The torture interviews

You can listen here and now to my BBC Radio 5 Live interview and my BBC radio 4 World At One interview, both on 8 December 2005, about the Law Lords’ ruling that day that evidence obtained by torture was inadmissible in British courts, contrary to the government’s assertion (but there’s probably a big mantrap buried in the judgment: listen and judge for yourself).  Both these recordings are big files and may take a few moments to download and play, depending on your connection and software.

Hat-tip (once again) to Owen who recorded these interviews in farthest California from the BBC’s website and converted them, using magic and expensive software in equal proportions, into .mp3 files, just like the ones your teen-age children (or you, if you’re still a teen-ager) listen to through tiny earphones driven like daggers into their ears, nodding their heads vacantly up and down as they listen to the tinny beat while strap-hanging on the tube.  O. then e-mailed the files to me in London for insertion into my website.  The fact that this process of repeatedly converting the original recording into different formats — and then again when I uploaded them to the Web — has made my voice sound like that of a strangled frog, or of a comical old buffer in an animated cartoon of the early 1960s. Never mind: the technology is marvellous.  Or do I really sound like that anyway?  Don’t tell me.

A mildly interesting point about all this (not that interesting, really, but worth putting into the record, if that’s the right word)  is that both my BBC interviews were done, not by my going in to the BBC studiosBBC Television Centre at White City and doing it across the table, the BBC’s preferred option;  not by the BBC sending a radio car to park outside my house, second choice for the BBC and top choice for me because it might just possibly impress the neighbours; and not down the ordinary telephone line, everybody’s last and most reluctant choice because the sound quality tends to be so poor.  In these cases, for the first time, I called the BBC from my computer on Skype, using my headphones and one of those microphones that is fixed to the headset by a bendy steel prong that places the mike (or mic, as they call it these days) about two inches in front of your mouth, or one inch under your chin, like the things some pop singers wear when their voices are too feeble to reach the front row of the audience or even a boom mike a metre above their heads.   Result: near perfect sound quality, at any rate in the original broadcasts:  those listening closely for signs of different quality as between the interviewers’ and my voices said it sounded as if I had been in the studio.  Quite a credit to Skype.

Skype calls from one Skype subscriber to another, anywhere in the world, are completely free, as is the software required.  You just download it, install it, and — provided that you have a broadband connection and a headset — you’re off.  In fact I hardly ever use it because MSN Messenger (Instant Messaging) is really almost as good and it’s simpler to use for typing messages to and fro in real time (you can save the resulting text to your hard disk with a couple of clicks), or for an audio conversation like a telephone call, or for both but with real-time video on top so that each caller can see the other on his screen.  And all this too is completely free, regardless of the geographical distances between callers, who can be in different continents on opposite sides of the world without it costing either of them a penny.  All you need is a webcam at each end and matching Instant Messaging software (plus the headset to avoid feedback).  When shall we all wake up to the confidence trick that lets the old-fashioned telephone companies get away with the myth that it costs them, as well as you, much more for you to call from London to San Francisco than from one house in London to the house next door?

No, I promise you that neither Skype nor MSN Messenger is paying me for all this puffing of their products, more’s the pity.


2 Responses

  1. Owen Barder says:

    All true, except that the software used to download the BBC streams, edit them, and turn them into MP3s was not expensive, but free. Free as in speech and free as in beer. All done using Linux. And that the recording, emailing, etc does not degrade the sound quality. If the quality is not good, it is because I chose a bit rate that reduced the file size.

  1. 1 February, 2007