Open Mic Spotlight: “The Messenger” Jon Tjhia and Michael Green

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews “The Messenger” Producer & Senior Digital Editor, Jon Tjhia of The Wheeler Centre (Australia) and Journalist, Presenter & Producer, Michael Green of Behind the Wire.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat "The Messenger"

“The Messenger” (Behind the Wire and The Wheeler Centre Australia) was honored with the 2017 Grand Award (National or International Affairs) for their ten-part podcast series. The program is based on thousands of voice messages sent via burner phone by Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee detained on the Australian-run detention center on the Manus Island, Paua New Guinea, to journalist, Michael Green. This award-winning series was also recognized with 2 Gold Trophies.

Jon Tjhia is the Wheeler Centre’s Senior Digital Editor. He has worked on the Wheeler

Jon Tjhia, Producer/Digital Editor, The Wheeler Centre

Centre’s multimedia, editorial and digital projects since 2010, including #discuss, the short-form multimedia series Housekeeping, and long-form podcast series Better Off Dead (Finalist, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2016) and The Messenger (Grand Trophy and two Gold Medals, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2017). He’s a co-editor and co-founder of the Australian Audio Guide.

Michael Green, Presenter/Producer/Journalist for Behind the Wire

Michael Green is a journalist and producer in Melbourne, Australia. For the last few years he has been working on Behind the Wire, an award-winning oral history project about Australian immigration detention. You can listen to our podcast, The Messenger, about Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese man who is in immigration detention on Manus Island. He is co-editor of our book, They Cannot Take the Sky, published by Allen & Unwin, and the producer of our exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum, which opened in March 2017. Over the years, Michael’s written for The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change, Nautilus, Right Now and Overland Journal, among others.

In the interview below Grand Award winner’s Jon and Michael share what sparked their idea for their award-winning podcast series, how they came to work together and connect with Abudl Aziz Muhamat, the creative and logistical challenges they encountered and much more.

Michael Green, Behind the Wire with Sophie Black and Jon Tjhia, The Wheeler Centre at 2017 NYF Radio Awards Gala


NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this podcast series?

MG: The first night I exchanged voice messages with Aziz, I was overwhelmed by how warm and open he was, and by the sound and character of his voice. And that voice was coming from a hidden place. I just wanted to know everything I could about him, and what he was going through. I knew right then that radio would be the perfect way to share his story.

NYF Radio: How did the two of you come together to produce this program?

JT: In mid-2016, the Wheeler Centre ran a competition called So You Think You Can Pod – in which we invited aspiring producers to pitch a podcast series, judged by a panel including producers of Reply All, Soundproof and Ingredipedia. To cut a long story short – Behind the Wire’s pitch was the winning one. Michael was overseas at the time, and had woken up at some heinous hour of his morning to Skype in for the event – but ended up unable to establish a clear voice line during the event itself. Ironic, really; the process was a little reminiscent of Michael’s challenges in connecting with Aziz.

After the competition, we worked with Michael and his team [André Dao, Bec Fary, Hannah Reich] to support the development of their show, think about a structure and sonic identity, and so on. We thought the emerging story was unusual, surprising, nuanced and important, and we agreed on many aspects of the framing and the telling. We wanted to support and expand Behind the Wire’s very direct work in bringing (literally) unheard voices to the fore, and eventually, we all chose to produce the series together.

NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with Abdul Aziz Muhamat?

MG: For the last few years I’ve been working on an oral history project called Behind the Wire, about Australian immigration detention. I first got in touch with Aziz as part of that project – I was hoping to speak with him for a story in our book. Two people I knew gave me his number. And because of my track record, he was able to do his own research, and figure out whether he wanted to speak to me.

NYF Radio: What logistical challenges did you encounter while working with a refugee who was reporting while in detention?

MG: For the first few months we spoke, Aziz wasn’t allowed to have a cell phone, so he could only use it secretly, in his room when there were no guards around. There isn’t much signal at the detention centre, so he couldn’t make a call. We decided to use WhatsApp voice messages instead, but on many days, even that wouldn’t work.

NYF Radio: What risk did Aziz’s reports put him at and how did he avoid attention while reporting from the Manus Island detention center?

Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

MG: After Aziz had been speaking to me secretly for a few months, the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled that the detention centre was illegal. After that, the authorities allowed some small freedoms, including cell phones. So, thankfully, he is now allowed to use his phone openly – although the lack of signal still makes it difficult to communicate freely.

NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by drawing attention to this story with your creative efforts?

MG: Right from that first conversation, Aziz said he wanted to speak out – to be ‘the messenger’ – about the situation in the detention centre, so that people outside would know what was going on. In Australia, the policy of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and refugees is controversial. It’s a very high profile issue, and it’s in the news nearly every day. But a view from inside is rare, especially something as in-depth as The Messenger. We think it’s important to show the complexity of that experience.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

MG: We have a huge amount of material – over four thousand messages, plus other interviews, so thousands of pages of transcript. Our team – André Dao, Hannah Reich, Bec Fary and Sophie Black – has done a lot of hard work to bring the most resonant issues and emotionally powerful moments into the final show.

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The Messenger” such a successful program?

JT: Hm – it’s hard to talk about your own work in this way! But as Michael mentioned, it’s been important of us to expose the complexity of what’s happening in Aziz’s story, and the myriad tensions of the broader situation; I hope that comes across.

As a piece of radio, we’re very mindful of a listener’s attention, as well as the space you create when you invite someone into a world. We wanted that space to be a generous one, and for it to push against certain tonal expectations that exist around stories of refuge and trauma. That said, I don’t think it’s so far-fetched that, with a few changed circumstances, many of us could face similar challenges to the ones Aziz faces. He’s an articulate and affecting bearer of his own story.

NYF Radio: As a journalist, will you discuss the importance of freedom of speech?

MG: Australia has a long-standing policy of detaining asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Those detention centres are usually located in remote locations, far from outside scrutiny. The people held there are denied the ability to speak out about who they are and what they’re going through. That means there’s a huge gap in the public understanding of this policy and its results. It is also demoralising for the asylum seekers. I know for Aziz, it has been incredibly empowering to be able to tell his story and to be heard.

NYF Radio: How was the podcast series program received in Australia and globally?

JT: It’s hard to gauge with any definitive sense! At the least, we’ve tried to make the series – which happens to anchor in an Australian context, but pulses with a near-universal one – inviting to people anywhere. And here, it’s been a politically polarising issue for a long time, although I would speculate that the narrative is in the process of shifting.

On a personal level, we’ve been approached by people who’ve connected strongly with Aziz through the series. There’s been some academic interest in the work, too. I think the best feedback we’ve received is that it changed somebody’s mind; it’s not very often you hear that these days.

NYF Radio: Your program “The Messenger” earned the coveted 2017 Grand Award in the (National or International Affairs) category, what does earning this award mean to you?

JT: The Awards came as a shock to us; the Grand Award even more so! A real fright in the inbox, in the wee hours no less. We were most excited about telling Aziz, of course – he’s given a lot of himself to doing this work with us, and I hoped he’d take it as one sign that his effort has been acknowledged and appreciated, and his trust validated. It doesn’t change his predicament, of course, but he was thrilled!

The Awards have always been an opportunity to listen to more work from places and producers that we just wouldn’t stumble across in the course of our days. And likewise, we’re particularly grateful for the ways in which it’s helped to bring our work to a wider and different audience. As a small, independent team – largely running on unpaid hours – it’s exciting to have our careful, thoughtful work recognised.

But – the work continues. We’re still producing the series. Aziz remains in detention – in an unpredictable situation which we’re seeing fall apart as a government deadline to close the centre approaches.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people wanting to create a program that they have a passion about or a cause they want to illuminate?

MG: One thing that sets The Messenger apart is the depth of the reporting. It’s a long hard road, but my advice is to aim for as much depth as you can – be slow and careful and really get to understand your subject. The most compelling and original stories emerge that way.

NYF Radio: Now that you’ve achieved success with this project, what other radio projects are on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?

JT: We have a couple of episodes of The Messenger to produce, and those are our focus for now. The Wheeler Centre has a few exciting radio/podcasting projects in the works which will be aimed at generating more critical and practical conversations around the craft of radio making, and working with independent producers, writers and so on. I’m looking forward to having more time to consider different ways that audio can be woven together with other formats of creative work – and also, to listen!

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Award, please visit: and to browse the 2017 Radio Award winning programs go to:

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Open Mic Spotlight: Anna Foster, 15 Minutes from Mosul

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Anna Foster, Presenter and Journalist for BBC Radio Live. Anna presents Drive on Radio 5 Live-the BBC’s national news and sports network,  and for the past 15 years she has reported major stories from around the United Kingdom and internationally.

Anna Foster, BBC Radio 5 Live

Ms. Foster has earned an impressive number of New York Festivals International Radio Awards throughout the years, including earning the prestigious 2017 Gold UNDPI Award and a Gold Award for her program 15 Minutes from Mosul, her important story

on the refugee’s in the camps outside the Iraqi city of Mosul.

While reporting for BBC, Ms. Foster has traveled to Sierra Leone to tell the story of the Ebola outbreak, reported from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, covered the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels and explored the refugee crisis in Germany.

She has a passion for developing the next generation of journalists, and increasing the visibility of women in the media via mentoring and encouragement.

In the interview below,  Ms. Foster shares her motivation for creating her award-winning program, how she came to connect with the Iraqi’s in the refugee camps, the creative challenges she encountered and how she solved them and more.

NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this program?

Anna Foster: I’d been following the awful impact that the Islamic State group was having not just in Iraq and Syria, but closer to home too. I’d travelled to Paris and Brussels to cover the terror attacks there, and was desperate to tell the stories of people who were living under the control of this awful organisation. They were largely voiceless at that stage – the difficulty of getting in to IS areas and the danger that people faced speaking out there had led to a wall of silence. But as people finally managed to leave Mosul I saw a chance. I really wanted to make a radio programme about people – parents and children, teenagers, men and women – ordinary individuals with extraordinary stories to tell.

NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with Manal and the other Iraqis in the refugee camp?

Anna Foster: We were in the camp, talking to the refugees, hearing horrifying stories of the lives they’d fled from. They were so warm and eager to speak, inviting us into the tents that were their new homes. I wanted to get a real sense of how they were living, so we were with a UNICEF medical team moving from family to family, giving vaccines to children who’d had no medical care under IS. Our fixer Mahmoud felt a tug on his sleeve – it was Manal’s relatives desperate to tell us her story. I still remember ducking through the canvas to see her two boys lying on a dirty mattress, with the thinnest arms and legs I’d ever seen. Their weak, pained cries took my breath away. It was such a tough moment, but I know I had to take pictures, talk to Manal, and find out what had happened to them.

NYF Radio: What risks if any did the people who shared their story have to come to terms with?

Anna Foster: Very often the people we spoke to didn’t want us to broadcast their names, because they had relatives who were still living in Mosul and at huge risk of violent reprisals. We had to be so careful, making sure we didn’t include faces in photos unless people’s whole families were known to have escaped from IS to safety. It was a huge responsibility, and I’m so glad that people trusted us enough to put their lives in our hands. Something like that really pushes you to make an incredible job of the material you get, to really do justice to people’s stories and make sure they’re heard around the world.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

Anna Foster: I wanted to make something unconventional, something that wouldn’t just grab the attention of people following the news, but instead break out of that mold and really speak to anyone who heard it. Because of that it doesn’t have a classic narration style, it’s very raw, I wanted the listener to feel like they were standing right alongside me, seeing what I was seeing at that moment. Equally though, I wanted it to be a compelling and beautifully produced piece of radio that stood out. We took the 15 minutes theme – the length of time it takes to travel from Mosul to the camps – and counted that time down through the programme to highlight that even though people were out of the city, they were still so close to danger.

To find out more about New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit:


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Open Mic Spotlight: Ljudevit Grgurić “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles”

NYF’s Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Ljudevit Grgurić award-winning journalist and HRT Croatian Radiotelevision talk show host. Mr. Grgurić earned the NYF Radio Awards Bronze Trophy/Best Director for “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles.”

Ljudevit Grgurić award-winning journalist and HRT Croatian Radiotelevision talk show host

Ljudevit Grgurić initially intended to give the award he won at the 2017 New York Festivals International Radio Awards in New York, “Best Regularly Scheduled Talk Program” category, to his guest Branko Lustig. The renowned producer thanked him for the idea, only to give the award back to the radio host.

“Mr. Lustig, it is my heartfelt hope that a Holocaust Museum will be opened soon in our capital city of Zagreb. I promise before all present that I will keep this award in my home and give it to the museum the first day it opens its doors,” said Mr. Grgurić, expressing his hope that multiple Oscar award winner and his radio guest Branko Lustig would be present at the opening of the museum. The Croatia Holocaust Museum will open next year in Zagreb, and the NYF Radio Award will be displayed.

Branko Lustig and Ljudevit Grgurić


Ljudevit Grgurić began his radio career in 1980 at Radio Zagreb. He is a prominent media star of Croatian radio and television. His programs have always had the hightest listener’s ratings, including “Retrovizor,” his show on Zagreb’s Radio 101 which aired during the 1980′s to his present award-winning  program of 7 years running, “Hungry Ears.”  “Hungry Ears” airs on HR2, and to date  there have been 375 riveting interviews broadcasted featuring eminent guests from the world of entertainment, culture and politics.

NYF spent a few minutes with Mr. Grgurić as he shared the inspiration for his award-winning program, the preparation involved prior to production, the unique skills required to achieve success in the world of radio, and much more!

NYF Radio: How did your Bronze Trophy winning program “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this program?

Ljudevit Grguric: Hosting Mr. Branko Lustig, the only Croat to win two Oscars, on my show Hungry Ears has always been a great professional desire due to his miraculous childhood, during which he barely survived the Auschwitz and Bergen-Bensen concentration camps, as well as his brilliant production work on Schindler’s List, for which he won his first Oscar for best film in 1993 together with Steven Spielberg and Gerald R. Molen.

Branko Lustig with Steven Spielberg and Gerald R. Molen.


I always believed the day would come when we would meet one on one in my studio.

NYF Radio: How did you recruit Branko Lustig, the producer of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List to come onto your show?

Ljudevit Grguric: When the 83-year-old producer returned to Croatia in his old age, to his home town of Zagreb, and when he was named the honorary president of the Festival of Tolerance Jewish Film Festival, the opportunity presented itself to ask him to appear as a guest on my show just before the start of the festival. I let him know that I not only wanted to talk about the festival, but about his unbelievable life story, which I was sure would fill our listeners with optimism, motivation, and strength in these difficult times.

I was unbelievably happy when he accepted and confirmed that he would be coming to my show.

NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by inviting Branko to your show to discuss his experience in the camps during WW2?

Ljudevit Grguric: I must admit that I was concerned as to whether I would be able to create a relationship of mutual trust with Mr. Lustig during our show, which is broadcast live.

It was our first meeting, and the hour ahead of us would face us with unpleasant topics and unpleasant memories of the difficult and painful days of World War II, which I would have to remind Mr. Lustig.

Everyone who does this job knows how difficult it is to explain what sometimes happens in the studio and what energy it is that helps your interviewee open their soul to you. During this conversation, some miracle (that word again) turned our conversation into the intimate memories and the great, great sorrow of a good-hearted man. It was an emotionally charged conversation that brought tears not only to my eyes but, I believe, to those of all of our listeners, even those lacking in empathy.

Branko Lustig


NYF Radio: After interviewing Branko, and hearing him recount the “miracles” he said he experienced, do you believe in miracles?

Ljudevit Grguric: There is only one word to describe Mr. Lustig’s life path from the Nazi concentration camps to the stage on which he was twice awarded the most prestigious film award, a word Mr. Lustig himself clearly emphasized during the show – MIRACLE!

However, to experience a miracle, you or someone who loves you unconditionally must have a good heart! I believe that everyone who listened to Mr. Lustig that day will remember this forever! Yes, I do believe in miracles!

NYF Radio: What sort of research and preparation was involved for you to conduct this award-winning interview.

There have been 375 episodes of Hungry Ears to date, and just as many various themes and guests. The first episode of Hungry Ears was broadcast seven years ago.

I prepare for each guest thoroughly, I read everything that has been published about them in the media, and I often consider interesting details from their lives with their acquaintances or good friends, within the boundaries of good taste, of course!

This is how I prepared for my conversation with Mr. Lustig. And when you are well-prepared, you can be creative when running your interview!

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Ljudevit Grguric: I wanted to put Mr. Lustig and his moving, emotional story on air in our country, which is still questioning its role in its peculiar history today, to provide our listenership with striking proof of how cruel and brutal humanity in this part of Europe was at one point in its history.

However, after this part of our conversation, during which we spoke of the senseless human crimes of this time, Mr. Lustig voiced a thought I deeply wanted to hear from him: that, in the early 1980s, he mustered the strength to forgive all young people living today in this world as the descendents of his enemies in the name of love!

History is lifes classroom, and Branko Lustig, as a surviving witness of a dark period in history, has made it his lifes mission to remind everyone that forgiveness has miraculous power!

I was especially surprised by a series of telephone calls at the end of the show in which veterans of our own Homeland War tearfully thanked Mr. Lustig. These painful conversations gave me comfort in knowing that empathy still lives among the common people of our country.

NYF Radio: As Editor and Host of the programs, what unique skills do you need to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?

Ljudevit Grguric: First and foremost, you must be as curious and playful as a child, as understanding, eloquent, and well-read as a wise man, and if God has also granted you a pleasant voice and a feeling for the rhythm and melody of spoken thought, you can bravely set sail on the waves of radio.

NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for radio?

Ljudevit Grguric: I began in the 1980s as a DJ in a disco club. In those days, DJs announced the hit of the evening and ladies’ choice dances. Shut away in my glass aquarium, I often wondered when I would be able to say something wiser than those few sentences.

When I was named the best DJ in Zagreb, I was invited to audition for a job at a radio station in Zagreb that was just forming – Student Radio 101. After passing the audition, I was immediately tasked with coming up with a show on music history… I called it Rear View Mirror. After looking back, I bravely moved forward, and made it all the way to New York in the end!

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people who want to find their place for a career in the radio industry?

Ljudevit Grguric: My advice to all young people who dream about the appealing profession of radio or television host is, before making their final decision, to ask themselves a simple question – do they see themselves in the job, or do they see the job within themselves?

If the answer is that they see themselves in the job, I strongly recommend they begin thinking about another job immediately!

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Ljudevit Grguric: Of course, I believe that everyone has their own professional dream, and I am no different. But Im afraid to reveal it to you, because, in my country, we believe that dreams don’t come true if you reveal them.

But if we see each other in New York next year, then the doors to that dream will be open… Oh no, I’ve said too much…

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit:

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NYF Open Mic Spotlight: Hee-Jung Chung “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme – Part Two

This week, NYF  Open Mic offers up Part Two of the interview with Hee-Jung Chung, Executive Producer/Director for Korea News Network (KNN). Ms. Chung earned not only a Gold Trophy for Best Audio Book – Fiction for her outstanding entry “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme -A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired,” but two other awards. She also took home a Bronze Trophy for Community Service and a Finalist Award for  Information Documentary.  Keep reading to find out how Hee-Jung came to create this extraordinary program, how she met Jaemun , the gifted blind vocal student/performer, how the Barrier-Free Opera was received by the pubic, and her dream project.

Hee-Jung Chung at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards

NYF Radio: How did you come up with the idea for this project?

“Meeting with a blind vocal arts student”

Hee-Jung Chung: March of 2016, I met Jaemun Jeong, a blind young man studying vocal arts. Every sound around him: from the sound of singing to the sound of a wind, sounded like a note in music to him, and his gift for music has been widely known to people around him. Although Jaemun is an opera singer aspirant, he said he had never attended an opera. When he went to see an opera for the first time in his life with me, Jaemun continuously asked what was happening on the stage. I got bombarded with constant questions from Jae-Moon, “Who came out? Why are they laughing? Why are they surprised…?” He was disappointed that he couldn’t see the facial expressions and acting of vocalists or the subtitles on the screen.

Jaemun reading braille music score

“Compensatory Senses”

There is a common view on compensatory senses, which means the lack of a physical sense is compensated with another physical sense. For example, a blind person will develop acute hearing. Surprisingly, most of the visually impaired that we interviewed had a sense of absolute pitch. The term “Ray Charles effect” refers to blind people developing acute hearing in music. Blind musicians such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli are well-known examples. Research shows that people who lost vision as a child are more likely to develop acute hearing, and therefore, since musical talent is related to one’s hearing, it can be inferred that people with acute hearing could develop a musical talent as well.

“People with Visual Impairments and Operas”

While interviewing people with visual impairments, we found that many of them like music. To the visually challenged, music is a fair genre because listening to music has no restrictions for people with visual impairments. However, operas were different. From splendid stage settings to showy costumes, constant movements of performers, and to the subtitles that show the translation of the songs, operas are a composite work of art that consists of more visual features than any other genre of music. To understand an opera more in-depth, the story and lyrics need to be understood alongside its respective visual components.

“Barrier-Free Opera that was never made before”

In reality, first-timers for opera can feel rather distant regardless of being visually impaired or not, simply because the songs are sung in an unfamiliar language. Moreover, the languages are sung in poetic or archaic diction which make it even more difficult to understand. In Europe, even if the opera is sung in their own native language, many audiences buy the scripts before going to watch the opera. Real-time subtitles may be convenient; however, it may also obstruct their views and decide to focus only on the play. Thus, to better understand how opera works, you need to study the relative subject in question. This kind of situation can come to anyone and at any time. But, if such a situation comes to the visually impaired, what then?

When we visited the Busan School for the Blind, none of the students had attended an opera despite many who wanted to. Just like Jaemun who aspired to become an opera singer. That’s when I thought that there needed to be at least one method or content that could help the visually impaired. That’s when “Barrier-free Opera” begun, where everyone can be free and equal to one another, and to ‘fill up the empty spaces in our society with music.’

Visually imparied audience of Barrier-free Opera

NYF Radio: What was the goal of KNN when creating this program, and what was the result of this creative project?

Hee-Jung Chung: Opera in the dark is first-ever showcase of “Barrier-free Opera” as well as 6th special documentary broadcasting of “Barrier-free Opera.” Many of you may have questions as to how this “Barrier-free Opera” can be progressed through complete darkness. To be clear, I was not try to initiate a visually impaired ‘experience’. Being in a dark environment as one condition, I invited people to create the perfect stage in their own imaginative mind by concentrating on opera’s music. In the end, I hope to have created a new genre where everyone can experience a cultural activity through this barrier-free content. Despite having started this opera for the visually impaired, I also hope that everyone can enjoy opera as it’s not an easy genre of entertainment.

On September 8th, 2016, “La Bohème, Opera in the Dark”, the first barrier-free opera in Korea, was presented live for 70 minutes in complete darkness by 10 cast members including vocalists, voice actors and a pianist. The performance was successful and well received by the audience. (Please refer to the survey mentioned below) An audience of 800 people relied only on the sounds in complete darkness and imagined their own version of La Bohème.

Explanation to audience of how to enjoy Barrier Free Opera

A radio program including the three barrier-free operas and the documentary of the production of all the operas was broadcasted in 6 parts from KNN‘s Power FM channel.

KNN Radio Special Program, Barrier-Free Operas in 6 Parts

Part 1 <Opera of Empathy, Crossing the Wall of Disabilities> Documentary on Program Production

Part 2 <La Bohè me, Opera in the Dark> Live recording of special performance

Parts 3 & 4 <La Traviata, Opera for All Parts 1 & 2> with scene description and voice acting added to a famous recording of La Traviata.

Parts 5 & 6 <Die Zauberflöte, Opera that Became Light Parts 1 & 2> with live audio description added to the opera performed at Seoul Arts Center.

Also, a TV documentary on  the opera in the dark  production was made and broadcasted from KNN.

TV Documentary on Opera in the Dark

The operas were advertised and promoted through various television programs including news programs of KNN and other programs, and are expected to be expanded to a long-term nation-wide public project. The broadcast content will be made into audio books for the visually impaired and distributed with braille pamphlets to braille libraries, schools for the blind, associations for people with visual impairments and barrier-free theaters in multiplex cinemas so that they can be accessed by the visually impaired at any time. The materials will be distributed to cultural facilities across the country including Busan Cinema Center and Seoul Arts Center, encouraging sighted people to enjoy operas in a different way and to think of the need for cultural contents that can be enjoyed by people with and without disabilities.

Even though this program started as a project for people with sight loss, we wanted it to sound natural and have musical completeness. Moreover, I wanted to create a special feature where people without visual impairments could also enjoy the opera by integrating the use of imagining their own stage-set. This project helped us open our hearts and to better understand the difficulties which the visually impaired are facing on a daily basis, but also to feel beyond our abilities to see. So, with this project, I proved that an ideal hypothesis is right: “Each effort for disabled peopleis an effort for every human being.”

NYF Radio: How was this program received by the general public?

Hee-Jung Chung: The audience gave an enthusiastic response. Although the opera was performed in complete darkness, not even one person left the seat. In the survey conducted to 100 people who attended the performance, about 90 percent said they were more than satisfied with the opera.

About the need to barrier-free operas, more than half of the audience said it is necessary even though they said they hadn’t thought about it before the performance. One of our audiences said “I felt my heart beating fast. Then I realized something could make my heart throb…and sounds and voices could express so much…I thoroughly enjoyed it.” The other audience said “To be honest, I just thought operas were difficult to understand…this one, however, I could understand. Also, I enjoyed imagining the scenes because I couldn‘t see anything.” They all saw the need for barrier-free operas and their potential.

A large number of the audience were visually impaired. Mr. Byeong-don Lee, the chairman of the Korea Blind Union said Blind people love music but operas were the most challenging genre. This is my first time to attend one so I came from Seoul with high expectation. This opera gave a great opportunity for all of us to understand one another, share each other‘s feelings through music and crossing the wall between one another.” and Mr. Yeong-hee Song, the president of Dialogue in the Dark were in the audience. La Bohème was a special opera to them. “I don‘t think this opera is made only for the blind. It was too enjoyable. Every cast member had a different voice but they went together so well. Just like a harmonious orchestra of voices. I could picture an orchestra. It’s so different and a performance designed for a certain audience could become something to be enjoyed by all. Someone said before that facilities designed for people with disabilities will become facilities for all after all. Same as with this performance. At first it was planned for certain people to enjoy, but I think it became a performance everyone else can enjoy. It was amazing and inspiring.”

Amongst music genres, operas are considered the most visual composite art. And La Bohème was presented only by sounds in complete darkness. Since it was heard through ears and seen with mind‘s eye, it became the only opera of the kind in the world.

Curtain Call of La Bohéme

Perhaps this opera was for us who miss out on so many things because of the things we see. With barrier-free operas that have become operas for all, we can dream of a barrier-free world.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Hee-Jung Chung: I believe people who believe in changing the world are actually changing the world. I always want to make program what can change even little part of the world. Now, I am preparing a performance of “Opera In the Dark” in English in New York (Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations) & Houston (Brown Auditorium Theater of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston or Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater of Asia Society Texas Center, or Cullen Performance Hall of Houston University / Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Houston invited). If any of you want to know any further information of Barrier-Free Opera, please e-mail me. ( I need your interest. Thank all of you. Thank NYF!!

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NYF Open Mic Spotlight:Hee-Jung Chung “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme – A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired”

NYF’s Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Hee-Jung Chung, Executive Producer/Director for Korea News Network(KNN). Ms. Chung earned a Gold Trophy for Best Audio Book – Fiction for her outstanding entry “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme -A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired.”

Hee-Jung Chung accepting the 2017 NYF Gold Trophy


In part one of this interview with Hee-Jung Chung, offers insights into the logistical and technical challenges that she encountered when creating this award-winning program. Join NYF’s Open Mic us next week for part two of this revealing in-depth interview.

NYF Radio: KNN’s “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme – A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired” earned the Gold Trophy for their award-winning program that was presented live for 70 minutes in complete darkness by 10 cast members including vocalists, voice actors and a pianist. What technical and logistical challenges did you encounter when creating this program?

Hee-Jung Chung: I decided to produce the world’s first barrier-free version of ‘La Bohéme’ as an actual performance and present it like a showcase in order to raise awareness about the need for barrier-free operas.

Barrier-Free Opera Logo


This opera is dubbed barrier-free because all performances will be in the dark to showcase the operas to audiences under the same condition: a complete absence of light. While barrier-free contents with audio description in television programs and movies are being produced increasingly, no opera, which is a comprehensive form of art, has been made with barrier-free accessibility. Therefore, I had to stat from zero, creating everything from beginning to end. Since no barrier-free opera was made ever before and no opera was ever performed in complete darkness before, a number of unexpected variables and situations occurred. But through these hard obstacles, it taught us the real hardships and the difficulties people with visual impairments face in a day to day basis.

Challenge 1 . Understanding darkness

When I came up with this idea first, nobody understood what I wanted. Nobody thought it is possible. I had to take care of everything. Many of my staffs didn’t understand why do I need to make a performance in ‘complete darkness’. They were embarrassed about that performance will be held in complete darkness. “How will the vocalists come on and leave the stage?” “Will the voice actors be able to read the script?” “How about musicians? Will they be able to see the music or the keys on the piano?” Everyone was extremely worried. I wanted to motivate them. I wanted them to think about the purpose of this performance. For that, we had to understand darkness.  I don’t have a physical disability. Except for Jaemun Jeong (visually impaired vocal student/special appearance), our cast and staff do not have a visual impairment.

Voice Actors and Vocalist practicing La Bohéme, Opera in the Dark

In July when fierce discussions on darkness were taking place, we visited Dialogue in the Dark, located in Seoul to find an answer. ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ is a place where you experienced your daily life for 100 minutes in complete darkness. It is rather a special world where you can touch, feel and perceive by using all your senses except sight. We receive more than 90 percent of information through our eyes. Interestingly, however, we could imagine just because we couldn‘t see. Although all of us were travelling in the same place, what we saw in our minds was different from one another. What would it be like to have a drink we always have? Guess what? We  could not tell the taste of it, even when we drink coke. Actually, we didn’t have the slightest idea that it was a cola…(some guests said they couldn’t taste anything).

This journey in the darkness reminded all of us that how much we rely on our sight and how information can be distorted as we are too reliable on what we see. It is Yeong-hee Song, the president of this special place. After losing his eyesight due to a tragic accident, Mr. Song said he discovered a new world in darkness. “In my case, I became used to using other senses gradually that helped me perceive the world surrounding me without having to see. I think by doing so that find pleasure in perceiving the world in you own way.  It may sound way too optimistic to those who just lost their eyesight. I of course understand how they must feel because I’ve been there. I can assure them that they will become relaxed eventually and find a different means of communication that goes beyond eyesight.”

We found a clue here. Our audience will be listening to Opera La Bohéme in the complete  darkness. By concentrating only on music and sounds, which are considered the key elements of an opera, they will be imagining their own stages. To let them do so, we will keep it dark. Darkness is after all a key to a whole new world.

Also, I decided to do the trial in darkness. First, pianist So-hyang Sohn had to play the piano in darkness. I was more concerned about the pianist than any other cast. However, after her trial play in impenetrable darkness she can’t even see an inch before her, she said, “I’ve never played in the complete darkness before. I have been playing for 30 years, but what surprised me was the feeling on the tips of my fingers was completely different. The texture of the keys was something I’ve never touched before. It wasn’t what I knew before. Beside, because I couldn’t see anything, I could concentrate my mind. The level of focus went up. Interestingly I made a mistake when  I played with the lights came on (it was true…interesting) When I played with the lights out, I had to rely on the feeling on my fingertips and I could focus better. So, If I was playing in such a situation. I mean at a performance attended by people with visual disabilities. I though it would be meaningful and I could focus better.” How about the singers? SOP. Jiyoung Jeon said “When reaching a climax, when we need to focus more and breathe out longer, we sing with our eyes closed. If we can keep doing that from beginning to end, I think we can definitely focus better.”

Challenge 2. Making darkness

I had to check if it would be possible to perform an opera in the dark. When we first went a concert hall, we started to turn off the lights inside the concert hall one by one. Finally, all the lights were out, However, it wasn’t easy to make the concert hall completely dark. Emergency exit lights were quite bright, but those lights couldn’t be controlled here at the concert hall, but from the emergency control room.There were other problems apart from the emergency exit lights. Lights were leaking through the seats and on the stage. There were so many lights, a lot more than we thought. Hun-seok Jang, the lighting director who has taken care of the lighting for all the performances held at the concert hall of Busan Cinema Center, was astonished at bringing complete darkness into the concert hall. He said “Complete darkness in the concert hall only existed in the audiences’ imagination. There was never 100 percent darkness. When all the lights were turned off, there was always light. Therefore, it was really hard to get rid of all the lights completely. And I also realized that there were lights coming from everywhere that I didn’t notice before.” After contacting a number of departments and waiting for a long time, we were able to have complete darkness.

We also had to be concerned how the audience will respond to the complete darkness. Despite legal issues, it could not be tolerated for some audiences. We couldn’t just lock people up in darkness for 90 minutes. In every theater, audiences can leave to take care of psychological matters. If someone is psychologically scared, we need to be able to let him leave. The theater approved this performance only after receiving a memorandum of understanding that I am responsible for all these situations. Besides, we notified  about darkness to every potential audiences. We hired double numbers of ushers & staff, more  than the usual performance.

Challenge 3. STRUCTURE : Enormous meeting, rewriting, practicing and practicing…

It was not easy to structure the opera. Since there are many visual factors that have to be described in the opera. When you come to think of it, there are so many elements in operas that need to be seen with eyes from including dazzling stages, fancy costumes and singers’ gestures and even the subtitles, that is, translation of characters’ lines and songs. Besides, so many operas consist of singing from the beginning to the end, which would give little time to describe the entire operas. Above all, operas are considered as a difficult genre by sighted people. I asked myself again & again. Could people with visual impairments see through sounds and sighted people also enjoy operas without having to read subtitles?

Advisor Sumi Jo with KNN's Hee-Jung Chung

I formed a team of experts from different fields. A production team was composed of a producer who majored in vocal arts (me), a writer specializing in audio description, and an opera coach. Opera expert Sumi Jo, a barrier-free accessibility related group and organization for the blind volunteered to offer advice. Opera singers Jiyoung Jeon and Dongwon Shin who have played key roles in operas around the world joined us in our operas, and veteran voice actors such as Hye-jeong Seo, Deok-hee Choi and Han-seong Bae provided their voices for audio description and characters.

How much should be described by audio became the first issue. Sumi Jo, one of the world’s most famous opera singers, agrees to the difficulty to understand operas. She made such comments like “In Europe, subtitles are shown even when an opera is performed in the country where the same language is spoken,” and the problem gets bigger when singing with translated words from one language to another as the underlying meaning, nuances and accents intended by the composer could be affected. Moreover, another problem is when the lyrics in the songs are not heard clearly when they are sung. Sumi Jo said “It is sometimes hard to understand the words of the song that my partner vocalist is singing, Even though he is singing next by me.” While differences in nuances can vary greatly from language to language, it is the vocalization methods that make it hard to understand the words in an opera. Therefore, I decided to produce operas in their original languages rather than adapting the lyrics into Korean, and instead provide description  of scenes and subtitles.

Rehearsal of barrier-free opera

If the lyrics were translated and sung by vocalists, then scenes are the only ones needed to be described, thus making the performance far simpler. However, I did not want to diminish the visually impaired audience‘s first opera experience. After a number of meetings and modifications of the script, I was finally able to complete the music and script through translation, allowing voice actors to read the script during the breaks between phrases. Subtitles could be more effectively delivered by adopting more liberal translation instead of word for word translation. In Barrier-Free Opera, while piano was played, the narrator describes the stage and the motions of the characters. Italian words in songs were delivered in Korean by voice actors for each character after vocalists sang.

Challenge 4. Effort to Give an equal opportunity to Visual Impaired People

I also had to decide whether Jaemun Jeong, a blind vocal arts student who inspired us to start this project, should take part or not. I asked the vocalists including soprano Sumi Jo

Jaemun and Sumi Jo

about their opinions and it was decided that Jaemun should participate as Rodolfo in the duet in Act 4. When the cast were finalized, practice began in full swing including reading the script in the darkness.

Pamphlets and posters containing both normal writing and braille were produced so that visually impaired people could read them.


Challenge 5. Expressing opera only relying on sound

Since there would be no sounds generated by acting, special sound effects indicating the direction of motions were also produced for the opera. To help the audience to picture the space and movements, we therefore decided to create such noises. We created sounds by tearing paper, painting with a brush on canvas, and clinking glasses…etc. Effects were added to those sounds to indicate directions. E.g. As that Rodolfo and Mimi are walking on the snow, leaving the stage to the right, (Sound of 2 persons’ footsteps moving from  left to right, or assuming the door is on the right side of the stage, I set the door opening from the right side of the stage. On the empty stage where there’s no light, these sounds described space and movements of the characters. Since the opera consists only of sounds, I wanted to let the audience imagine by hearing the sounds. As to let them imagine the settings by listening to sounds, three-dimensional sound effects were added and all the sounds were becoming complete.

Stay Tuned for part two of the interview with Hee-Jung Chung and learn more about this break-through award-winning program.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit:


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NYF Open Mic Spotlight on Dick Golden “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius”

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week NYF interviews 2017 Gold Trophy winner Dick Golden, Host and Producer of “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius” (University of Maryland University College (UMUC) & George Washington University).

Dick Golden Accepting the Gold Radio Trophy at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards


Dick Golden is a revered broadcast veteran and the beloved host of popular radio programs on jazz and the Great American Songbook. For over a quarter of a century Golden’s show “Nightlights was heard thought out Cape Cod and Southern Massachusetts sharing songs and fascinating conversations with jazz greats including Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney.

Dick currently produces and hosts GW’s award-winning cultural, educational program GW Presents American Jazz heard nationally on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio as well as Washington’s Federal News Radio. The series is produced in partnership with Tony Bennett’s Exploring the Arts Foundation. He serves as staff advisor to WRGW, the university’s student-run radio station. Dick has lectured at educational seminars for The Smithsonian Associates, and has hosted concerts for The Voice of America as well as programs with U.S. Service Bands in D.C

Keep reading to find out more about Golden’s inspiration for his award-winning program, the creative challenges he encountered during production, how his passion for jazz developed, and much more.

NYF Radio: How did your Gold Trophy winning program “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius” come to be produced?  What was the inspiration for the creation of this celebratory program?

Tony Bennett with Dick Golden

Dick Golden: The American Jazz “Tribute to Genius” program’s production was inspired by the celebration of Tony Bennett’s birthday on August 3rd and Louis Armstrong’s birthday on August 4th. Tony Bennett’s artistry, 17 years into the 21st century, has helped bring the songs contained in the American Songbook, the standards written by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, the Gershwin’s, etc. written in the 20th century to new generations of Americans. Bing Crosby once observed that, “Louis Armstrong is the beginning and end of American music.”  Both artists, and their music, represent some of the highest achievements in American popular culture.

NYF Radio:  What was the process in curating the music and stories to be featured in this celebration of the music lives and legacies of the jazz greats, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett?

Dick Golden: For the past 40 years I’ve produced and hosted radio programs that feature American standards and jazz.  So much of the traditional jazz repertoire is made up of American standards and this is the intersection I’ve focused on my programs. I’ve never tired of studying the lives of the composers and artists. Tony Bennett, an NEA Jazz Master and this year’s recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, has been an essential part of our programs and I’ve had the pleasure of many interviews with him and some of that material became a part of the first hour of “Tribute to Genius”. Louis Armstrong has been another essential artist in my radio career. In 2001, I was Senior Producer for a 13-hour NPR tribute to Louis and the research and interviews with eminent jazz musicologist Gary Giddins and others inspired my deep appreciation for the impact Armstrong continues to have on musicians.

Louis Armstrong


NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Dick Golden: The major challenges in producing a program to celebrate this music and these artists is to have to contain the tribute to only 2 hours!!

NYF Radio:  Where did you first develop your passion for Jazz? How did you come to share your passion on radio?

Dick Golden: Growing up in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s I was truly fascinated by radio…to be able to connect to such a diverse number of different realities that we’re floating through the air and cold be accessed by turning on radio and going up and down the dial to this day, even witha working knowledge of the basic science behind it, continues to this day to be magical!!! When I was growing up the radio spectrum was not just filled with stations that played pop music, but you often heard the voices of Sinatra, Ella, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, etc and this was the music that touched heart and soul of even a 12-year-old… and my appreciation for the music and the power of radio continues to deepen!

Dave Brubeck with Dick Golden


NYF Radio: How did the GW Presents American Jazz series, on Sirius XM Satellite come about?(Michel Freedman of University of Maryland University College (UMUC) & George Washington University , Senior Vice President & Professor of Journalism , USA weighs in…)

Michael Freedman: The spark for this series was actually created while I was serving as GM of CBS Radio Network and Dick Golden was program director of the CBS affiliate on Cape Cod, as well as that community’s beloved and longtime #1 radio host.

I had occasion to meet the great Tony Bennett in Manhattan and that led to a conversation about how to keep this wonderful music on the radio. We agreed to produce a series of specials for the network and it was Tony who introduced me to Dick! Once the connection was made, the three of us set about to further this cause and we began producing radio specials together at CBS. When I arrived at GW as a vice president and professor at the end of 2000, the three of us decided there was more to do and ultimately created American Jazz in the fall of 2001 on local radio in Washington. Tony Bennett himself opened the door to Sirius XM Satellite Radio by making a call on our behalf – without our knowing it. And the rest, as they say, is history! Over the years, Tony has contributed mightily to the series through interviews with Dick (excerpts of which have been used on the air) and his incredible support of the series and his dear friend, Dick Golden. Bottom line: Dick is a treasure and all of his listeners know it!

NYF Radio: Your show is in 15th year, and it’s also broadcast on the renowned jazz radio station, WGBO Jazz 88.3, with studios in Newark N.J., and transmitters in New York City’s Times Square, to what do you attribute its longevity?

Dick Golden: I believe the program endures (as mentioned I began the essentially same program as a 6 night a week, 4-hour program in September of 1977 on Cape Cod at WQRC radio) because the music is timeless. The American Songbook is populated by thousands of 32 bar songs that are really short stories about the human experience. When performed by artists who not only have unique voices and great musicality, but perform the songs with emotional honesty, this music, like great art, never grows old.

NYF Radio: How do you determine your weekly show’s format and how do you begin to prep for the show?

Dick Golden: One aspect of producing the weekly program that seems like an anachronism today is that I record each hour in real time. I don’t record voice tracks separately and then mix in music…as I’m playing a selection and listening in my ear phones I’m often inspired to play a different follow up tune because of something I heard… This method allows me to experience the program the same way the listeners will. I often use birthdays as a catalyst to feature an artist/composer’s work for an hour…I try to avoid any extraneous talk that detracts from the music but do try to remember to mention composers and recording dates to give context to music.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for jazz enthusiasts who want to honor this musical genre in the radio industry by creating their own formatted show on jazz?

A couple of years ago the PD at Real Jazz Sirius Radio forwarded to me an email from a listener who grew up in New Jersey and loved Real Jazz.  He was thrilled to discover the American Jazz program because it was produced by GW and HE was a GW student. I reached out to Ryan Goynos and invited him to drop by radio studio when I was recording. I was very gratified that he had such a love of Billie Holiday, Basie, Ella, Tony Bennett, etc. He told me that he and his brother both LOVED this music and could his brother join Ryan in attending another recording session.  I replied “of course…does your brother live nearby?” Ryan said, ” Yes, he also attends GW…he’s my twin brother!”. When Chris came into studio with Ryan I interviewed them on the program and had them choose 8-10 selections. It was such a great experience that I suggested I assist them in recording an audition CD for GW’s student radio station WRGW (on the air since 1929) and they co-host a weekly program called Capitol Jazz! I would encourage anyone in radio who loves this music to create podcasts and to convince PD’s to make some room in a station’s format ( weekends, overnights, etc.) for this music. Produced and hosted by someone with appreciation and knowledge of the music, I believe the program will find a very bright, loyal and engaged… and grateful audience.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Dick Golden: If I had Warren Buffet or Bill Gates wealth, I would assemble a team to create a radio version of what Turner Classic Movies is to film…A broadcasting platform that presented this body of American music in the most engaging and intelligent style. Knowledgeable and passionate hosts…Wonderful feature and interview to educate and inform listeners … Wonderful features and interview to educate and inform listeners…creative programs that would encourage interaction with audience. The listeners I’ve heard from over the years are so involved in listening to this music and so inspiring in their reaction to what they hear.

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NYF Open Mic:Spotlight on DMC Studio’s Diego Cannizzaro

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week NYF Grand Jury member and 2017 Grand Trophy winner Diego Cannizzaro, owner and director of DMC STUDIO Argentina, spent a few minutes sharing his insights about his award-winning program BLACKOUT and the world of radio.

Diego is a multi-award winning script writer, sound designer, composer and independent radio producer. Since 1995, he has worked  at both radio stations and as a radio producer creating an unmistakable style through sound. Keep reading to find out more about how Diego and DMC STUDIO created BLACKOUT, how he and his team utilized technology to solve creative challenges, his opinion as a Grand Jury member on what he’s personally looking for when awarding creative programming, and much more.

NYF Radio: Why did DMC STUDIO create the program “Blackout” and how did you come up with this creative program idea?

Diego Cannizzaro: BLACKOUT was created for several reasons. One of them was to create a space in which we can describe what sounds can transmit on their own, in a simple and natural way…a complete description of the parallel world surrounding us built of sounds.

At DMC STUDIO we wanted to have a unique space, where sensitivity, perception and intuition have a leading role. It was vital then, to find an abstract escape line and at the same time real so that the sound story is also protagonist in the same space abolutely daily day. That is why it was necessary that the sounds build the stage and be the architecture from where the character would narrate the story. As the script was written literally and sonorously the idea was enhanced that the character has an extra sensitivity that is superior and different.

Buenos Aires is not a city prepared 100% for someone blind, that’s why for us, this character is a HERO of everyday life. For his ability to move around the city and his way of telling and enjoying life through sound. Buenos Aires, has a sonorous beauty that not everyone can perceive and except our HERO, of course … yes.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter when producing “Blackout” and how did you solve those challenges?

Diego Cannizzaro: There were several challenges. But undoubtedly the most important was the task of adapting literature to the angle of a blind person, although the narrative was more poetic and could be interpreted by a person not necessarily blind. The other challenge was more technical and meant something very important for us: to be able to reflect in audio, different scenarios of Buenos Aires, and record and play them on a radio piece.

While the recording of sounds can be something simple, the real challenge was to include in our sound work, binaural or 360 degree recordings to implore the documentary more realistic moments in the plans and sound scenarios.

NYF Radio: How did technology help this program achieve your creative goals?

Diego Cannizzaro: BLACKOUT is a stereo mix, but in it we can find the binaural recording technology of ALL the sound effects, all the environments, dialogues, that is to say, all the sounds that are the main story of the character, music (in stereo) All natural environments, external sounds, sound effects are 100% real recorded in the epicenter of the city of Buenos Aires. For this we used Tascam recorders and binaural German Soundman microphones. On the other hand, we used an AKAI sampler to generate loops and more complex musical compositions. That is to say, the captured sounds were not only edited but sampled to generate rhythms, synchronizations and combinations that bring more authenticity to the musical background. All this was mastered in Pro-tools at DMC STUDIO.

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “Blackout” such a successful program?

Diego Cannizzaro: I think BLACKOUT, achieved its success because of its originality in the script, in the story and in the way of telling it. The interpretation of Gustavo Bonfigli took it to the right point. Literally it is a new way to narrate a story that only happens to a person, but that if we want, we could happen to all. From writing, we tried to approach listeners and together imagined a parallel story in something as simple as daily life. That is to say…to value the simple and beautiful that we can find within it. From the sound, I think it reaches a very good level of quality Sonora because it was thought out and very the technically approached. The sound proposes a new texture and a cutting-edge sound and a new way to present the audio. I think he does not lose any detail. I think the script and sound in BLACKOUT have been found and fused in a positive way for 1 hour of sound documentary.

Diego Cannizzaro accepting the 2017 NYF Radio Awards Grand Trophy for Blackout

NYF Radio: How was the radio program received in Argentina?

Diego Cannizzaro: BLACKOUT in Argentina has been well received and has positioned itself as a cutting-edge documentary/podcast. This work invites and opens the door to a new way of making documentaries or podcasts and perhaps is the one that kicks off and is a pioneer in this space.

NYF Radio: Your program earned the 2017 Grand Award in the Heroes category, what does earning this award mean to you and your staff?

Diego Cannizzaro: It’s a wonderful thing to win. Personally, I take it with much pride and respect. I value it very much since, as I said, it is a WORLD RECOGNITION from all the colleagues in the radio world who love and are passionate about what I do, tell stories built with sounds. My team takes it with great enthusiasm at DMC STUDIO and this certainly encourages us to continue writing stories and working the sound from another angle, with another sense, to generate a new perspective almost visual … with the audio.

NYF Radio: “Blackout” earned an additional 3 Gold Trophies and a Silver Trophy, why do you think the judges resonated so much with this program?

Diego Cannizzaro: BLACKOUT was made with knowledge, dedication, experience of each one in his task, but above all things with much dedication and prescience. An infinite dedication for good sound quality and good stories.

I think this piece has perhaps the ability to touch the exact point and excite you. For the simple that is and at the same time for its extreme complexity. I think the judges have had the right sensitivity to discover every layer that composes it and to feel the true essence of the script and through the sounds.

NYF Radio: As a judge for NYF’s Radio Program Awards, what do you personally look for when awarding creative programming? What are the key components of an award-winning program?

Diego Cannizzaro: As a member of NYF’s Jury, I seek originality. I understand that it is very difficult to generate, but I like the limitless original programs in all aspects, script, sound, editing and live performances.

NYF Radio: What is next for you on the horizon, what new program do you hope to create?

Diego Cannizzaro: The next horizon is to carry out a new program, a new presentation, another sound experience that is already in pre-production, but which I believe will see the light later.

Try to have BLACKOUT heard in other languages, since it is also a documentary/podcast of my city, Buenos Aires and if someone in another country of a language and culture absolutely different from mine is interested in reproducing it, see how to make it possible. On the other hand, I would like to be able to interweave knowledge with other colleagues and talents from other countries, unify the sound world working from Argentina or in different parts of the globe. I think that together we can work and build something huge if we want it, since we have in common the language of sound.

NYF Radio: What are the most important skills you need to be a success in the radio industry?

Diego Cannizzaro: I believe that believing in oneself is fundamental. And also the creativity in doing something original. Beyond the technical knowledge I take for granted, but for me very important to believe that it is possible.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people wanting to begin a career in radio? What is the best advice you were given when first starting out in the radio industry

Diego Cannizzaro: Let them try it themselves, because the radio, the stories and the sounds are worth since they coexist is a world full of surprises.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit:


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NYF Open Mic: Spotlight on TBI Media’s Phil Critchlow

Each week, NYF’s Open Mic feature interviews with prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week  NYF Advisory Board member Phil Critchlow, CEO and Founding Director of TBI Media, UK spends a few minutes with NYF.


Phil’s career spans  over 25 years in the industry and during that time he has developed and delivered some of the highest profile broadcast and events projects in the UK and internationally on Television, Radio and Online. He’s won over 100 awards for creativity, including leading TBI to earning the New York Festivals Radio Awards ‘Production Company of the Year’  for the last 5 years consecutively. This esteemed award recognizes the production company with the highest scores for entries and largest medal count across all categories. Bravo TBI!

In the interview below, Phil  spends a few minutes sharing his industry insights including the creative challenges he encountered when producing his Grand Award-winning live broadcast of “World Cup 66”, TBI’s unique approach to complex productions, how his team recreates historical events, and much more.

NYF Radio: TBI Media earned the title of 2017 Production Company of the Year Award for their outstanding programs, to what do you attribute TBI’s continued success?

Phil Critchlow: We have a great team at TBI who always seem prepared to go the extra mile to make something that’s genuinely different, often challenging and hopefully completely engaging. The bottom line is that it’s all fundamentally down to that team spirit.

NYF Radio: How many years running have you earned this prestigious title?

Phil Critchlow: This is the 5th year

NYF Radio: Your spectacular entry “World Cup 66” also earned the Grand Award (History). What creative challenges did you encounter when producing this complex musical undertaking and how did technology play a part in its creation?

Phil Critchlow: The whole thing – narration, drama, all music, FX and inserts was delivered, or played, fully live, in a 10,000-seat arena, to BBC Radio 2, Radio 5Live, TV, and over 200 cinemas across the UK.

On the afternoon of Saturday 30th July, beginning at 3:00pm, exactly 50 years to the minute later, drama, music, history and sport combined into a once in a lifetime event – ‘World Cup 66 Live – Minute by Minute’. It brought the United Kingdom together, through radio, to mark a defining moment in our nation’s cultural and sporting history.

Representing a number of BBC firsts – the programme was broadcast live from Wembley Arena, yards from where the original game was played. The story was told in a completely new way with a painstakingly timed approach, which took the listener Minute by Minute through the whole game and, importantly, showed how people from all walks of life responded to it.

It was a mammoth musical undertaking, guest vocalists delivered live, newly arranged performances of hits from 1966. All was then underscored by a specially composed filmic soundtrack, played by 22 musicians throughout the 2 hour and 40 minute production.

The 100 plus pages of original script required over 400 audio and visual cues. 160 audio sources were mixed from the stage. As well as the stereo soundtrack for 2 simulcast national BBC Radio networks and TV. The team also generated a separate, full 5.1 surround mix for cinemas.

The extremely complex narration was delivered by Jeremy Vine and Louise Minchin. Sherlock and Hobbit Star, Martin Freeman played Bobby Moore. Special guest appearances included Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst.

The reaction was phenomenal, with unprecedented levels of social media, 3 national newspaper front page photos the following day and many commenting on the level of emotion conveyed by the approach.

This is possibly one of the most complex, live radio programmes ever made but – complexity aside – we hope it was driven throughout by the power of a compelling story, told in a completely new way, fundamentally through radio.

NYF Radio: TBI took home a total of 6 Gold Trophies, 5 Silver and 4 Finalist Certificates, your programs consistently score multiple accolades, what makes your approach to production so unique and award-worthy?

Phil Critchlow: Again, it’s down to a team who are prepared to go the extra mile in finding the best stories, and then telling them with journalistic integrity and real attention to detail. We also focus on programmes we hope deliver a real emotional reaction from the audience.

NYF Radio: TBI has a reputation for creating live events incorporating lots of moving parts and pieces including multiple locations, musicians, actors, how did you personally start down this enormously creative yet challenging road?

Phil Critchlow: It always starts with the story. We then spend time working out the best way to tell it. Sometimes that can be a big stage like World Cup 66, but there are still moments when a much smaller and more intimate approach is what’s needed, as with ‘The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away’ which picked up 3 Golds this year and involved a series of powerful interviews linked by a strong script delivered by a passionate presenter.

NYF Radio: Your team re-creates spectacular historical events taking place in real-time, how do you begin to tackle projects of this size and scope and maintain historical accuracy?

Phil Critchlow: Our writing team, led by Jonathan Mayo, go through a painstaking

Jonathan Mayo, Producer, TBI Media

research process to make sure the story is told accurately. There’s a real focus on finding unexpected parts of each narrative with particular attention paid to unearthing small details about the human reactions to the story.

NYF Radio: How does your team work so seamlessly on such a wide variety of live events? What particular skill set is need to produce the complex level of programs that you create? And how long is the timeline from concept to finished production?

Phil Critchlow: Again, we tell stories, and regardless of genera or subject the process ultimately tends to be the same. Establish the truth and then convey that truth in as compelling a way as possible. The skill is principally understanding how to tell each story in the best way possible to create a strong human reaction and level of engagement from the audience.

Time lines vary enormously. They can be as short as a couple of weeks, and as long as 3 years from concept to delivery.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and so, what was it?

Phil Critchlow: There’s always another dream project, and we have several more in the early stages of production as we speak. For me personally, they will almost always involve what I believe to be great stories, told on large stages by great presenters and actors, complimented by the best music.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit:


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NYF Open Mic: Spotlight on Radio Educación’s Youth Radio Programming

New York Festivals celebrated the World’s Best Radio Programs℠ from around the globe at their annual awards gala in New York City on June 19th. NYF spent a few minutes with Lourdes Müggenburg – Producer and Max Müggenburg – Youth Commentator from Radio Educación Mexico.

Radio Educación’s Lourdes Müggenburg (Lulu) and Max Müggenburg took home the 2017 Silver Trophy for “We have homework” Sharing our Posada Festivity with our Radio-Listeners for Best Children/Young Adult Program.

Max and Lulu Müggenburg Radio Educación, Mexico

“We have homework!” was developed  because in Mexico there are more than 15 million children between the ages of 8 to 17  and there was not a show dedicated to children and teenagers where they could express their doubts, annoyances, emotions together with  listeners. The show preserves national traditions  and promotes feedback between the youth-presenters and listeners. “We have homework!” is moderated by a professional psychologist who encourages children to participate, while respecting the opinions  of others with tolerance and acceptance.

In the interview below, Lulu shares her insights on how and why Radio Educación’s  “We have homework!” program was created, her thoughts on why the show is so successful, the contribution the youth commentators add to the show, and much more.

New York Festivals: Why did Radio Educación create the program “We have homework!” and how long has this program been on the air?

Lulu Müggenburg: Radio Educación originally planned the show to guide parents to be able to support children with their  school homework. It was only after six months that we realized that our task was way beyond school homework, so we included a wide array of social themes. We also we decided to add children as commentators of the show.

New York Festivals: How did the producer (Lulu) cast the youth commentators?  How many youth commentators are on the team?

Lulu Müggenburg: It really seems it was a natural way that we choose our cast of commentators. I remember we had a contest on the show to find the best diaries submitted by the audience about their holidays. The six winners visited and they have been with us there on. We have 6 commentators today.

New York Festivals: Why is Youth Radio important and what do you think makes this show so successful?

Lulu Müggenburg: The Radio is magical. It reaches way beyond where I could have ever imagined. It allows people to develop their creativity and moves cords in every soul hearing behind the receptor.

New York Festivals: How often does the show run and how do you come up with the creative ideas for each show?

Lulu Müggenburg: “We have homework” is a weekly show. It has a different topic every week. It is an absolute joy to be able to create and produce a program all together. It much more a fun task than a job.

New York Festivals: How do you prep for your program?

Lulu Müggenburg: As a team, we brainstorm ideas for the show and come up with an agreement of our weekly topic and decide on a topic based on suggestions. We have an impressive amount of interesting people sending recommendations to us about  what to talk about on our radio show.

New York Festivals: What are the future goals for the show “We have homework!” and how do you plan to achieve those goals?

Lulu Müggenburg: We always have challenges, but it is amazing how there are always surprises on every show. The least expected aspect seems to be a bundle of joy for the audience and so on. It is with great happiness that I am able to produce such a gratifying radio show.

New York Festivals: How does it feel to earn the 2017 NYF Radio Awards Silver Trophy and what does it mean to your team and the radio station?

Lulu Müggenburg: The show “We have homework” and all its team is profoundly proud the NYF Radio Awards has acknowledged our effort, work, and dedication once more. Radio Educación also feels honored with this third award.

New York Festivals: In 2014, “If I were to be president, I would…!” earned the NYF Gold Trophy for Best Children/Young Adult Program; to what do you attribute your history of success?

Lulu Müggenburg: When we won the First Place for the program “If I were to be president…” it was as a result of  the in-depth preparation of each of the member individually and all of the team as a group…. the children commentators have applied to our show what they learned then: they are really focused on democratic aspects such as tolerance, freedom, choices….

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit:


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NYF Celebrates Outstanding Radio from Around the Globe

On June 19th, New York Festivals® International Radio Program Awards hosted the annual awards Gala at New York City’s Manhattan Penthouse.  Radio royalty from around the  globe gathered to celebrate the World’s Best Radio Programs℠ selected by the Grand Jury from entries submitted from 32 countries.

The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception  with some of the world’s most recognizable voices and captivating programming producers in the industry mingling with new friends and familiar faces followed by a seated dinner/awards presentation.

Prominent award-winning radio industry executives honored winners and presented award segments:  Mark Travis, New York Philharmonic USA; Joe Richman, Sarah Kate Kramer, Nellie Gilles, Ben Shapiro, Radio Diaries USA; Tim Desmond, RTÉ Radio 1 Ireland; Jennie Cataldo, BMP Audio USA; Sean Brocklehurst, Albert Leung, and Eric Van, CBC Radio One Canada; Jon Tjhia and Sophie Black, The Wheeler Centre Australia and Michael Green, Behind the Wire Australia and Clea Chang, Intelligence Squared USA.

Peter Woods, Current Affairs Editor accepting Broadcaster of the Year Award for RTE Ireland

The Grand Jury honored RTÉ Ireland with the prestigious title of Broadcaster of Year and TBI Media UK with Production Company of the Year.

RTÉ Radio Ireland was in the spotlight taking home the renowned Broadcaster of the Year Award for their illustrious achievements; this is the fourth time that RTÉ has been honored with this title. The network earned an impressive 10 Gold trophies, 8 Silver, 10 Bronze, and 12 Finalist Certificates.

TBI Media United Kingdom was in the winner’s circle earning the title of Production Company of the Year Award.

Phil Critchlow, CEO of TBI Media UK - Broadcaster of the Year

Three global companies earned the coveted Grand Award:

TBI Media United Kingdom, for for “World Cup ’66” for BBC Radio 2 & BBC Radio 5 live for their complex musical undertaking featured, a composed filmic soundtrack, played by 22 musicians throughout the 2 hour and 40 minute production.

DMC Studio Argentina, for “Blackout,” the compelling story of a blind person who describes a day of his life through sounds in Buenos Aires Argentina.

Diego Cannizzaro, DMC Studio Argentina Grand Award

Behind the Wire and The Wheeler Centre Australia for “The Messenger” for their ten-part podcast series based on thousands of voice messages sent via burner phone by Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee detained on the Australian-run detention center on the Manus Island, Papua New Guinea to journalist, Michael Green.

The New York Philharmonic was in the winner’s circle. “Zubin Mehta at 80” was honored with a Gold trophy for Music and a Bronze for Best Director. “Celebrating the 175th Anniversary Season” earned the Gold for Best Director and a Bronze for Best Music Special.  “The New York Philharmonic This Week” was recognized with a Silver trophy for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program. Mark Travis, Associate Director of Media for the New York Philharmonic took home the Gold for Best Director.

L to R: Mark Travis, Amy Travis, Hilaria Baldwin, and Alec Baldwin, Radio Host of the New York Philharmonic "This Week"

For a complete list of all the 2017 award-winning entries please visit:






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