Michael Nevradakis is a Ph.D. student in Media Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, and was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Greece for the 2012-13 academic year. He is the producer/host of Dialogos Radio, a weekly radio program featuring interviews with notable Greek and international personalities which airs worldwide on 18 radio stations, and is also a contributor to Truthout, the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos, and Hot Doc.
You have experience in many forms of digital media. What drew you to the medium of radio?
I wanted to present another perspective on Greece and on Hellenism more broadly
Though I am a fan of all media forms, radio was and remains my first “love” as far as media go. There’s a number of reasons for this. Radio, in my opinion, is a magical medium. It allows you to use your own imagination and to create pictures in your own mind about what you are listening to, whether it is news, an interview, or music. It’s a medium which allows you to listen while also doing other things, whether you are at work, driving, cooking, or cleaning your home. It’s a medium which allows you, as a programmer and producer, to be judged on the quality of your content and not how photogenic you are.
From a technological point of view, radio remains an extremely practical medium. It is inexpensive and easy to use, both for the end user and for the broadcaster, and it is a technology which works everywhere. In the era of “digital,” it is easy to forget that radio is the original “wireless” technology, and it’s a shame that so many of us assume today that so-called “old media” are dead. Oftentimes, it’s easy to assume that podcasting and streaming have overtaken radio, but the reality is that good old radio broadcasting still has exponentially more users than any of these new technologies. “New” media, in many regards, still have a lot of catching up to do to equal the prevalence and usability of radio.
In terms of how Dialogos Radio itself was born, there were three factors which led to its creation. One is my aforementioned love of radio as a broadcast medium. The second reason was that I was in the second year of my doctoral studies and looking for a diversion, an activity of sorts which would break the monotony of graduate student life. The chance to become a member of the student-run radio station at my institution (The University of Texas at Austin) was the perfect opportunity for me to accomplish this.
Perhaps most importantly though, at the time that Dialogos Radio began, in August 2010, Greece and the Greek people were being absolutely battered in the international press, with story after story about how Greece was a “failed state,” how the Greek people were “lazy” and “lived beyond their means,” and so forth. I wanted to present another perspective on Greece and on Hellenism more broadly, with a positive perspective on Greek culture and good things that were coming out of the worldwide Greek community. And so, Dialogos Radio, which was initially known as Austin Hellenic Radio since it initially only aired locally in the Austin, Texas area, was born.
You present live musical performances during cultural segments. Which has been the most moving?
I actually wish that we could feature more live recordings and performances on Dialogos Radio! The practicalities of producing and recording the program today, in two different languages (Greek and English) and disseminating it to over twenty radio stations worldwide have made this much more difficult.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, Tariq Ali, John Perkins
That said, whenever we have the opportunity and can set it up ahead of time, we welcome the opportunity to welcome live performances on our broadcasts. Perhaps the most memorable performance was that of a Greek rembetiko music band which existed in Austin, Texas at the time that I was still producing my program there. This band was known as “The Souliotes,” and the interesting thing about the band is that it only had one member of Greek descent, a Greek-American from Ohio who had moved to Austin.
The remaining members of the band were non-Greek, but they had learned not just to perform rembetiko music, but the entire historical significance of this genre of music. The Souliotes actually discovered my program, reached out to me, and they came in to the studios of KVRX (the student-run radio station which aired my program) for a live performance. To this day, the podcast of this performance remains extremely popular.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve had on the Dialogos and why?
The major personalities are always memorable in their own right
Wow, where do I begin? After five years of conducting weekly interviews, it’s really difficult to pick just one individual that stands out. One memorable interview which comes to mind comes from the days when I was still producing the program in Texas, when I found out that a cousin of the famous musician Nikos Xylouris, Niky Xylouri, lived in the area. She had grown up with Nikos, and I had the opportunity to interview her about her childhood memories of him and what his music means to her.
She also personally selected her 10 favorite Nikos Xylouris songs, which were aired as part of this broadcast. Not only was this an excellent interview, but Niky Xylouri was an extremely gracious individual who maintained the traditional Greek qualities of “filotimo” and “filoxenia” despite living in the United States for several decades.
Another interesting individual which I had the opportunity to interview while in Texas was Greek-American artist Paul Hatgil, a longtime professor at The University of Texas at Austin. He was already in his late 80s when I interviewed him, yet he had the energy to provide an extremely interesting interview which discussed his artwork (which is featured in many locations throughout Austin and in other cities in the United States), as well as fascinating anecdotes about the history of the Greek-American community in Austin.
The actress Katerina Moutsatsou was another extremely fascinating individual whom I had the opportunity to interview. When I interviewed her, it was right after she had released a YouTube video which had very quickly become a social media “sensation” of sorts, titled “I Am Hellene.” The reaction that this video, which was meant to uplift the worldwide Greek community at a time when much self-doubt and even self-loathing had set in as a result of the ongoing crisis, won over a lot of fans, but also a tremendous amount of sarcasm and nasty criticisms, particularly from certain sectors of Greek society who are quick to brand anyone who proclaims pride in their Greek ethnicity and heritage as a “nationalist” or a “fascist.” I was amazed at the grace with which Moutsatsou responded to these attacks, her explanation as to why she chose to produce this video, and at how outspoken she was about key issues impacting politics and society, issues which many celebrities often tend to shy away from.
Other very interesting interviews which remain memorable in my mind include one with Paul Ioannidis, the honorary vice president of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, who had recently published an autobiography where he detailed his professional relationship and friendship with Aristotle Onassis and his family, as well as his own personal role in the Greek resistance against the Nazis during World War II.
I’ve twice had the opportunity to interview James Petras, a Greek-American scholar and political analyst who has served as an advisor to major political personalities such as Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez, and Andreas Papandreou in his early days as prime minister of Greece, and who nevertheless remains largely unknown within the Greek community but is much more well-known in Latin America. Greg Palast, whom I’ve interviewed three times, is a New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist who has appeared regularly on the BBC and in The Guardian, who has investigated some of the root causes of the economic crisis in Greece, and who has spoken with more genuine passion about Greece and its people than I usually hear from most Greek people themselves.
Beyond that, the major personalities are always memorable in their own right. I’ve had the opportunity to interview Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis (even though I believe that his “celebrity status” is unwarranted!), Tariq Ali, John Perkins (author of “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”), Greek diaspora comedians and entertainers such as Angelo Tsarouchas and Yannis Pappas, who is famous for the “Mr. Panos” character, and many others.
You have recently interviewed a variety of notable economists, scholars, and journalists recently regarding the current Greek state of affairs. Briefly, what are a few perspectives that have illuminated your understanding of the country’s issues?
There are, and have been, several “plan B’s” available for Greece
One of the main philosophies behind what we do at Dialogos Radio is the belief that we have a responsibility to offer something different to our audience, particularly through the presentation of viewpoints and perspectives which have been shut out of the hegemonic media narrative. By doing this, we have been able to develop, through our broadcasts and our associated published work, a number of perspectives which unfortunately rarely see the light of day elsewhere.
One major perspective that we have made many efforts to present is the fact that there are, and have been, several “plan B’s” available for Greece, in terms of policy that it could adopt and implement in order to attempt to emerge out of the economic and political crisis that it has been facing for the past several years. Interviews with economists and analysts such as Roger Bootle, who won a prestigious economics award for his proposal on how a Eurozone member-state could manage an orderly exit from the euro, plus Dimitris Kazakis, Stergios Skaperdas, Leonidas Vatikiotis, and Greg Palast, who infiltrated the so-called “Chicago Boys” during his days as an economics student at the University of Chicago, all have presented detailed, specific economic proposals for Greece which are markedly different from the economic dogma which successive Greek governments and the “troika” have followed these past few years, and which are largely promoted by the major media outlets. Whether one chooses to disagree with these alternative proposals, the fact is that alternatives do exist, and we’ve made many efforts to present them.
Dialogos Radio also been very careful not to get swept up in the political enthusiasm of the day, regardless of what that enthusiasm represents. For instance, prior to the January elections, Greece was suddenly thrust into the global spotlight, in particular because of the supposedly radical message that was being delivered by SYRIZA, which ended up winning the elections. This enthusiasm continued during the first few months of the SYRIZA-led coalition government.
Yet, from prior to the elections, Dialogos Radio adopted a more skeptical tone. I believed that the signs were already there for what ultimately did end up happening, which was none other than a 180-degree policy turn by SYRIZA and a full-blown rejection of its previously “radical” anti-austerity rhetoric, particularly through its rejection of the July 5 referendum result in Greece. Despite the fact that this led to attacks and criticism against Dialogos Radio and me personally, I stuck to a position that was unpopular and largely ignored elsewhere, but which I believed was supported by the political reality, once one cut through all of the enthusiasm of the day.
We’ve attempted to present a critical perspective on how the mainstream media does (or doesn’t do) its job
Relating to this, we’ve attempted to present a critical perspective on how the mainstream media does (or doesn’t do) its job. As a student of Media Studies, I love to analyze media coverage, how news stories and the news agenda are framed and shaped and often manipulated, and how all of this impacts public opinion. I’ve really come to realize, after five years of producing Dialogos Radio, just how many quality, educated, respectable people are completely shut out of the public discourse, simply because their arguments are incompatible with the news agenda that is being promoted.
It simply amazes me how public opinion polls in Greece, which have been repeatedly discredited, continue to be reported on as if they represent reality, and I’ve tried to deconstruct this in analyses that have been presented on Dialogos Radio, and in interviews with other journalists and analysts that have aired.
What kind of new technological methods are you using to expand your broadcast reach?
From the beginning, I’ve tried to make Dialogos Radio much more than just a conventional radio program. Early on, this was partially due to necessity. My first timeslot on KVRX in Austin was from 5 to 7 am, once a week. As such, I began to seek out ways to broaden the show’s audience through the utilization of various new media tools. This was quite a learning experience for me. I had never podcasted before, nor had I ever edited audio before. I was forced to learn all of this on the fly, and early on, I developed a podcast and began to upload archived copies of full broadcasts of my program, to allow those who could not listen to the program live to hear the show at their convenience.
Community and non-commercial radio is essentially non-existent in Greece
This same philosophy continues to this day. Dialogos Radio continues to make podcasts freely available of all of its interviews and commentaries, and these podcasts are available on platforms such as iTunes and TuneIn, as well as through the Dialogos Radio apps that have been developed for Android, Kindle, and BlackBerry devices. Dialogos Radio also launched, in 2013, an online radio station, Dialogos Radio 24/7, which carries a mix of quality Greek music and archived Dialogos Radio programming and interviews.
Archived recordings of our full broadcasts, as well as our special musical and cultural segments, are available on demand via our website. The 20+ stations which air our program also stream their programming online. Of course, Dialogos Radio also has a presence on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
In Greece practically all of the existing television and radio stations belong to a select few oligarchs
Despite the emphasis on new media, Dialogos Radio continues to make many efforts to expand in so-called “old media” outlets as well. The number of worldwide FM and AM radio stations which carry the weekly Dialogos Radio broadcasts continues to grow, and recently, a Greek community radio station in Perth, Australia was added to this list, while Dialogos Radio also recently aired on a “trial” basis on a prominent FM radio station in New York City. The real irony here is that the absolute most difficult place to get Dialogos Radio aired has been in major Greek cities, particularly Athens.
Unfortunately, in Greece the media landscape has developed in such a way that practically all of the existing television and radio stations belong to a select few oligarchs and politically connected individuals, with no interest in airing anything that deviates from their own agenda. Community and non-commercial radio is essentially non-existent in Greece, whereas the bulk of Dialogos Radio’s worldwide broadcast network consists of community radio stations, in the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
Aside from this, many Dialogos Radio interviews are featured in print, on various outlets including GreekTV.com, Truthout, 99getsmart, freepen.gr and others, alongside occasional articles and analyses of my own.
Do you have any anecdotes of spontaneous, unexpectedly funny occurrence during one of your discussions on Dialogos radio?
The nature of the show is such that most of the interviews that are aired have been pre-recorded, for practical reasons. This unfortunately takes away some of the spontaneity that is otherwise possible in a live radio broadcast. However, this hasn’t meant that there haven’t been several funny, unexpected, or unintended moments throughout the five years that this program has been produced.
Perhaps the most hilarious and unplanned moment that I can think of goes back to the show’s Austin days, when I aired the show live from the KVRX studios on the grounds of the University of Texas at Austin. My show was, that first year, on the air from 5 to 7 am as I was still “getting my feet wet” as a broadcaster. The station had a rule that the studio had to remain manned by a live body at all times. This meant that if the next programmer or DJ didn’t show up, it was your responsibility to remain in the studio and on the air until someone else was able to come in to replace you. In one particular instance, the DJ who was scheduled to be on the air from 7 to 9 am unexpectedly didn’t show up, and I was only prepared with just enough music and content for my scheduled two-hour broadcast.
The DJ after me produced a radio program which featured country, folk and blues music, which I’ll admit I do not know much about as genres. In keeping with the programming philosophy of KVRX, however, I not only stayed on the air, but found as many country, folk, and blues CDs as I could in the studio and frantically began cueing up music in the studio, choosing songs on the fly to air on the KVRX. As one country or folk song aired, I was listening on my headphones to the next CD, trying to choose a song that simply “sounded good.” And so it went for two hours. It was really a lot of fun, and the best part was that a couple of listeners even called in to say that they were loving the music! That’ll always remain memorable to me, and it harkens back to my comments about how the medium of radio has the capability of being truly magical at times.