In Chicago or online, visit The Museum of Broadcast Communications

MBC logoAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent a few days in Chicago last month. Every baseball fan should make a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field at least once. Nuff said.

Between my Wrigley tour and a game the next day, I had some time to spare. I happened to see a brochure for The Museum of Broadcast Communications just down the street from my hotel, so I went to check it out.

As a physical museum, MBC is a work in progress. The radio floor is laid out with a row of Radio Hall of Fame portraits and little else, but there are great old specimens of receiving equipment around the corner.

Upstairs on the TV floor, there are almost a dozen exhibits of old programming, but there’s arranged erratically. One is sports through the decades, another is children’s shows, another is sitcoms. But there’s no flow to the narrative, just different pull-outs of TV history, often Chicago-centric programming. There’s also a TV news setup in one room so you can try your luck at delivering a story from the anchor desk or a weather forecast in front of a green screen.

My guide at the museum kept showing me its different sections, and when we got to the TV area, he made it a point to mention that I really should check the archive of video that’s available online at Museum.TV, which happens to be the MBC’s web site. That archive was unavailable then, but a recent check showed that it’s a treasure trove now. MBC has hundreds of video clips available on demand. You have to register to view them, they’re pretty low-quality, and they use Windows Media Player, but this wealth of free TV history is just amazing. This feast for the TV historian gives me hope that the physical museum might get its act together too. Check it out!

Radio needs to be local

cassette tape reelsClear Channel is the USA’s largest owner of radio stations. As such, it’s a bit frightened by the growing popularity of online streaming music services such as Pandora and Google Music. (BTW, I still have a few invitations to the Google Music beta available. If you want one, let me know in a comment.) Anyway, Clear Channel created its own service, iHeartRadio. It’s pretty good, too.

But what broadcasters promote about themselves, and what they really need, is localism. There’s no reason why a company that owns a gazillion radio stations can’t let each one have its local voice, but that’s not what’s happening. Clear Channel is cutting about 500 jobs, mostly local disc jockeys.

I could go on and on about how broadcasters have a responsibility to the local communities they serve, but Kyle Anderson already did it first. Go read it.