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Communications Line Issue 29 - April 20 2006

Communications Line Issue 29 - April 20 2006


By John Bishop

New Technologies Rule

The surge in audio and video content available online has caught many radio and television stations off guard, reports US media journal New Communications Review. (http://www.newcommreview.com)

Suddenly, people are downloading podcasts or video podcasts of the shows they like, often directly from the producer, it says. "The Internet eliminates middlemen," says Terry Heaton, a broadcast consultant in Nashville, Tenn. "And your local broadcaster is the middleman."

According to a recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor, “When National Public Radio (NPR) started offering a free podcast of its popular quiz show "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" it did so with little fanfare. That didn't stop hundreds - and perhaps thousands - of people from downloading the satirical look at the week's news on a Sunday afternoon back in February. By Monday morning, the show had joined Apple Computer's list of the day's five most popular podcasts.

“It was good news for NPR, which has become a major player in the podcast world. Not so for the 350 NPR member stations that broadcast "Wait Wait." They're worried that making the program available to iPods could mean a loss of listeners - and consequently the donations and ad dollars that keep the stations afloat.

The New Zealand Herald’s Web Walk correspondent, Peter Griffin, reported that the most popular podcast in the world last year was a series of conversations involving Ricky Gervais, his co writer and his producer. That series was free, and generated over 4 million downloads. The current series sells at 95p an episode, (about $2.60) and they are still the best selling podcasts in the world. At that price point, all communicators need to sit up and take notice of what’s happening.

How we compete: new study

A recent study on globalisation has challenged conventional thinking that it inevitably means a flow of jobs to low wage economies, exploitation within those economies, and loss of job security in advanced economies.

How We Compete is the outcome of a five year study by the Industrial Performance Center at MIT of the real-world experiences of more than 500 international companies. It found that instead of simply sending all jobs to low-wage countries, globalisation was also generating a world of opportunities and significant dangers for established corporations.

“More and more, it is becoming apparent it is the strategy that an organisation employs which means the difference between success and failure, not the external forces of globalization,” says author Suzanne Berger. (see www.howwecompete.com)

“A majority of Americans and Europeans think globalisation raises their standard of living: a majority also believes that it is bad for employment and job security. For the question about who wins and who loses in the new global economy and the uncertainties about whether the opportunities are worth the risks, there is no one right answer.

The pressures of globalisation force virtually all economic actors to transform their activities – but they do not dictate a single best way to do it. Even in electronics, with its great advances in codification and modularity, we found a real diversity of successful approaches to decisions about outsourcing and peeling off manufacturing, showing that alternative approaches to globalization are possible. We question whether globalization inevitably condemns any particular commercial activity at all.”

PR’s problem with flawed research

It is clear that some PR practitioners, who suffer from a lack of research training and are often squeezed by low budgets, are using biased and even invalid measurement methods, writes Jim Macnamara in the Measurement Standard, the bible of those who take measurement in PR seriously. He says “but even when using sound research techniques, validity and reliability –fundamental requirements of all proper research – can be eroded or lost through bias, skewed samples, lack of statistical rigour and a number of other flaws which emerging measurement mavens need to note.”

Measurement in NZ seems to be less advanced technologically than in the US. While some CEOs want to see measurable value for money, others are satisfied with the PR department using tactical tools like counting the colcms and doing a positive/neutral/negative scan on media articles. Of course there is a whole lot more to measurement than that, as I was able to demonstrate at a half day workshop for Conferenz recently.

Unorthodox Christianity

Leaders of the Christian community are taking the rise in counter-orthodox religious thinking seriously enough for both the Pope’s representative and the Archbishop of Canterbury to attack the Da Vinci Code and the so called Judas Gospel at Easter. Both works call into question the authority of the Church and its teachings.

The Da Vinci Code re-opened up the old question of whether there was more to Christ’s life and death than was recorded in the gospels. (There is little in the Bible about His childhood, for example, and the idea that Christ re-appeared more than once surfaces in Blake’s hymn Jerusalem… And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green?

The so called Judas Gospel also has some quite explosive implications. It revives the idea that Christ arranged his own fate, raises doubts about the selection of the gospels and other works that comprise the Bible, and calls into question the actions of the early church (first to third century) as being unfaithful to the teachings of Christ. (St Paul is still a controversial figure here, although for different reasons).

Using authority to enforce orthodoxy is not new. Emperor Constantine saw the instability caused by the fighting among rival Christian sects and took matters in hand. He called the various leaders of the Christian community together and in effect said: I will make Christianity the official religion of the Empire and enforce it against “heretics”, but you have to define Christianity.”

The 150 leaders met at Nicaea (across the water from Istanbul) and produced the Nicene Creed which affirms a single God as Creator, the divinity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, virgin birth, crucifixion, the resurrection and a number of other tenets. “When the Apostles' Creed was drawn up, the chief enemy was Gnosticism, which denied that Jesus was truly Man. When the Nicene Creed was drawn up, the chief enemy was Arianism, which denied that Jesus was fully God”, (a position still held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses), according to early church historian James E. Kiefer.

Both the Dan Brown book and the Judas Gospel draw attention to the “human-ness” of Christ. The Judas Gospel also recalls elements of the Gnostic movement which taught that there was an “inner knowledge”accessible to true believers, but not to ordinary members of the Church. Orthodox belief was that Heaven was accessible only through the teachings of the church, so ideas that undermined that exclusivity and authority were deemed heretical. The Gnostics and other sects (like the Manicheans) were violently suppressed.

While I have always believed that people should be free to follow their own conscience in matters of faith, it is also clear that religious beliefs have strong political content. (see Fundamentalists take hits below)

Fundamentalists take hits

In another development fundamentalists in the US have had a couple of knock backs recently. The first came when a district Federal Court ruled that intelligent design was a religious not a scientific idea. Intelligent design is the idea that there was a hand behind the origins of the universe, and it wasn’t all just a big bang and then evolution taking its course. The court said intelligent design was just creationism under another name, and as a religion it could not therefore be taught in US public schools.

The second blow is the discovery of the fish that walks. The New York Times reported “In the fishes' forward fins, the scientists found evidence of limbs in the making. There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders. The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile's, a neck, ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.

Other scientists said that in addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory. The theological implications have not been widely discussed in New Zealand media reports.

Earlier this year the Times (of London) reported that the Catholic Church had said that the Adam and Eve story should not be taken literally. “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” the Catholic Bishops of England, Wales ands Scotland say in The Gift of Scripture. Genesis, the Catholic bishops said cannot be “historical” but may contain “historical traces.”

Gold awards credit claims

Parties with any connection at all to Wellington’s Gold Awards for business achievement have been quick to claim the credit for the success of the business they support or sponsor – and why not indeed. Trumpet blowing, flag waving and shouts of “over here” are all part of the marketing mix, and in a market place crowded with awards, the promoter’s enthusiasm for attention seeking is necessary to secure media profile and sponsors for future years.

John Dow of Agenda - marketing, who has successfully directed these awards for many years, states that this year’s finalists reflect “a dynamic new trend rapidly developing in the Wellington regional economy of Wellington businesses forging collaborations, partnerships and strategic alliances throughout the world producing outstanding new projects, initiatives and sales results for the local economy as well as generating extensive international media exposure.”

Not to be outdone Positively Wellington Business boldly stated in its own news release, “Wellington business incubator Creative HQ’s reputation for producing fledgling high-growth businesses has been further strengthened, with the naming of the finalists for this year’s 2006 Gold Awards. Three of the finalists are recent graduates of Creative HQ,” it stated triumphantly. No doubt the finalists are good, and the awards are worthwhile. The prose describing them is certainly luxuriant.

Awesome Crusaders

It pains me greatly to have to say this, but the Crusaders truly are an awesome team. There, I have said it, and no, I don’t feel any better for it. They are not unbeatable (no team is), but it is going to take a very good team doing something quite special to down them. By their own admission the red and blacks have yet to put together a whole 80 minutes of excellent rugby (but neither have the Hurricanes). Next week I’ll confess to liking the Aussie cricket team, being a regular spectator at underwater hockey and a secret admirer of synchronised swimming.

King seeks higher things

Annette King has commented on my recent musings about the Wellington Mayoralty. She assures readers that she “is not contemplating retirement (from Parliament) in the next six to nine years,” and “I would never want to be Mayor of Wellington or of any other local authority”. She adds,”when I leave politics, I will leave politics (other than accepting the Governor General’s job or Secretary General of the United Nations naturally).” Her response dated 14 March was retrieved only by chance from my spam box, and is reported at this, the first opportunity to do so.

ACT articles create traffic action

My two articles on the demise of the ACT party have excited rightwing commentators in the blogosphere, and traffic to my website spiked. General reaction to the analysis was favourable. The articles are at http://www.johnbishop.co.nz/writer/

*************

John Bishop is a Wellington writer and commentator who has worked as a radio and television reporter. He can be contacted at saymoretojb@yahoo.com

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