundaries: 30-minute documentaries from sources we know well: Radio Netherlands, the BBC World Service, New Zealand’s National Radio, and Australia’s Radio National. Tuesdays 330 PM local time (some locations) and Sundays 730 PM local time (830 PM in Atlantic Canada, 900 PM in Newfoundland); Tuesdays 0830 and Sundays 2230 on Sirius.

Destination Wellsville: A weekly half-hour show tracking the personal journey of Canadians in one community as they to get and stay healthy. From deciding on the right cancer treatment - to trying to get fit - we follow the people of Kentville, Nova Scotia on one leg of their on-going effort to stave off the inevitable. Airs Thursdays 930 AM and Sundays 1130 PM, local time; not aired on Sirius.

Feeling The Heat: A new program that inspires Canadians to get serious about the environment. Feeling the Heat will provoke passionate debate and showcase a world of innovation in the fight to keep our planet healthy and livable. Airs Fridays 930 AM local time; Fridays 1230 and 1530 on Sirius.

Festival of Funny: This program brings you the best standup comedy in the country from the stages of the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the Ha Festival in Halifax. Saturdays 1130 AM local time; Saturdays 1430 and Sundays 0030 on Sirius.

Flavour Of The Week: Explore a new culinary flavour with people who know how to make the most of it! Salt, Peppers, Vanilla, Durian, Saffron, Sambal, Kim Chee, Lemongrass, Bay leaves…the list goes on! Social and cultural references to literary, scientific and historical facts are explored. Wednesdays 330 PM (some locations) Fridays 730 PM local time; Wednesdays 2030, Thursdays 0230, Fridays 2230, and Mondays 0130 on Sirius.

White Coat, Black Art: Dr. Brian Goldman takes listeners through the swinging doors of hospitals and doctors' offices, behind the curtain where the gurney lies. It's a biting, original and provocative show that will demystify the world of medicine. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will explain how the system works, and why, with a refreshing and unprecedented level of honesty. Wednesdays, 930 AM and Sundays 11 AM local time; Wednesdays 1230 and 1530, plus Sundays 1300 and 1800 on Sirius.

Times shown as “local times” apply to the various live streams offered by the CBC; live streams include five of Canada’s six time zones (Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific). This corresponds to a range of UTC-3 to UTC-7; you can select relevant live streams at All times shown for Sirius satellite radio are UTC.

There are a few others I didn’t have space for – check out additional details at

Hope your summer brings you good listening – use the time to fix those outdoor antennas, and remember to unplug those antennas when thunderstorms are nearby!

See you next month – 73 DE Richard

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