As you can tell by the long silence, I’m a bit busy. I have plenty to occupy me, apart from writing blog posts.
A visit to the Fremantle Maritime Museum is on the cards, somewhere I’ve known about and walked past, but never visited before. This is why I’m showing my photos of the Americas Cup from the summer of 1986/1987. That was an exciting time. Channel 7 was the major broadcaster, with our feed going to all the Australian Seven Network stations, and to the US networks, and to the west, to the British networks as well.
It was hard work. The Seven Network had only just come together in 1986, but it was not “together”: there was a lot of “Masters of the Universe” attitude coming from Sydney which I, as Master Control Engineering Supervisor, had to take and deal with. One Sydney MCR guy was especially abrasive. It seemed we in Perth could do nothing right, even though we had no written procedures and didn’t understand the way they worked. Yow!!!! I was stressed. It was hard enough just getting the technical stuff done without having to deal with constant arrogant criticisms. Melbourne were much better, always polite, and Adelaide and Brisbane were the same as us, easy going and a bit sick of the Lords of the Network in Sydney. But we in Perth were the network feed, not them, so everything we did mattered.
I’ll never forget the morning Sydney called up and said, “We need vision from you in ten minutes. Give us some test signal from Freo please.” It was an order, not a request. But we had no written schedule and when I called Fremantle, they knew nothing about this feed either and had nothing to give us. They had to hurriedly pull some “talent” into the tiny studio down there and improvise. We got there, but that was typical – often, no written schedule, lack of communication.
I especially remember the feeling of concentrating so hard that I got into a kind of state, where my mind was totally focused on the next event and nothing was allowed to distract me. The Chief Engineer walked in to Master Control at one stage and said, “How’s it going Peter”, obviously wanting to talk. But I was in that almost trance-like state and I just mumbled a reply about “OK”, and he went away. He knew it was the wrong time.
Our satellite earth station was across the road, outside the TVW7 grounds then. T^his was a brick building with the equipment required to drive and feed a 13m (40 foot) satellite dish. This was big stuff, very precise receivers and powerful microwave transmitters, and the power supplies and motor drivers to control the positioning of this dish. We were looking at the very first Optus satellites then, and talking to the guys in Sydney who controlled all the other channels on the satellite. The settings had to be very precise, because if we got our power or frequency settings wrong, we could have interfered with other users, which included the military. Was I nervous? Damn right I was.
The building and dish were surrounded by a big wire fence with a chain locked gate, and the building was alarmed. We had a defined time, maybe 2 mins, to unlock and open the gate, close and re-lock it, get into the building, close and lock that door again, and disarm the alarm by inputting the code. If you were held up or too slow, the alarm went off, and Sydney would see it on their panel too. Yuk! When we were already under stress, and had just run, yes run, the 200m or so and had to go through this procedure, gah!
Sometimes I was the only senior tech on duty around news time, with only a junior tech on with me. I had to make the decision: which is more important, to stay in MCR and send the young guy to the earth station to do something, or to abandon MCR and go myself? It was usually the latter. I’d come back into MCR puffed and sweating to face any problems associated with the news, which was hard enough in those days. Equipment was not so reliable then.
Despite the above, we got through, and in the end it was a triumph. We were puffed up and proud of TVW7’s effort. We got grudging credit from ATN7 in Sydney, of course, but we were, temporarily, briefly, Masters of the Universe ourselves.
Part of all this was dealing at times with people from one of the San Francisco TV stations taking our feeds, and when I went to the USA in April 1988 with the Chief Engineer, we got an invitation to visit the SF station and meet the people face to face. That was nice. If only I hadn’t been so shy! They were really friendly, but I was too shy to really relax and respond. We were invited to sit in the control room while they did their midday news bulletin, to watch how they did things. We came away mutually agreeing, Geoff and I, that we had nothing to learn from them. We felt we did things as well or better. We kept this to ourselves, of course.
It was this day that I’d arranged to have lunch with my aunt in San Francisco who I hadn’t seen since I was a little boy in Sydney about 1949, barely remembered. I’d exchanged a letter or card or two over the years, but there were no mobile phones or email or Skype then.
But I was so concentrated on this TV station visit that I forgot all about my lunch arrangement with my aunt. Gaaah! Luckily I had her work phone number and she was very forgiving and we had afternoon coffee instead. That was the only time I saw her and it was too brief, but that’s life.
Another incident in Americas Cup time was on a Sunday night: I was the only person on duty and we had a satellite feed scheduled at 8pm to Spain, for the Spanish TV broadcasters covering the Cup. I waited and waited, 8pm came and went, it was only a 10 minute booking, 10 minutes of test signal sent because no-one showed. End of booking, finito.
Then the Spanish crew arrived, about five minutes later, ready to feed. “Sorry, your booking has passed. You can’t feed now, you’ll have to make a new booking” Well, Spanish fireworks. Caramba! You must send out our feed. Sorry, no can do, new booking must be made. Not under my control.
I think the OTC (?) or Optus people at the Gnangara (west feeding) earth station took pity on me and there was a free slot in about half an hour, will that do? I asked the Spaniards and Si, that will be good. So we got through that. But I was almost laughing at the shock and frustration on the Spaniards faces. Sorry, guys, you had to be on time.
With friends’ help, I assembled a new settee and for the first time, I can sit/sprawl and watch TV. IKEA, very comfortable. Not easy to put together – some brute force was needed at one stage, but eventually man beat inanimate object.
From an article in The Guardian:
“… some of our biggest and best-known businesses no longer resemble the societies they operate in. Lawfully exploiting the opportunities afforded them by globalisation and new technology, they hand over as little tax as possible to the countries on whose infrastructure and protections they rely, squeeze pay and conditions for employees even while handing out lavish rewards to managers, and underinvest in staff so as to over-reward shareholders.”
The article is specifically about the Boots pharmacy chain in the UK, but it applies to most businesses these days. “Lawfully exploiting”: clever accountants and lawyers, probing the laws for loopholes, other lawyers always ready to go to court to keep and expand the loopholes.
“… they hand over as little tax as possible”: if one of Australia’s biggest companies paid the full amount of tax applicable in Australia, officially 30% company tax, we would not have a budget crisis! Instead, they shift all their profits to Singapore where the tax rate is about 3%, and we are told there’s a revenue black hole and we’ll have to accept lower hospital funding! Make the bastards pay their fair share!!!
“… squeeze pay and conditions for employees”: all this talk about award employees, that is shop assistants, restaurant staff and so on having to give “flexibility” is just another way of saying, “We want you to take a pay cut”! So low paid staff have to take reduced pay and conditions, but the biggest companies get away with paying little or no tax, and nothing is done about it.
“… handing out lavish rewards to managers”: managers get paid these massive salaries whether they perform or not. Sure, a few lose their jobs, but their payouts are sums we can only dream of. They never need to worry. But employees have to work in many instances in dangerous jobs, losing their lives in unsafe conditions!
“… underinvest in staff so as to over-reward shareholders.” Good wage staff are seen as a cost, rather than an asset. They are expendable in tough times. They are asked to accept lower wages and give away hard won work conditions, in the name of “flexibility”. Bullshit!
Massive salaries, massive share allocations, huge bonuses to upper managers, widespread tax avoidance and evasion, even criminality among management. It’s time to mobilise, time to demand change. This is going to end badly.
http://petapixel.com/2016/04/11/seafront-photographers-called-paedofiles-detained-angry-locals/ A few Greek tourists in Britain were taking tourist type photos, and a few women decided they were taking photos of their kids and branded them paedophiles, without any evidence. I’ve experienced this myself. I have to be very careful when I’m carrying a camera in public these days. NOT HAPPY! Any woman, or man, who tries to stop me taking photos in a public place had better be prepared for me to call the police and charge them with harassment and/or defamation. There is no law against taking photos in public, even if they include children.