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[P]
The Consolidation of Radio in America

By The Baptist Death Ray in Op-Ed
Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:38:14 PM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)
Music

On his (relatively) new website, Travis Morrison argues that radio has had quality problems long before the recent trend of a few mega-corporations owning the majority of radio stations out there. His article is a mild critique of the commonly-held belief that if we could break up these companies, we would hear more diverse music being played on the radio. His critique, as far as I'm concerned, is spot on... but it's a critique of an irrelevant position. The consolidation of radio stations is a serious problem, but not for the reasons most people who oppose it claim.


(Note: This piece is an amalgam of an article I wrote about the consolidation of radio stations in the US, some discussion that followed, and a follow-up article I wrote based on that discussion. Links and attributions are included at the end.)

Here's the big dilemma: over the past decade, a few companies have been buying radio stations left and right. Today, 60% of the rock radio stations in the US are owned by ONE company, and they all play "heavy rotation" lists provided by that same, single company. That is, at least, if you believe this guy.

This, say many opponents, is a bad thing. Because a few companies own most of the airwaves, and rely on the same sort of market research to determine what bands should be played a lot, only "Top 40" music gets any kind of recognition on the mainstream airwaves. So if you happen to be, say, someone who makes music that can roughly be described as Industrial Punk Rock, then your only chance of ever getting airplay is if some guy doing a college radio show happens to pick up your virtually nonexistent CD and decides to give it a shot.

If there wasn't so much consolidation in the industry, the argument goes, then radio stations would have a chance to experiment with playlists. They would, in fact, get a chance to see if an audience might prefer to hear Bruce Satinover over Justin Timberlake. Radio stations could actually compete with each other, and may the best play list win. Breaking up the big radio companies, so they say, would liberate music and allow the underground to emerge from their dark corners into the clear blue sky.

As Travis points out, however, music on the radio was homogenized long before companies started buying up radio stations left and right.

In fact, radio's steady march toward pablum began shortly after the Payola Scandals in the early 1960s. Why? Because the scandal, and the subsequent loss of decision-making power disc jockey's had when it came to what music to play and what music not to play, allowed a little idea called Top 40 to get its foot in the door -- this new "format" led to a new methodology of music selection, and it is that methodology, not the corporate radio consortium, that makes radio suck.

The format is very simple: take what is currently selling well and play it, a lot, to the exclusion of everything else. It's what people are buying, after all, so they must want to hear it. There is a certain logic to this... it does ensure that the majority of the people who turn on the radio will like what they hear. Of course, it doesn't mean that they wouldn't like hearing the songs that aren't being played, it simply means they haven't been exposed to them. But from a business perspective, that's irrelevant. And for your average listener, who (let's be honest) is listening to the radio because he wants to take his mind off his work, or his commute, or whatever, it's no big deal. Blink 182 has a good beat, and if you were hopped up on amphetamines you could probably dance to it. Briefly. It's the same thing as TV, man. He wants to watch Friends. If he wanted to watch Masterpiece Theatre, changing the channel to PBS would take less effort than it would take to stop the cat from clawing at his crotch... but he doesn't. And a 30-second commercial sells for half a million dollars for Friends, while PBS is constantly begging their viewers for money. A DJ who worked in the business during the mid-70s has this to say about "format": (quoted with permission)

"Top40 is, was, and has always been a scourge. However, it is not the root cause of the Destruction of the Medium. IMnsHO, the root cause is the Format.

"And not the Format in and of itself, but the Format in the soiled hands of the control freaks and pigopolists who control the medium.

"A bit of history before I leap headlong from my soapbox into the mosh pit of public opinion. In the early and middle 70s, I was a DJ at a couple of different stations in the Southwest (New Mexico, to be precise). At the pinochle [sic]1 of my career in that misguided business, I was at two separate times the Music Director of KRST, a (then) Album Rock station whose transmitter, sitting atop Sandia Crest (12,700 ft above sea level, approx. 5000-6000 ft above average terain), would easily cover a 5-state area (and occasionally Kansas). KRST (pronounced "KReST", as in Sandia) underwent the same transmogrification as did all rock stations of the era, morphing from "free-form" to "formatted" to "Formatted" (spelling difference is important, as you will see).

"In the Free-form era (pre 1973), we took in records, and records, and records. More of them that we could possibly listen to all at once. I would often take home several dozen a day to try to find those that would be worth airplay. My decisions were not final; they could be (and were) overridden by the rest of the air staff. Nonetheless, we had quite a bit of leeway as to what we could play. Free-form was actually a bit of a misnomer; there were rules about what we could play, and in what ratio. But all it took for an exemption was a quick, "Hey, is it OK to play XYZ during my shift?" The answer was generally "yes", unless XYZ had been played too much that week.

"Steve Suplin (or "Santa Monica Fats", as he was known on the air) was my program director and mentor...until he got a better job in Denver (you move up, or you move out in this business...even then). When he came back, he brought with him the very first format for KRST. It was a variation of KBPI's groundbreaking format, one that KBPI claimed raised its listenership (and therefore, its card rates) by 15% in one year. The format reduced KRST's playlist from virtually unlimited (we estimated that there were some 25,000 available cuts from which to choose at any given time) to about 2500, all broken down into 28 neat categories (labeled A-Z, and 1 and 2; the numbers being "new" cuts of varying age). The DJs were required to play so many songs from each of the categories during a shift, with no back-to-back cuts from a given category, yadda-yadda-yadda. No matter that one particulay category had exactly 2 cuts in it (there were more than that available to the category, but KRST's library only had those two available), and that other categories were similarly bereft of possibilities.

"What happened? Well, KRST's numbers did improve, with younger listeners. But a competitor sprung up: KMYR, whose slogan was; "Proud to be/Format free". They beat the snot out of us in the first year and a half. I left KRST to finish up my degree.

"KRST's management response to KMYR was not to compete, but to clamp down. Formats got continually tighter, until about 2 years later (having finished my degree and looking for a job), I decided to try out at KRST again. Lo and behold, I got hired again. At this point, KRST's playlist was down to about 1000 songs, and the current management thought that was too much...they wanted the playlist shrunk to about 350 cuts! This was in late 1975. When the fall sweeps numbers were completed, KRST was showing its lowest numbers ever, KMYR was the top station in Albuquerque (and was this close to getting clearance from the FCC to put its transmitter onto Sandia crest, too). In a panic, management fired the curent program director (Suplin had long ago moved on again), but not the GM, whose "vision" was to contract the playlist; promoted me again to Music Director (ostensibly because I was the only one there from "the good old days" and I knew the library better than the people who had been working there for the last two years!), and was given the mandate to "make the station sound good again". I immediately expanded the playlist back to 2500 cuts (eventually getting it back up to 5000), and the new PD threw out much of the format. The result was, for the spring sweeps, an increase of 20% in our numbers!.

"Why didn't it last? A couple of reasons: First, I couldn't keep my mouth shut, and eventually ran terminally afoul of the GM. It was this episode that taught me the first two axioms of broadcasting in the US:

"1) When the inevitable conflict of personalities/egos/interests occurs in the broadcast industry, the person with the higher rank fires the person with the lower rank. This is not considered to be a bad thing; there is no disgrace in being fired from a broadcast outlet.

"2) If it weren't so much fun, ain't nobody would work in that industry.

"Second, since the GM was a control freak, he would do anything to assert control. The Format (big 'F') was the way to assert control on all aspects of the broadcast day. Hence it's popularity with the suits. Coupled with axiom 1) above, it assures that the suits will assert control over what was ostensibly an artistic outlet.

"Back to the problem I had with the GM. The primary point of disagreement was the irrational, paranoid fear on the part of management that, if you play the "wrong" cut at the "wrong" time, you will lose your entire audience. Management absolutely believes that the entire audience waits with baited breath for the next "hit", and if you should challenge the listenership with something a little different (such as a Led Zep cut before 8:00a, or...Ghod forbid...Jazz) they will abandon your station for good and forever. How to keep this from occurring? Program all chance (and therefore, all choice) out of the playlist, be safe, be similar, and above all, be in control!

"So, for both these reasons (ego and fear) the Format is all about control. Control is about Power, and Power is what drives the industry."

Another former DJ followed up with this: (also quoted with permission)

"To add on to a very good summary...the F-ormat at that time began to take on its own life...with consulting firms (the one I was familiar with was in Atlanta..can't remember the name...) telling you which songs appealed to which demographic...so you could go to the business owner and promise that his ad would come right after a classic song that appeals to 24-35 year old males...just what you want to hear if you are selling things to that demographic.

"Playlists then became *generated*along these lines...using software...so the "major market" stations became*predictable in the extreme*. For example...I STILL remember that for the summer season DC-101 (main competitor to us) would play something from Styx at or around 3pm EVERY weekday. You could set your watch by some of them.

"So, essentially, you had Washington (insert big city name here) programming being generated by some idiot in Atlanta with nothing but song survey results as a guide.

"End result...nobody listened to anything except your "trademark" stuff. "

He also recommended an article Keith Moerer wrote for SPIN magazine in February 1998, called WHO KILLED ROCK RADIO? I recommend reading it. 1998 was only two years after the legislation relaxing the rules on how many radio stations a company could own was passed, but the industry was already well on its way to the mess we're in now.

"The Format" is the great marginalizing force in radio today. It is, first and foremost, a bureaucratic tool designed to make music selection more efficient, and it's the kind of stuff large corporations need to use in order to survive. Companies that own huge numbers of radio stations must use this method to stay in business, and this is a serious problem... and not just in the world of "Modern Rock." I mean, if the only way Johnny Freaking Cash can get played on a Country radio station is to cover a song written by Trent Reznor, there is a serious problem in the world of radio. And the more radio stations are consolidated, the more they will depend on this flawed system... and the less we will be able to do anything about it at all.

So Travis is right. Music was being turned into a thick, formless paste long before companies started their radio pog collections. That said, he's also wrong: in order for radio to reflect a more diverse mix of music, the consolidation of radio stations must be halted and reversed. Not because doing so will automatically usher in a new golden age of musical diversity, but because if it is allowed to continue then the system of incessantly playing only "heavy rotation" hits will never, ever, ever stop.

Ever.

Large companies exist to make money. "The Format" is the best way for large radio companies to make money, it's already in place, it's efficient, it works for them, and the sheer size of these companies will make it nearly impossible to force them to change. Smaller, autonomous stations are easier to deal with (one at a time) and while it may not be possible to change them en masse, it will be easier to convince stations here and there to give other music a shot... stations that would never have considered you if their playlists were being sent to them from Corporate HQ somewhere in Texas.

Consolidation is not the enemy, "The Format" is. But consolidation ensures that "The Format" will never go away.

Attributions and Meaningless Historical Information:

Travis Morrison's Website, which has the article that spurred the rest (I don't think he archives his articles, so this link is probably time-sensitive).

Saving Radio, my first response to the article.

A discussion on IWETHEY about "Saving Radio," wherein I learn I've been using the wrong terminology.

A followup, Saving Radio, Part II, where I attempt to correct my mistakes.

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Related Links
o Travis Morrison
o ONE company
o same, single company
o this guy
o Industrial Punk Rock,
o Bruce Satinover
o Justin Timberlake
o Payola Scandals
o Top 40
o Friends
o Masterpiec e Theatre
o PBS
o half a million dollars
o has this to say
o followed up with this
o WHO KILLED ROCK RADIO?
o Johnny Freaking Cash
o Trent Reznor
o Travis Morrison's Website
o Saving Radio
o discussion
o IWETHEY
o Saving Radio, Part II
o Also by The Baptist Death Ray


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The Consolidation of Radio in America | 178 comments (150 topical, 28 editorial, 2 hidden)
good stuff (4.42 / 7) (#14)
by yammering communist on Thu May 29, 2003 at 01:52:34 PM EST

You're absolutely right to draw parallels from the consolidation of radio to that of other media industries. I'm hard-pressed to think of a system of media outlets which does NOT operate on the "Top 40" model: from the usual suspects like television and newspapers, to less obvious ones, like the publishing industry (Top 40 analogous to the NYT Bestseller List?). It's simply, as you said, "good business practice."

The problem IS that it's "good business practice." This is unrelated to anyone's moral stance on music. This is how the institutions work. Businesses are designed to make money, as much money as possible as fast as possible. In industries based on selling things to people, this means creating a thing which has near-universal appeal. Most often this is what we call the "lowest common denominator." But it will sell, and it will sell to everyone. Creating different types of product outside of some "mainstream" type-spec increases overhead and cuts profits, something businesses cannot and will not do.

You can see this in American politics, too. Canidates are not born, they are built, by professionals, who do that sort of thing for a living. Stances on issues are chosen based on poll readings, not on some kind of inner moral compass. PR, mass-marketing, is the business of making everyone look at you and see themselves - to mirror what the public seems to want - and to be a mirror you have to be two-dimensional. This is an amoral act, not good, not bad. People with strong stances on issues, with rigid opinions and belief structures, are going to put some people off, and thus decrease their market share. It's just the way things work. It's basic economics.

To change this, to change music, the way it's made and the way it's presented to the public, the first thing you have to do is stop it from being a business. I don't know how to do this, but I know that people - artists and studio execs alike - need money, and they're not going to do something which interferes with that. In the Darwinian environment of the music industry (or any other industry), whoever makes the most money wins, and spreads their genes - it's not about who has the most artistic depth or stylistic diversity. Businesses who care about more than just making money will lose out in the end to businesses which have their priorities straight. It's always been this way, it's just taken us until now to realize it.

Yeah, I know that didn't offer any solutions, only my two cents. We'll work on the rest.

---

---

I fear nothing. I believe nothing. I am free.

--Nikos Kazantzakis, epitaph.


Question: (2.00 / 1) (#37)
by losthalo on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:25:51 PM EST

Has a company of any size ever implemented a no-profit (for the company) business strategy? That is, has a company wholly owned by the people who started it, ever just decided to provide what they provide, cut their prices, and paid the owners a decent salary instead of all of the potential profits?

While I realize there are going to be downsides to this (most if not all of the people interested in starting a company and capable of keeping it in business are money-driven), is it even a viable idea?

(Losthalo)

[ Parent ]
Co-op grocery stores (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by subversion on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:04:45 PM EST

Exist.  But usually get run out of business by big chains, even though all the hippies buy at the co-op as an act of principle.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]
A successful coop: (4.50 / 2) (#50)
by Sacrifice on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:00:26 PM EST

REI

Generally it seems that nonprofits aren't quite as vicious about cutting waste and wages, and the surviving for-profits are fairly tough by necessity. If that weren't bad enough, professional administrators who take over after the founders relinquish control may manage to bleed the organization dry.

Is the drive to profit stronger than the drive to do good work? Or is it that those who do good work feel they deserve to profit from it?

[ Parent ]

Really (none / 0) (#116)
by subversion on Sat May 31, 2003 at 04:28:11 AM EST

I was more looking at co-ops where the employees own the corporation as a group, not where customers do.  Examples of customer-owned co-ops abound; in a stretch, you could define Sam's Club as such.  Examples of employee-owned co-ops are far rarer.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]
I wasn't thinking of a Co-op. (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by losthalo on Thu May 29, 2003 at 10:02:03 PM EST

I'm thinking more of a situation where one person or a small group owns the company, and employs other people. Also, bear in mind that owners' profit isn't the key goal, rather running a responsible business and treating employees decently (and maybe undercutting the competition by doing away with 'owner overhead').

This might, in fact, be a good model for family businesses, producing a cempetitive company that will last.

(This is just pondering, though.)

(Losthalo)

Before enlightenment, one carries water and chops wood.
After enlightenment, one carries water and chops wood.

[ Parent ]
I've seen models like that before. (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by subversion on Thu May 29, 2003 at 11:53:33 PM EST

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  They seem to work a little less often than straight profit driven models, at least at the small scale, but I'd be willing to bet that if F500 companies scaled back executive salaries to a more rational level, the sheer amount of money saved would enable them to be significantly more competitive.

I mean, I have no problem with the CEO of a huge company getting paid 10x what his workers make on average, but I do have a problem with him getting paid 100x or 1000x the average workers salary.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Yes, here are some (4.60 / 5) (#49)
by frabcus on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:00:25 PM EST

St Lukes, an advertising agency in London, did exactly that. There's a book about it called Creative Company by Andy Law.

Gore and Associates who make the fabric Gortex is run with a co-operative team structure, and there is a profit sharing element in all the employee's pay.

John Lewis a large and popular chain of department stores in the UK has "associates" instead of "employees". They each take a share of profits as a bonus, and the company is run democratically instead of autocratically. In my opinion, it explains why the customer service there is vastly better than competing high street chains, such as Dixons.

It's arguable that network marketing businesses such as Amway also do roughly what you say.

[ Parent ]

Ben and Jerry's... (2.00 / 1) (#65)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri May 30, 2003 at 01:17:59 AM EST

...would be the most obvious and well known example.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Non-profit healthcare (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by rigorist on Fri May 30, 2003 at 09:32:08 AM EST

Many hospitals are non-profits.  Most HMOs are technically non-profits.  These non-profits hire for-profit "management" companies to run their non-profit enterprises.

Very, very dirty.

As to customer ownership, look at mutual insurance companies (State Farm Mutual, Mutual of Omaha, for example).  These are owned by their insureds.  They seem to behave no differently than for-profit insurance companies.

[ Parent ]

How to take back control of the airwaves! (none / 0) (#107)
by guidoreichstadter on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:30:50 PM EST

Take the radio spectrum in any given city, chop it up and give everyone there an equal slice of air time, and randomly assign the time slots. Then people can pool their time "shares" to put on the kind of programming they want, they can save them up if they want to record their own show, they can sell them to an advertising company, whatever.
I'm imagining that the actual cost of running the transmitting equipment is pretty low; this would be owned and paid for by the city from adverising taxes or whatever.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
Internet, and low power radio (4.66 / 12) (#23)
by Anatta on Thu May 29, 2003 at 03:41:21 PM EST

Radio is like the typewriter... it's not going to be around much longer. I find it quite hard to get worked up over the fact that radio sucks, when I can find more than I could ever possibly listen to, in every genre in the world, on the internet. Given that most people would agree that in the coming years, wireless internet connections will become more and more commonplace, and we will soon start to see web browsers in our cars, I just don't think this is that big of a deal.

If we want to talk about right here, right now, discounting the internet, we need to mention the attempts at changing the FCC's regulations (the real problem in all of this) regarding low-power radio stations. In Boston, where I live, there are currently four college radio stations that consistently have excellent, diverse, creative, cutting-edge programming. These college stations are allowed to sneak past the FCC's ridiculous regulations, and operate what are essentially low-wattage radio stations. If the FCC allowed low-power broadcasters to start popping up, we'd see all the niche markets like metal, electronic,bluegrass, etc. get filled in a heartbeat, and then those who simply want something casual to listen to on the way to work can listen to clear channel WXYZ, and those who actually want to hear inteesting music can search out the low-power stations that interest them.

Pirate radio always has been cool and different, and my guess is that if low-power radio was allowed to operate easily under FCC rules (preferably NOT under FCC rules, especially obscenity rules), they would become the legal equivalent of pirate radio: quirky, clever, different, and unique. Because the low-power stations would be easy to setup and license, and each one would only cover a small area, different areas would likely have vastly different programming, far more diverse than simply pushing for a larger oligopoly rather than a smaller oligolopoly.

I find it odd that you didn't talk about either of these topics. To me they are integral to really understanding what's happening in radio now, and what will change in the future.


My Music

Radio vs the Internet (5.00 / 3) (#35)
by kphrak on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:19:22 PM EST

I think I'll disagree with you about radio becoming superseded by the Internet. To me, saying that radio is going away because we have the Internet sounds a lot like saying that cars are going away because we invented jets. The Internet is faster (in some cases), more interactive, and more powerful -- true. It's also non-ubiquitous, basically line-of-sight in terms of wireless capability (for now), essentially the property of evil phone/cable companies who consider your private information their personal property to do with as they wish and make Clear Channel look like a team of choirboys, $45 more expensive than radio (on average -- I don't count 56k Internet on the grounds that it's horrible), and requires sophisticated equipment to connect to that usually runs into the $100 range at the lowest end.

Even I'm completely wrong, and we have web browsers in cars as you say, I can still hear wailing and gnashing of teeth. If you think cellphone use while driving contributes to accidents, what do you think web surfing while driving will do? Hell, I can barely even use the radio in a car as it is -- there about fifty different buttons on there and I'm often stuck operating it by touch in heavy traffic. A web browser in its current form would need some serious dexterity.

Radio is slow, dependent on DJs, subject to noise, and full of ads, but it's also free, listenable in the car, and requires a $0.50 device to connect to it at the lowest end (and that's probably a high estimate). Trust me on this one -- it ain't going away any time soon.

Finally, even if the Internet replaces radio, there is no escape from the mediocrity of Top 40. Many of my favorite radio stations on the Internet have already been forced off the air by the music industry! Not in some Internet-only future. Now. And yes, I understand there are still some out there, but my guess is that the increasing royalty costs will drive the best stations underground. Allowing non-corporate radio broadcasting to become an underground phenomenon like music or software piracy is not the answer.

A battle has to be fought sometime, and it might as well be now. I think the key to it is probably, as you say, to lower FCC regulations on low-power transmitters to allow hobbyist and organizational radio stations to get on the air. Removing the royalty burden on nonprofit Net Radio hobbyists could help bring hobby radio on the Internet back into the mainstream (no pun intended). Once more people are deciding what to put on the airwaves, legally, without the help of mechanized radio surveys or advanced marketing techniques, we'll probably hear more music.


Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.


[ Parent ]
The question of DRM... (none / 0) (#162)
by Gooba42 on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 03:15:52 PM EST

We will give up free access if we allow radio to become internet only on the basis that DRM will cost money and will become necessary. The current trend is to lock down the format of the station. Just wait until that expands to include the locking down of what stations you are allowed/licensed to receive.

On-air stations have to follow the rules that pretty much, people are allowed to listen to anything that is on the airwaves. Already with satellite radio units which cannot record we're seeing pay for play. When the spectre of music piracy appears you'll see a pay per song or per "block" system show up.

I for one don't want to have to pay per hour of "formatted" music just because they're afraid I'll copy their not-necessarily-wonderful product.

[ Parent ]

Woops...and follow-up... (none / 0) (#163)
by Gooba42 on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 03:19:34 PM EST

The argument that sattelite radio gives you advertising-free music is broken for two reasons. It's still running a format which is still advertising for whatever group is being promoted. Also, remember when we paid for cable TV because it was ad-free? They get paid for us to watch their ads and we pay them for the privelege of doing so.

[ Parent ]
radio isn't going anywhere. (4.00 / 2) (#82)
by joshsisk on Fri May 30, 2003 at 09:50:25 AM EST

It has an amazingly huge installed userbase, and is free to the consumer. I would guess the amount of people who would pay to have internet in their car is very, very small. It will be decades before car-based internet radio takes root.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily (none / 0) (#85)
by rusty on Fri May 30, 2003 at 11:16:55 AM EST

I agree with you about radio not going anywhere, but wireless net radio is probably going to happen sooner than you think. I think it will be a convergence between the satellite radio idea and the net -- some clever company will figure out that rather than maintaining their own program streams, they could just pull a ton of feeds off the net and send those to cars via satellite-radio type equipment. You don't really need a lot of people to decide to buy this, if you can work out a deal with the big car manufacturers and get them in new cars as standard equipment. So the installed-base hurdle isn't such a big one.

But credit to the lowly radio, which is ubiquitous and cheap enough that I can spend $30 for a radio which receives FM, AM, TV, VHF, Shortwave, and Weather, runs off wall current, battery, solar, or dynamo crank, and is small enough that I can zip it in a ziplock bag and take it kayaking with me.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

The tech for wireless net radio (none / 0) (#86)
by The Baptist Death Ray on Fri May 30, 2003 at 11:21:28 AM EST

will probably be here very, very soon, but I can't imagine any company would be willing to sell it in a way that would make it a useful alternative to radio -- in terms of sheer practicality, mind you. LIke you said, $30 for a box that does all that is very impressive, tech wise.

Of course, give the FCC time... in a year, the only weather channel you'll get is for the weather in Florida, because Clear Channel will have determined (through intensive polling) that audiences prefer hearing about warm weather. :)

The Baptist Death Ray
"The urge to destroy is a creative urge."
- M. Bakunin
[ Parent ]

Weather (none / 0) (#94)
by rusty on Fri May 30, 2003 at 01:36:16 PM EST

Luckily, weather radio is maintained by NOAA and is broadcast on it's own chunk of spectrum. Given the number of people who rely on it for their safety on the job, I doubt that's going to change. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
hmm. (none / 0) (#161)
by joshsisk on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 12:59:40 PM EST

I think it could happen - I mean, it is happening, slowly, for XM. But I think it would take quite awhile to achieve any sort of deep penetration. But then again, people said the same thing about the WWW...
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]
Economic divide (5.00 / 1) (#127)
by smilinggoat on Sat May 31, 2003 at 02:31:08 PM EST

Given that most people would agree that in the coming years, wireless internet connections will become more and more commonplace, and we will soon start to see web browsers in our cars, I just don't think this is that big of a deal.

While I agree with you that 802.11x will end up covering the majority of people with connectivity, what about the people who live in rural environments? What about the people without computers?

Yes, believe it or not, some people do not use computers. They either do not like them or can not afford to use them. Public radio is an essential tool of those who are without contemporary technology or have no care for it. Think underground hip hop and old school jazz. Typically the music of the economically less fortunate and the undesirables of society. The guys who do this stuff, for the majority, can't be bothered configuring xyz protocols and setting up the server bandwidth, space, etc. All they want to do is bring their vinyl into the studio and let 'em spin.

There's something beautiful about the lo-fi analog of traditional public radio. I've worked in radio for the local public station KCSB and it's an amazing thing, bringing all these people together with all sorts of tastes and backgrounds to one location to share their love of music and free speech news with the community and world (because we too webcast). Intenet radio is important, it is a good thing, but we can not let traditional analog radio die.

~
Pure Data, where music looks less and less like itself.
[ Parent ]
The Reality of Mega-Media Mergers (3.75 / 4) (#31)
by thelizman on Thu May 29, 2003 at 06:14:37 PM EST

As one who has been alive long enough to comment on this, the "recent" big-media acquisition of national radio networks has actually made for better content. Syndicated shows like Art Bell or Rush Limbaugh now reach a far wider audience. Of course, the "Rush" part of that equation is probably why so many people are against media conglomeration.

On the other side of the coin, it's patently false that big-media squeezes out smaller indy stations. In small markets, local radio stations have either stayed in, or have been turned back over to, local control. In my hometown, Clearchannel communications bought two of the most popular stations, but couldn't justify them by their income model. Now, one of the stations is locally owned (and far better), and the other is part of a small affiliate coop that shares media content.

Of course, the conglomeration fear is valid. The answer is to have public access radio, and require radio stations to pay a tax to facilitate them the same way cable companies have to provide public access TV. But then, this method would reveal many of the cracks in the anti-big-media facade: They aren't worried about variety of content, they're just in an anticapitalist stupor.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
No, it hasn't. (3.00 / 1) (#63)
by subversion on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:40:52 AM EST

It's made for a wider reach for some good content, and forced a fair amount of decent content out.

Don't assume that just because 95% of the country can now hear Art Bell that the quality of programming has improved.  It hasn't.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Who is assuming what? (none / 0) (#126)
by thelizman on Sat May 31, 2003 at 02:22:15 PM EST

You seem fixated on "art bell", the point is there is wider dispersion of media period. What your local syndicated or non-syndicated station plays is up to them. There are plenty of competitive radio programs on the market, but hte fact of the matter is the more popular ones win out ever time. I think the problem is that many people simply don't like what is popular because it is not what they enjoy. Some poeple have always had a problem with democracy.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Democracy (none / 0) (#135)
by subversion on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 02:15:18 AM EST

Is great for some things, but may not be so great for ensuring that more than the lowest common denominator of art gets made and spread.

Popularity is not a measure of worth, and you're making a big assumption stating that it is.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

No, I don't think so (4.83 / 6) (#74)
by pyramid termite on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:11:31 AM EST

As one who has been alive long enough to comment on this, the "recent" big-media acquisition of national radio networks has actually made for better content. Syndicated shows like Art Bell or Rush Limbaugh now reach a far wider audience.

Wider compared to what? Don McNeill's Breakfast Club? (And if you're not old enough to remember that, then you don't know as much about the history of radio as you think you do. Hint - he was huger than Rush will EVER be and did it for 45 years.) For one thing, you're comparing apples and oranges here - AM based talk radio to FM based music radio, which seems to be the focus of the article. There was a time when there was no FM radio and people tuned in AM radio and heard music - furthermore at night, if you didn't like what the local stations provided, there were clear channel stations such as WABC in New York that one could listen to as far away as Michigan. With the advent of FM, the musical audience left AM and AM radio stations were required to find new formats - such as talk radio. The big guy of the 80s was Larry King. There were also a crapload of local talk hosts and still are. Thanks to the repeal of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine, which required "equal time" for opposing viewpoints, people such as Rush and Larry were able to speak freely as they would about politics and society - and no, I don't think the Fairness Doctrine should be brought back.

In short, you can't blame media conglomeration for Rush - even in the era when a corporation couldn't own more than a handful of radio and TV stations, there was national syndication. Rush's wide presence is caused by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and, well, what do you know, popularity.

The answer is to have public access radio, and require radio stations to pay a tax to facilitate them the same way cable companies have to provide public access TV. But then, this method would reveal many of the cracks in the anti-big-media facade: They aren't worried about variety of content, they're just in an anticapitalist stupor.

Only a third right there - yes, we need public access radio, no, I don't think taxes are necessary to support it - for one thing it would give the government more power to dictate content, and low wattage radio stations are not that expensive to operate. What we really need is more bandwidth for low wattage radio stations, carved out of the current AM/FM bandwidth - and I'm concerned about the variety of content, and not in an anticapitalist stupor. You seem to forget that this bandwidth is the property of the PUBLIC and that true capitalists don't take PUBLIC property for private gain. In fact, radio and TV licensing as it now exists is one of the most blatant examples of government socialism you can find.

I think 10 low wattage stations per market would be very workable - do away with the clear channel stations (not the company, but the AM 50,000 watt stations who have exclusive rights to one frequency), widen the public access part of the FM band a bit and let the two kinds of radio stations co-exist and compete. And yes, limit how many stations one company can own - this is a public resource, not a private one, and the government handing it out to a very few corporations is not capitalism, but socialism. (A good political system has elements of both, but that's another discussion.)

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Blaming Rush is Good (none / 0) (#125)
by thelizman on Sat May 31, 2003 at 02:20:18 PM EST

In short, you can't blame media conglomeration for Rush
Oh I can't? The facts speak for themselves - Even Limbaugh thinks so. Syndication sent Limbaugh from 8 million listeners in major markets and 2 million in minor markets to over 20 million listeners on 600 radio stations. The same applies to Art Bell, who started broadcasting on shortwave and a high power receiver behind his mobile home before growing to a nationally syndicated audience of 5 million (and that at a rediculously late time slot).

The bottom line is that the anti-capitalist stance on media conglomeration is nothing but that - anti-capitalist. It doesn't not realistically consider the factors that are leading to media mergers, nor does it present a viable solution.

Only a third right there - yes, we need public access radio, no, I don't think taxes are necessary to support it - for one thing it would give the government more power to dictate content, and low wattage radio stations are not that expensive to operate.
Yes, LOCAL governments would control public access radio content if it were structured the way the FCC currently regulates PA-TV. Personally, I'm not worried about my local government telling me they won't support specific content on PA-TV because it's not community appropriate (assuming that'll even happen). The bottom line everyone is missing is that media conglomeration hasn't changed anything - radio is changing because the way people get their information is changing.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
It's not about Rush (none / 0) (#130)
by pyramid termite on Sat May 31, 2003 at 05:21:09 PM EST

Oh I can't? The facts speak for themselves - Even Limbaugh thinks so.

Again, your ignorance of the history of radio betrays you - do the names Jack Benny and George Burns ring a bell? Does the name Casey Kasem? Larry King? Arthur Godfrey? Paul Harvey? All of whom managed to establish a radio presence without media conglomerates that owned hundreds of radio stations - some through networks, some through syndication.

You just want to turn this into a "the liberal anti-capitalists are trying to get Rush off the radio" argument. Sorry, but there are compelling arguments that have nothing to do with Rush, some of which I've mentioned, some of which the author mentioned and none of which you've actually addressed, choosing instead to spout off on some conspiracy theory to get Rush off the air.

The bottom line is that the anti-capitalist stance on media conglomeration is nothing but that - anti-capitalist.

It can't be anti-capitalist as the business depends on government handouts of public property to private hands to function. That is not capitalism.

Yes, LOCAL governments would control public access radio content if it were structured the way the FCC currently regulates PA-TV.

No. What I am suggesting is that much more room for small stations be created by the FCC and that people apply for the licenses as they do now. Local government would have nothing to do with it.

The bottom line everyone is missing is that media conglomeration hasn't changed anything - radio is changing because the way people get their information is changing.

It certainly has changed things - playlists are much narrower and more homogenized, formats are much stricter. If you'd look at the big picture, instead of just fixating on Rush, you'd have known that.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Your A Troll - and not a very good one at that.... (4.00 / 1) (#131)
by thelizman on Sat May 31, 2003 at 05:55:07 PM EST

Again, your ignorance of the history of radio betrays you - do the names Jack Benny and George Burns ring a bell? Does the name Casey Kasem? Larry King? Arthur Godfrey? Paul Harvey? All of whom managed to establish a radio presence without media conglomerates that owned hundreds of radio stations - some through networks, some through syndication.
Jack Benny - didn't need radio. He, as well has most of those names were media giants in and of themselves thanks to their crossover successes in movies and television. Mrm, movies and television...those are owned by major conglomerates...

It can't be anti-capitalist as the business depends on government handouts of public property to private hands to function. That is not capitalism.
Stations are not "public property". The radio spectrum is not "public property". The FCC is mandated with regulating access to the spectrum in order to facilitate the practical use of radio communications. Regardless, that has nothing what-so-ever to do with how that spectrum is used.

By the way, your tirade about "government handsouts of public property to private hands" betrays your anti-capitalist hystrionics. Capitalism depends on private control of resources. If a company could'nt be guaranteed exclusive access to a given frequency, then their listeners couldn't likewise be guaranteed a quality of access to the signal. Nevertheless, there is plenty of dead space in the FM and AM audio frequencies. Your paranoid histrionics about consolidated control of the radio waves doesn't ring true with the facts: there simply isn't enough market anymore if radio is done by the traditional programming methods.

No. What I am suggesting is that much more room for small stations be created by the FCC and that people apply for the licenses as they do now. Local government would have nothing to do with it.
How about you spin the dial on your radio. Greater than 95% of the FM spectrum is available for licensing at any given time. The market simply isn't there, and if you had studied the issue you'd know that by almost 3:1 people would rather bitch about the lack of content than start their own stations.

It certainly has changed things - playlists are much narrower and more homogenized, formats are much stricter. If you'd look at the big picture, instead of just fixating on Rush, you'd have known that.
Playlists are certainly not narrower. In fact, there is far more diversity now than before. The 90's saw a huge rise in the diversity of music types, so much so that it's starting to impinge on college radio listenership. There are more country music stations, and we now have "alternative rock" radio stations in addition to "classic" rock and "oldies" stations (which along with "soul" was a mainstay of FM formats during the 80s throught the mid 90s).

As for my alleged "fixation with Rush", he is the best example of the expansion of content during following the last round of deregulations. You'll find that I mentioned him twice, but you spent an entire post in a tirade about it. Your visceral reaction betrays you.

Regardless, you've clearly show that your more interested in perceptions than reality.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
If I was trolling, I'd throw you back (3.00 / 1) (#132)
by pyramid termite on Sat May 31, 2003 at 06:44:34 PM EST

Jack Benny - didn't need radio. He, as well has most of those names were media giants in and of themselves thanks to their crossover successes in movies and television.

So, it's your contention that Jack Benny didn't need radio in the late 30s and 40s? Go look it up and educate yourself, will you?

The radio spectrum is not "public property". The FCC is mandated with regulating access to the spectrum in order to facilitate the practical use of radio communications.

If it's not public property, then why is the government regulating it?

By the way, your tirade about "government handsouts of public property to private hands" betrays your anti-capitalist hystrionics. Capitalism depends on private control of resources.

Wrong. Private control of PRIVATE resources, not public ones. Actually, under a true free market capitalist system ANYONE who could afford a transmitter could broadcast on whatever frequency they wanted and the market would decide which broadcasters would be listened to - but the result would be chaos and so the government regulates it. Give it up - the FCC regulation of the airwaves IS socialism. So the question becomes this - what kind of anti-capitalism should the government practice - an anti capitalism that benefits a few major corporations or one that benefits many small companies and non-profits? The ONLY pro-capitalist choice you have here is to argue that the FCC should be done away with. But I've yet to hear you say that.

The market simply isn't there, and if you had studied the issue you'd know that by almost 3:1 people would rather bitch about the lack of content than start their own stations.

LOL. If you had studied the very document that you've linked to you'd have seen that in the quarter the report covers, there were 707 inquiries on how to start a broadcast station, 869 inquiries on low power broadcasting compared to 232 complaints about what existing broadcasters were doing - that's not a 3:1 ratio of bitchers to doers - no, it's a 6:1 ratio of doers to bitchers.

Next time, read the document before you link to it. And don't hold your breath waiting for the FCC to approve 1500 plus licenses because much of that bandwidth is already sucked up.

Playlists are certainly not narrower. In fact, there is far more diversity now than before. The 90's saw a huge rise in the diversity of music types, so much so that it's starting to impinge on college radio listenership.

Actually, the consensus is and has been that they are narrower. READ the initial article for proof - this isn't the first article that's pointed this out. With the exception of a college radio station and NPR I can predict with depressing regularilty just what songs I'm going to hear on any of the other formats. It wasn't like that during the 70s, trust me.

As for my alleged "fixation with Rush", he is the best example of the expansion of content during following the last round of deregulations.

Nope. Rush is where he is because of one reason - he's popular.

You'll find that I mentioned him twice, but you spent an entire post in a tirade about it. Your visceral reaction betrays you.

And your inability to read the parent article, my posts or an FCC document correctly betrays your lack of comprehension.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
95% of radio spectrum is NOT available (none / 0) (#138)
by rootdown on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 11:33:23 AM EST

How about you spin the dial on your radio. Greater than 95% of the FM spectrum is available for licensing at any given time.
I don't want to interrupt your discussion but i'd like to point out that yout affirmation about the state of licensable FM radio spectrum is wrong. It is true that you don't have a radio station every 0.1 MHz on your radio dial, but that doesn't mean that 95% of the spectrum is available. There is a minimum space needed between neighboring radio stations on the spectrum. This is done to avoid interference between spectrum-neighbor stations (among others). Other considerations like broadcast power and such apply too.
The market simply isn't there [...]
I can't talk for US cities, but here in Montreal there is no more space available on the FM spectrum for higher power radios.

All this is true for high power radio stations. I don't know how the spectrum is licensed to low power radio stations.

[ Parent ]

Better content? (none / 0) (#103)
by rantweasel on Fri May 30, 2003 at 04:38:26 PM EST

Syndicated shows have always reached wide audiences - they're syndicated.  Syndication is nothing new, either.  I'm opposed to radio conglomeration because ClearChannel makes suck playlists, and if you go from city to city listening to ClearChannel "classic rock" you hear the same show every day.  There's no variety, you never hear less popular songs, you never hear lesser known musicians, you never hear any non-standard genres.  When was the last time you hear any ska or techno or bluegrass or an opera in it's entirety on a corporate station?  Where I live, if you don't tune in to ClearChannel, Infinity, or one of the other national radio conglomerates, you end up choosing between NPR and a low wattage college station that doesn't cover the whole city.  Between those two, there's more variety in music and talk than there is on the entire rest of the dial.  That's not right, and allowing even more consolidation is not the answer.

mathias

[ Parent ]

Misdirected Hostility (none / 0) (#124)
by thelizman on Sat May 31, 2003 at 01:56:56 PM EST

Where I live, if you don't tune in to ClearChannel, Infinity, or one of the other national radio conglomerates, you end up choosing between NPR and a low wattage college station that doesn't cover the whole city.
Bingo - you have choices, and there are independant stations in your area. Now answer me this - where were they before "consolidation"? They were still there, weren't they?

Look, I'm a realist, and I'll admit that many stations dropped out of the market when the big boys started buying up, but the fact of the matter is that thsoe stations that shut down sucked worse than the big-media stations that moved in. Anyone on this board that is from Atlanta knows that the biggest and most popular rock station in the Cobb county area is not only independantly owned, but started up by the 18 year old son of an exective of a clearchannel executive (and I'll probably remember the call letters in about an hour, since I don't live in Ga).

If you're honestly worried about the issue, fighting consolidation won't help. It will likely only delay the inevitable, and deny most people what they actually want - a radiostation that isn't mired in local biases. What you need to do is push for public access radio (already mentioned in my article).
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
I dislike Clearchannel but... (none / 0) (#114)
by /dev/trash on Fri May 30, 2003 at 11:18:53 PM EST

I also live in a Clearchannel free radio market.  I listen to an AM locally owned talk radio station and to a locally owned Top 40 station.

So I agree, small indy stations are still around.

---
Summer Tour!
[ Parent ]

Radio Sucks (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by j1mmy on Thu May 29, 2003 at 06:43:31 PM EST

As others have pointed out, the Internet is making far more music far more accessible than radio ever has. As high-speed wireless access becomes more prevalent, there's no reason people can't listen to exactly what they want, wherever they are. I think new artists are better off embracing a new medium than wasting their effort on the old one.


Maybe (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by thadk on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:25:12 PM EST

A few people have mentioned wireless internet radio as a possibility to make up for the loss of decent radio programming. This obviously depends on how prevalent various techs get.

As it is now it is possible that 3G Cellphone/Wireleess bandwidth providers will charge by the bandwidth used, e.g. 100MB/month. If you do the math for an average quality digital stream (128kbs) it works out to 56MB an hour.

Ideally someone will find a way to make the perfect solution (802.11b variant) but that's very up in the air still and It'd be difficult for me to see things like highways unwired without organized assistance.

It also seems pretty wasteful--if everyone is pulling radio off of a very liberal 14mb/s endowed 3G cellphone tower you have enough bandwidth for only about 120 people using the i-radio at a time. How much of a radius is that covering?

[ Parent ]

A different model, perhaps. (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by j1mmy on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:49:04 PM EST

Instead of listening live, your radio could (potentially) pull down a bucketload of music when you're not using it and have it available for you when you drive, Tivo-style. You could skip through songs you don't like and whatnot. Doesn't solve the bandwidth problem, but chances are you have more bandwidth available where you park than where you drive.

[ Parent ]
I've got this feature! (4.00 / 1) (#76)
by Graymalkin on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:44:57 AM EST

I call it an iPod. I've got a passthru cable hooked up to the front of my stereo and the other end plugged into my iPod's remote. I've got roughly 15GB of music waiting to be played at random, sequentially, or according to playlist parameters. I've got a couple smart playlists that work pretty well, they pull up songs of particular genres at random or pull up music I haven't listened to for a while. I've also got one that pulls up music I just put on the iPod but haven't listened to yet; I tend to mass encode my CDs just to get them on my iPod. Sure an internal storage device for my car might be kind of cool but at least with my iPod I can take it with me when I get where I'm going.

[ Parent ]
How about (none / 0) (#111)
by j1mmy on Fri May 30, 2003 at 08:16:40 PM EST

an i-pod docking bay in the car? I think that would rock.

[ Parent ]
Yeah? (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by subversion on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:01:11 PM EST

What about when I'm on the highway traveling through sparsely populated areas where I can't even get a cellphone signal right now, much less wi-fi anytime in the foreseeable future?

Massive coverage WLANs do not seem to be a profitable enterprise, and as such won't get built quickly, if ever.  FM radio is still king of the cheap, easy methods of getting high quality audio broadcast over a wide spatial area, and it doesn't look like it's going to get dethroned anytime soon - if nothing else, the price difference between a $5 FM receiver and a $50-500 dollar satellite or WLAN receiver will prevent them from achieving the kind of take-up FM currently has.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

FM is king for now. (2.00 / 1) (#55)
by j1mmy on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:45:20 PM EST

But times change, man. Things get cheaper, cheap things become more prevalent, joy is had by all.

[ Parent ]
Yeah. (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by subversion on Thu May 29, 2003 at 11:54:53 PM EST

But it's hard to deal with an installed base like FM.  There's some 500-600 million FM receivers in the US, last I knew.

Internet radio isn't going to replace that anytime soon.  It's great for the office, and as broadband becomes ubiquitous to the home, great for the home, but for everywhere in between it still sucks.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

FM recivers are ubiquitous (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by rigorist on Fri May 30, 2003 at 09:43:50 AM EST

I just cataloged FM receivers in my eyesight right now:

Sansui 3000
Sherwood S-7100A
Kenwood KR-5200
Grundig FR-200
Pioneer SX-1500

[ Parent ]

Ayup (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by epepke on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:23:02 PM EST

And that's why the RIAA hates the internet.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
The Internet has a lot of promise -- however... (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by The Baptist Death Ray on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:33:44 PM EST

As others have said, internet music works only in specific situations. It doesn't work terribly well if you're in your car. (Heck, it doesn't even work when you're carrying around your laptop with a wireless network card, necessarily). And one of the more useful things about radio, even today, is that it is a lot more LOCAL than the internet. Want to find out what bands are playing locally on the weekend? Jump around the stations for a bit and one will eventually say something. Using the internet, well... you'll have to find the web page of a local radio station. :)

The Baptist Death Ray
"The urge to destroy is a creative urge."
- M. Bakunin
[ Parent ]

It doesn't matter (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by epepke on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:40:42 PM EST

The internet already has too much promise for the RIAA. That's why they oppose it. Is it limited? Well, there's that mobile phone network, originally set up for car phones.

Want to find out what bands are playing locally on the weekend? Jump around the stations for a bit and one will eventually say something.

For how long, though? There used to be a thing called "regional hits." That's where a lot of rock and roll came from. Doesn't happen much any more.

Just how rare do local radio stations have to become before people will admit that getting rid of them is a problem?


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Regional Hits (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by Kadin2048 on Fri May 30, 2003 at 02:19:03 AM EST

They still exist...at least, they do in the two places I commute between. In Maine, I listen to WCYY, which is an "Alt-Rock" station owned by Citadel Communications. Citadel owns about 200 stations across the US, but WCYY has a fair amount of local stuff--there were several bands getting aired heavily on WCYY over last summer, getting as much or more playtime as any of the top 40 songs.

In Connecticut, the choice is basically between the ClearChannel "new rock" WMRQ, or the Infinity Broadcasting (?) "rock" WCCC. When I got back to CT I was stunned both to not hear many of the bands I had heard in Maine, but to realize that nobody had heard of them, either.

So there still are regional hits, in sufficiently isolated markets. However, I have doubts that WCYY plays local bands just out of the kindness of their hearts--I'm pretty sure that WCYY's activity in the local concert scene probably gives them an interest in creating an audience for local bands.

[In case anyone is curious, the band that I'm thinking about when writing all of this is Jeremiah Freed.]

[ Parent ]

Try the newspaper. (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by j1mmy on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:18:28 PM EST

It will list far more concerts than your local radio station, and possibly include reviews and other helpful information.

[ Parent ]
Depends. (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by subversion on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:38:44 AM EST

My local radio station lists far more concerts than our local paper, and they'll even tell me what's going on if I call the DJ.

Then again, they're a college station that actually cares about their audience, not a Clear Channel behemoth, and their DJs don't want to be anywhere near the real radio industry.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

if you live in the SF bay area (3.66 / 3) (#33)
by asad on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:06:29 PM EST

try listening to KSJS 90.5 spanish metal, and other random music on it make my commute a lot easier.

also 89.7 KFJC (2.00 / 1) (#38)
by antizeus on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:54:31 PM EST

KFJC is one of the few things I miss about the Bay Area.
-- $SIGNATURE
[ Parent ]
Or KALX 90.4 (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by baron samedi on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:36:43 PM EST

If you can get it. Their transmitter is powered by a pacemaker battery.
"Hands that help are better by far than lips that pray."- Robert G. Ingersoll
[ Parent ]
dude, KALX is 90.7 (every FM ends in an odd #) n/t (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by hardcorejon on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:23:01 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Oh yeah... Whoops... (none / 0) (#99)
by baron samedi on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:41:43 PM EST


"Hands that help are better by far than lips that pray."- Robert G. Ingersoll
[ Parent ]
I live in Albany, NY (2.00 / 1) (#47)
by The Baptist Death Ray on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:40:35 PM EST

Or, rather, Troy. There is one radio station that, while it does play some of the same-old same-old, also mixes it up today. I almost drove off the road when I heard them playing Black Flag. At noon.

The Baptist Death Ray
"The urge to destroy is a creative urge."
- M. Bakunin
[ Parent ]

Bay Area is a mecca of indie/college radio (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by Shawn Ledbetter on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:32:08 AM EST

I've lived here for the past 7 years and never have a need to listen to anything but the college stations. From just about anywhere in the Bay Area, you have your choice of at least 5 college stations:
  • KFJC 89.7 - Los Altos, Foothill College
  • KZSU 90.1 - Stanford
  • KUSF 90.3 - University of San Francisco
  • KSJS 90.5 - San Jose State University
  • KALX 90.7 - Berkeley
  • KSCU 103.3 - Santa Clara University
  • KPFA 94.1 - Pacifica, music typically at nights/weekends
Some of these are extremely local, practically micro-broadcasting (for example, I'm in Sunnyvale, but cannot pickup KUSF -- its only good for a couple square blocks in San Francisco) For just about any taste of music (besides Top 40, duh!), one of these stations will play something you like at some point of the day. Its a rare occasion that I cannot find something I enjoy listening to coming from one of these stations.

[ Parent ]
for the truely brave (none / 0) (#92)
by asad on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:56:14 PM EST

try listening to Freak Radio Santa Cruz as their motto says Screw the FCC, 8 years without a license. They are out there and youc an listen to a live stream if you want.

[ Parent ]
like diverse music? (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by llimllib on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:18:38 PM EST

listen to Boombastic Radio.


Peace.
The scourge of radio (3.60 / 5) (#40)
by domovoi on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:04:14 PM EST

and the most hateful manifestation of The Format isn't insufferable repetition (that's a close second place) of absolute saccharine sonic diarrhea (third place). It's the DJs. I have my car stereo (such as it is) tuned to 5 stations. The unifying characteristic? None of them has a single arseclown loudmouth spouting his moronic twaddle at me between songs.

Relatedly, none of them has a single commercial featuring either guys hired for their ability to read legal disclaimers at lightning speed, nor those hired to sound like they're suffering simultaneously from 'roid rage and constipation.

Corporate radio, as suburban-vanilla, stupefying, and chock full of seizure-inducing boredomeas it is, might actually be marginally tolerable without these two factors. Who the hell decided that radio listeners liked either a) to be scolded, or b) to be shouted at?

Dear Clearchannel:

I cannot abide listening to your radio stations, but if you tell your "on-air personalities" to STFU, I will be your bestest friend. Thanks in advance. </rant>
------------------------------
This is not my signature line.

Blessed be St.. Louis (4.33 / 6) (#43)
by mcgrew on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:30:11 PM EST

When I was a teenager, one day my dad came home from work and turned on the radio, expecting to hear Herb Alpert. Instead was some rock and roll. "Who changed the station, goddammit!"

Neither me or my sister. His station had changed formats. KSHE-95 was the first FM rock station, and it was on the air.

Not only that, but they didn't play top 40. Some stuf f they played was, true- like Black Sabbath's Paranoid. BUt they didn't play anything you ever heard on the radio before.

What's more they played album sides and entire albums. You might hear five albums before you heard a disk jockey or a commercial. Most of the commercials were for head shops and waterbed stores.

To their credit, several St. Louis top 40 pop stations changed format to country afterward. KADI and other FM rock stations started.

The phenomenon spread countrywide. Stationed in California in 1975 I heard KZAP, amopng others, playing ROCK. Not that top 40 pop shit that passed for "rock and roll" before KSHE but ROCK.

Ever heard the band Budgie? No? That's because they got damned little airplay in the US outside St. Louis. Metallica and Megadeath band members were roadies for them. They still play them on KSGE (Ask Q, he'll tell you). Metallica covers a Budgie song on the Garage album- badly.

Rock was rolling- then came empty-v and turned the clock back to the pop masquerading as rock as it had been pre-KSHE.

I still have a couple of original KSHE bumper stickers- the famous pig "Sweetmeat" with headphones and sunglasses, smoking a big doobie.

Real Rock Radio. It isn't what it used to be, but it still rules.

Had I seen this story in the cue I'd have voted against it- solely for its bad history. It's just incorrect, and what's worse, WRONG.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

Worse = Better? (4.00 / 6) (#45)
by msimm on Thu May 29, 2003 at 08:35:58 PM EST

While I agree "...that radio has had quality problems long before the recent trend..." that doesn't excuse the increased homogenization of American radio.

Clear Channel has had an net effect on American radio and it has gone from bad to worse.

Fortunately, internet radio has come along. But doesn't anyone remeber the idea of Public Airwaves?

Legends: Awesome FREE Linux and Windows FPS!
how so? (none / 0) (#113)
by /dev/trash on Fri May 30, 2003 at 11:17:08 PM EST

ClearChannel owns 1200 stations.  There are 16,000 stations out there.  I don't see how that's a majority.

And I even live in a Clearchannel and Infinity free radio market.

---
Summer Tour!
[ Parent ]

video killed the radio star (3.80 / 5) (#51)
by ZorbaTHut on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:12:32 PM EST

Curse you. Now I have that song going through my head.

It's happening on NPR too. . . . (3.50 / 2) (#54)
by IHCOYC on Thu May 29, 2003 at 09:28:50 PM EST

I used to listen to a local (Louisville, KY area) forme NPR pop station (WFPK) that played a quite eclectic mix: old Budgie followed by Ani di Franco, Jefferson Airplane, the Stanley Brothers, and the Cure, with a fair amount of occasional blues and jazz thrown into the mix.

I associate their decline with the Oh Brother Where Art Thou movie and its soundtrack. This may be a coincidence; the movie may have been the best movie Burt Reynolds never made, but that soundtrack was, of course, a major hit. The novelty of having a charting bluegrass album brought a big increase in the number of acoustic roots music and tortured-cat accent acts that they played.

This, however, seems to have been the cue for a major revision of their programming philosophy. Gone was most of the older material. About the only band they play anymore that has a name is Wilco. The rest of it was all Firstname-Lastname: an endless string of sensitive singer-songwriter types and alt-country clones.

I don't even dislike the genre that consistently. They didn't even play the interesting alt-country any more: no more 16 Horsepower, for instance. When Handsome Family came to town about a year ago, they were not mentioned by the station. You'd think they'd be right up their alley, but HF was too interesting for them, I guess.

It turns out the programme director sponsors a yearly convention for independent stations anymore, and promotes endless Americana, roots music, and blooze as a way for these people to win a loyal audience by making a consistent sound. I guess I wasn't ever going to hear Nico or New Model Army on this station anymore. When they announced months in advance that a new Lucinda Williams (gag!) record was coming out, I knew the writing was on the wall.

I gave up on them. Now I wake up to WLRS, a commercial station with a distinguished pedigree --- I listened to it in high school myself --- that's now remade itself as an "alternative" station. Apparently "alternative" means "50 Pearl Jam clones" now; because that's what they play: they have heavy rotation of a list of around fifty songs, most of which sound like they're trying to be Pearl Jam. Still, it's better than waking up to pickin' and grinnin'.

The former NPR station used to get an occasional donation from me: they beg, of course. No more. I can't see donating money to keep a country station on the air.
 --
Quod sequitur, sicut serica lucis albissima tingere rogant;
Quod sequitur, totum devorabit.

So listen to 88.1 instead [nt] (2.00 / 1) (#72)
by Shren on Fri May 30, 2003 at 04:40:34 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Well, that explains it. (3.00 / 1) (#77)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri May 30, 2003 at 07:31:58 AM EST

I thought WXPN was getting a little more monontonous. I thought they were just celebrating "A Mighty Wind" or something.


--
I only read Usenet for the articles.


[ Parent ]
To find other public radio content online... (none / 0) (#140)
by TrbleClef on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 03:40:34 PM EST

If you listen to NPR at home (and have cable/DSL/other streaming-doesn't-suck bandwidth) I recommend taking a look at publicradiofan.com. It basically provides a database of streaming public radio stations both in the US and all over the world, and their program schedules - and makes it a lot easier to find interesting and enjoyable to listen to. Of course, if you're in the car or something....

[ Parent ]
I think it's called nu mettal? (none / 0) (#155)
by delmoi on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 05:38:59 PM EST

bands like linkin park, papar roach, etc.

I don't think they sound all that much like perl jam, they just suck. bland, boring bullshit.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Ummm... I hate to ask this question, but... (3.77 / 9) (#59)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 29, 2003 at 10:31:34 PM EST

who cares? I mean, I click on iTunes and I can bring up dozens of internet stations; I use an MP3 player when I exercise; I listen to CDs in my truck.

The only time I turn on the radio is for the weather or traffic...


--
I only read Usenet for the articles.


I care. (2.66 / 3) (#79)
by radicalskptc on Fri May 30, 2003 at 09:29:39 AM EST

2 points: 1) The musicians care. I'm actually a musician, I attend a conservatory in Boston and when I graduate I plan to move to NYC and gig. Or maybe live with my parents until they die. Hard to say. 2) People who are interested in expanding their musical horisons care. The only times I hear new jazz artists are when they are recommended to me, or when I see that they're having a concert in Boston and check them out online, or when they're on LOCAL RADIO STATIONS. They're great, especially when nobody else you hang out with really likes your style of music.

[ Parent ]
Yes but... (none / 0) (#83)
by zaxus on Fri May 30, 2003 at 10:50:09 AM EST

It's hard to use iTunes in your car....

---
"If you loved me, you'd all kill yourselves today." - Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan


[ Parent ]
No problem at all! (none / 0) (#84)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri May 30, 2003 at 11:13:40 AM EST

If you have $400, you buy an ipod with an fm transmitter....

Anybody got $400 I could have?

:-P


--
I only read Usenet for the articles.


[ Parent ]
heh (none / 0) (#105)
by kableh on Fri May 30, 2003 at 05:33:05 PM EST

http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2003-05-28&res=l

[ Parent ]
Who needs iTunes in the car? (none / 0) (#172)
by b1t r0t on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 04:59:20 PM EST

I just burn off 700 megs to CD-R and play on a cheap walkman-style MP3 player. It's easier than trying to use a seat belt to keep my Powerbook from falling off the seat.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]
Ain't no static at all . . . MP3 (none / 0) (#171)
by b1t r0t on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 04:54:06 PM EST

I think MP3 compounds the problems of music radio. Not only have they used questionable reasons to limit their playlists as much as possible, but MP3 has allowed the average person to carry around 150-170 or so personally chosen songs on a single disc, playable on something you can buy at Wal-Mart. And the songs can even be from halfway across the world, which you would have a hard time finding in the average record store, much less on the air.

It is rather hard to compete against what is esentially the most audience-centric niche station in the world: one chosen by and carried by and played by, and aimed at an audience of one: the listener.

We're steadily moving toward a day when it will be unthinkable for the average person to go around without a couple of gigabytes of data at hand. I'm not talking about Day-Timer stuff, I'm talking about stuff like a photo album and music jukebox. This is yet another reason for The Powers That Be to hate MP3.

Meanwhile, in AM land, I'm listening to certain conservative talk shows over the internet, because the local Clear Channel station insists on delaying them an hour, and it's easier than trying to get an AM radio to work inside of an office building.

Things have reached the point where the most broadcast radio I normally listen to at one time is Dr. Demento, which the local FM station broadcasts at oh-six-freaking-hundred hours Saturday morning. Then they segue into some nice classic rock, sometimes keeping me tuned in for as much as a whole extra hour while I'm reading web pages.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]

it's the corporate style (3.66 / 3) (#64)
by auraslip on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:47:51 AM EST

less diversty means profits. You see it in everything. Our society is homogenizing like crazy.

Of course vitality springs from diversty.....
124

And a lesson from agriculture... (4.00 / 2) (#78)
by djeaux on Fri May 30, 2003 at 08:55:11 AM EST

less diversty means profits. You see it in everything

One of the most interesting examples (for an entomologist) is the move toward corporate agriculture. This began in the 1950s & basically destroyed the "family farm" in the 1960s.

The boll weevil is a little black bug,
Come from Mexico, they say,
Just a-lookin' for a home,
Just a-lookin' for a home.
The tenets of agribusiness are (1) obtain and plant the largest acreage possible, and (2) plant one type of crop, preferably the same strain or hybrid. Of course, agricultural "pests" love this sort of situation: miles & miles of dinner. Given the specialization of insects, the fact that it's miles & miles of their particular dinner can be disastrous for the farmer.

To cope with this, agribusiness ramped up the use of pesticides. Another name for pesticide is "poison."

Less diversity ... more profits ... more poison ... There's a definite parallel to present-day radio in this example, methinks.

djeaux
"Obviously, I'm not an IBM computer any more than I'm an ashtray." (Bob Dylan)
[ Parent ]

And also... (none / 0) (#139)
by jnemo131 on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 12:48:38 PM EST

And then along came suburbs who bought out the land of the few remaining independent farmers bc the suburbanites could make better offers and allow the farmers to slip away into obscurity while they relaxed in their own new suburban homes(just like TV and movies). *That really had nothing to do with the argument of the article, I just thought the original was a good metaphor.

"I heard the droning in the shrine of the sea-monkey"
-The Pixies
[ Parent ]
Hypocrisy (2.75 / 16) (#66)
by sc555reb on Fri May 30, 2003 at 01:22:33 AM EST

I have mixed feelings about the consolidation of media in this country. But let's look at the news and informational side for a minute. It's plain to see that there's a political agenda here - the left wants to retake full control over the media.

Why aren't the liberal politicians and *OTHER* media outlets screaming about the consolidation of AOL/TimeWarner, Disney, Viacom, etc.? Simple: those are far-left-leaning media. These three megapolies control a vast majority of information coming into our homes, our offices, and our lives.

So, where's the rhetoric about them? No, instead you'll hear the media/politicians complaining about RADIO! And, mostly, they are targeting AM RADIO!

Radio is one of the only places conservatives have a voice at all. The reason why both politicians and big media single out ClearChannel is because of that fact.

Ok, I'm sure a liberal is going to ask about Fox News. So what? Fox News genuinely is a fair and balanced network, unlike their competitors. But what drives the left nuts is that it is the only major televised news network that will allow conservative points-of-view to be aired at all!

Nor is FNC's parent, News Corp., anything close to the size of Viacom, AOL/TW, or Disney. Even with the DirecTv acquisition (if it goes through), News Corp. will control only a fraction of the cable/satellite business, and an even smaller fraction of the news market.

Of course, news coverage isn't the only concern for a handful of people concerned over consolidation; it IS true that consolidation has crushed the diversity of music formats. There are a million and one Top-10 stations out there - all owned by a handful of large holding companies. Seems like the only thing on FM these days is Jay-Z and 50-Cent. In this case, the arguments against consolidation have some merit.

However, with respect to the news and informational side of the media, the fact that opponents of consolidation have singled out radio as a target reveals their true motives.



u must be confused (3.50 / 8) (#68)
by alphacoward on Fri May 30, 2003 at 02:36:19 AM EST

if you think the american media is far-left-leaning than i can only assume that you have never left America - or that you have never opened your eyes.... i've spend large periods of time in America and the mind control is deep... the unquestionable patriotism suffocates liberal thinking... i can think of many Canadian broadcasters that must give those in the north a more un biased and fair view..... drunk with power and blinded by fear....

[ Parent ]
We are all "programmed" (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by TheModerate on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:59:14 PM EST

Of course, most civilized people call if "thinking." The liberals are just tuned to a different station.

Thats the way democracy works. Once you aren't able to control people by force, your next step is to try to control people's minds. And I don't believe this is intentional. The people in charge are just as "programmed" as the people who follow their creed.

"i've spend large periods of time in America and the mind control is deep."

There is a very high likelihood that you are just upset because Americans are tuned to a different kind of mind control than you are.

"What a man has in himself is, then, the chief element in his happiness." -- Schopenhauer
[ Parent ]

Reality Check (3.75 / 12) (#75)
by Zontar The Mindless on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:15:52 AM EST

Radio is one of the only places conservatives have a voice at all.

*snort* Yeah, along with TV, newspapers, big industry, religion and the while friggin' US Gov't. Poor, poor little right-wingers: since they don't yet have a complete lock on what can be disseminated in the US, they must be oppressed. Oh, boo hoo.

Disney's no more a "liberal" institution than I am a bloody wallaby. And Fox is "balanced" only in the sense that the Tower of Pisa is.

In the US, the political center is only slightly to the left of Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco. Just look at "Crossfire" on CNN, it's a perfect example of what I'm talking about: a pretend "debate" between those who are conservative and those who are even more so.

Get real.



[ Parent ]
Thanks... (none / 0) (#170)
by minusp on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 01:53:13 PM EST

I needed a good laugh.
Remember, regime change begins at home.
[ Parent ]
Indymedia says... (5.00 / 4) (#70)
by opendna on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:38:55 AM EST

[Just because they're so damn unpopular, the mandatory Indymedia links for a story about media consolidation.]

USA: FCC & COMMERCIAL MEDIA May 24 2003
Exhaustive Report Documents Media Concentration, FCC Influence
Curious about who owns your local media, telephone and cable company? The Center for Public Integrity released a report today examining the entire US telecoms industry. It includes a database searchable by zip code and a report on how many hundreds of times the broadcast industry paid to fly FCC commissioners to Las Vegas and New Orleans. The report comes just 10 days ahead of the June 2 meeting at which the FCC is expected to drastically curtail media ownership regulations.
[ The Center for Public Integrity Report | NOW with Bill Moyers coverage | Reclaim The Media | Media Diversity Project ]

NETHERLANDS: REPRESSION May 25 2003
Hundreds of Free Radio Stations off the Air
More and more free radio stations have to go off the air because the Dutch government has decided to sell (nl) as many frequencies as possible. Hundreds of pirate radio stations have to disappear (nl) because they are not recognized by the authorities, even though a lot of them have been in the air since the 1980's and fulfill important social functions (nl) in their neigbourhooods.
In protest (nl) radio makers demanded (nl) to keep more FM frequencies open for free local radio stations, to legalise up to 1300 pirate radio stations, and to stop the governmental project that is now actively hunting down pirate radios.
However, the authorities made their dislike of freedom of speech quite clear by stopping about 20 busses on their way to the manifestations on the motorways, and by closing the event earlier then planned because people were drinking beer during the concert.
Free radio stations are also closed down in other parts of the world like for example from Brazil or Ireland.
[ IMC Netherlands | Ether pirates | Tegenflits ]



That last one's great (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by RyoCokey on Sat May 31, 2003 at 10:44:16 AM EST

Free radio stations, you say? That's interesting. Here in the US, they're all free. The Dutch must have some kind of crazy pay-as-you-listen system.

Apparently having the government regulate frequencies to prevent destructive interference is yet another tool that Global Capitalism uses to the Keep You In Place. Free radio stations can frolic among the daisies and smoke illegal substances, away from the harmful glare of The Man.



"Seems to me the whole world has lost a basic virute, that of patients." - travlight
[ Parent ]
Not black or white (5.00 / 1) (#141)
by pin0cchio on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 04:03:19 PM EST

Apparently having the government regulate frequencies to prevent destructive interference is yet another tool that Global Capitalism uses to the Keep You In Place.

The problem is that there's so little spectrum available in the FM radio band that not all voices can be represented adequately in broadcasts available to commuters. I agree that regulation of frequencies has a purpose, but I feel that the U.S. government has made some big mistakes in setting the regulatory parameters.


lj65
[ Parent ]
The FCC destroyed freeform (4.83 / 6) (#71)
by Ed Lin on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:52:45 AM EST

According to the brief history of freeform radio page of NYC freeform radio station WFMU, the suits started fleeing from freeform radio primarily because of an FCC ruling concerning "questionable practices" against a Des Moines freeform radio station in 1971. Though certainly some of the other reasons posted on this subject here played a role as well.

Observations from afar. (4.80 / 5) (#73)
by Metatone on Fri May 30, 2003 at 05:04:36 AM EST

I spent a few years in the Boston area, but only really listened to music radio in depth during 94-95. In that time I wasn't too desparately unhappy with the stations, although I didn't have a  favourite and the tendency of channels to stratify themselves "we're the mainstream dance channel," "we're the hard rock station" certainly kept me wandering the dials. What's more disturbing to me thinking back, although purely anecdotal, is I don't think I was introduced to very much by these channels. Admittedly, this is partially because I did some "discovery" with college radio stations and in my trips abroad.

Since then I've left the US (and wandered far and wide) but I have spent some time back in my home country of the UK and I have the following observations:

- People say that Clearchannel has made things worse in the US, which I can only say is a bit of a scary thought.

- When I was young in the UK, I lived in an area that could receive good reception from 3 regional commercial stations and dodgy reception from at least 2 more. Sometime around 2001 I noticed that some kind of deregulation had occured (not sure when it happened) but I noticed that suddenly 4 of the 5 stations were syndicating music content all weekend long. Then it started to spread into the weekday schedules too. Frankly, it sucked, I'd gone from having 5 stations to choose from, to having 2. If that's the kind of thing that is happening with the "Clearchannel" revolution, you have my sympathies.

- When I left the UK to head for Boston, UK radio was at a bit of a low ebb in discovering new and interesting bands. This was in part because the 800lb gorilla (BBC Radio One) had become seriously sclerotic and out of touch. Many regional commercial stations did good work in this time which kept the lower rungs of the music scene alive.

- The scene at the time of consolidation of regional stations in the UK was very healthy... because the 800lb gorilla had come good again. Invigorated by new faces (and some old ones... respect to John Peel) it had rediscovered the joys of looking for new music as well as playing more well known stuff. I've since moved on to other places, so I don't know if it's still going good in the UK.

- BBC Radio One was able to do this partially because it is non-commercial, so the investment it made in the music scene (concert broadcasts as well as new artist search) was easier to make, as were gambles on ratings. Of course partially it's able to do this b/c it's the 800lb gorilla too.

I make that last point to acknowledge that people who worry about talk radio (as opposed to music) have genuine concerns about the power of a non-commercial station. BBC Five Live was barely dented by the first attempts to launch US style commercial talk radio. (Whether that merely reflects a different political and radio culture or how difficult it is to compete with an established non-commercial is difficult to say.)

However, whilst the 800lb gorilla waxes and wanes in it's dedication and competence in covering the roots of popular music, I do think that a "non-profit" element might be essential to combatting the format.

I suspect that looking again at NPR might remain politically unacceptable in the US for many years to come. Thus, the only suggestions that springs to mind are:

- possible co-operation between college radio stations across the country to broaden their reach?

- if public access stations were to come about (for example in areas where Clearchannel has a total monopoly) maybe they could tap into college stations when they are short of music content? I am given to understand that without such things licensing music is a great problem for public access stations (I might be misinformed here tho).

Changing the Format Requires Changing the Software (4.00 / 2) (#87)
by Carson523 on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:14:54 PM EST

Most of the playlist generation by radio stations is done by computer software. Unfortunately, the algorithms utilized by the radio software base their selections on sales rankings (determined mostly by Billboard), or demographic statistics (provided by Arbitron). The software needs to make better selections based on what the music actually sounds like, and what is pleasing to the ear of the listening audience.

This is difficult task, to say the least. How should a computer determine what sounds good to its audience? I propose that this should be accomplished by a system that scans its audio files looking for correlates with human emotion, and base its selection on the songs that most closely match what emotion the DJ wants to invoke in the audience. In addtion, feedback should be taken from the audience so that better playlist decisions may be made by the program in the future. If this software were developed and used correctly, the diversity of tracks presented to a radio audience will be increased, as songs will now be selected based on what sounds "good" to the listeners.

For the completion of my undergraduate degree in computer science, I developed and implemented such a system. If you are still reading and interested, consult my honors thesis entitled An Intelligent Approach to Music Programming for a complete description of the implementation. Ironically, the software and thesis were written within 500 yards of the Clear Channel world headquarters in San Antonio.

The software is open source(based in Java and C++) and will be released into the public domain soon. Thus, I am in the search for people who might be interested in helping out with development and testing in the near future.

sure I'd like to see how that sounds (none / 0) (#88)
by asad on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:39:28 PM EST

I suspect that it will be pretty wacky but maybe you should grow it into a larger piece once you have something for us to test.

[ Parent ]
Bleah (5.00 / 2) (#89)
by ENOENT on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:43:31 PM EST

The only software that can REALLY make selections based on what music sounds like and what emotions it evokes resides in the human mind. Unless you're proposing to write a full AI that experiences the full gamut of human emotion, your software is just moving the current system of churning survey and sales data into playlists from a human-driven process to a computer-driven one. Of course, if you do implement a human-equivalent AI, that would probably look good on your academic record.

If you really want to have your playlist based on what sounds good and what emotions the music evokes, there is no substitute for a good DJ. A DJ is a sort of sonic architect. Do you think that, by polling the masses for their preferences in how building components are combined in a house, you could design a better house that Frank Lloyd Wright could?

Don't put too much faith in the wisdom of the masses. That way lies mediocrity.

So nyah.


[ Parent ]
Dangit, small post turned long...again. (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by Wah on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:44:57 PM EST

One of the less-talked about problems of radio consolidation in regards to Clear Channel is that they also own the best way to advertise radio, bill boards.  Radio is mostly a car medium, and the best way to get someone to use your product is mention it while they are 'in the market', so the speak.  The ownership of billboards, which obviously advertise for many other industries as well as radio, is a problem for someone trying to promote a competing radio station.  This is a business coup for Clear Channel, as they not only get to control the airwaves, they get to control who does 'on the spot' promotion of radio.

There are, of course, other ways to promote a radio station, but one of the most effective can be denied to competitors.  With the other forms of market dominance and branding (which effects diaries, which affect ratings*) the change of control over radio has been tremendous.

Add in the fact that they also own and control many of the concert venues in the country and you end up with a situation that has many synergistical possibilities in regards to music  (Talk radio is another story).  Or conspiracy possibilities if you are outside the circle of trust.

* Those constant 'You are listening to a Clear Channel station' branding could be affecting how people write down diaries that are used to tabulate ratings.  While it's been a few years since I've seen an actual diary, the method for identifying what the heck people are listening to (and writing down) is near-voodoo.  Some people write in freqs, some call letters, and no doubt now, some people will just write 'Clear Channel', because the only thing they remember was that it was a 'Clear Channel Station'.  These diaries are then compiled to books, and then, eventually, affect advertising rates.

Long story short, if you hear that 'Clear Channel Station' so much, it is possible (and perhaps likely) that a person could misidentify a station that is outside the circle of trust, thus making it even more difficult for them to compete for advertising money.

Really, Clear Channel is a heck of a company from that stand point.  And they have raked in the cash.  

I generally shudder to think what could happen if the FCC changes the ownership rules, as the change of ownership rules in '96 is what left us with what we have now.

It is not hard to imagine how the same techniques that have made Clear Channel so large and profitable in a short while could be applied to other mediums.  When you have enough control of a river, it's easy to force it to turn a wheel.

But in the FCC's defense, and for the sake of discussion, the media landscape has changed remarkably over the last 20 years.   Attempting to control and guide it has become harder and harder, and run up against a number of legal roadblocks.   There has been massive public reaction from almost anyone who spends 20 minutes looking into the situation, but part of the problem is that if they only spend 5 minutes, it get's an "Ah, whatever", as the topic is rather convoluted, and the end goal up for debate.

Should public resources be used for the good of the public directly?  Or is it simply a matter of letting the money generated by exploiting the public resource benefit a society indirectly?

Personally I think an informed public is necessary for useful democracy, and that doesn't come from the overriding need for market growth and happy shareholders.  Frankly, it costs too much.  And the benefit isn't measured in dollars.
--
Fail to Obey?

Capitalist automation (4.50 / 2) (#91)
by millman on Fri May 30, 2003 at 12:50:10 PM EST

You make a good argument, and I wondered why I hadn't thought of this before. I realize it's because I view consolidation and "The Format" as part of the same process. They're both symptoms of capitalism.

As others have pointed out in billions of previous comments, corporations exist to make money, and make more money over time. You do this by lowering costs while selling more (or gaining more listeners to drive up advertising costs in this case). They can achieve both with "The Format", which is just another term for efficiency. Automate the playlist and human costs and "errors" are no longer a problem. Part of your long quote says as much:

"Playlists then became *generated*along these lines...using software...so the "major market" stations became*predictable in the extreme*. For example...I STILL remember that for the summer season DC-101 (main competitor to us) would play something from Styx at or around 3pm EVERY weekday. You could set your watch by some of them.

Industry consolidation follows the same principle. Consolidation decreases competition, especially in this business where bandwidth is very restriced in terms of availability. This gives you an increasingly captive audience. It also helps increase efficiency. The cost per radio station goes down significantly as you own more when all the stations run the same tunes and personalities. It's the same idea behind chain stores.

I wish I didn't have to say "it's just another problem with capitalism favoring money over people", but I can't word it any other way. That's all it is.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

In a world full of thieves, the only crime is getting caught.

It's the people's fault then (none / 0) (#100)
by Gothmolly on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:52:36 PM EST

Every time I hear this kind of argument, I realize that people deserve what they get. There is no giant ogre named Capitalism. It has exactly the power that your market choices grant it. If you don't like mass-produced radio, listen to college radio, or even, god forbid, NPR. Or start your own station - low-wattage broadcasting does not require onerous licensing. People can choose to be sheep, that's the beauty of Capitalism. Incidentally, you might question why the barriers to entering the broadcasting business exist. Precisely because of ANTI-capitilalistic laws and policies which allow the State to regulate the industry.

[ Parent ]
yes and no (none / 0) (#102)
by millman on Fri May 30, 2003 at 04:19:11 PM EST

I wasn't arguing for or against capitalism, I was stating some of the effects of it.  

Blaming the masses for ALL of capitalism's ills seems a bit ridiculous to me.  Everyone shares in the blame, including the capitalists.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

In a world full of thieves, the only crime is getting caught.
[ Parent ]

No variety (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by DodgyGeezer on Fri May 30, 2003 at 01:22:58 PM EST

I've moved around in N. America a few times in the last decade.  I've noticed that every city basically has the same major radio stations under different names.  Their advertising, content and presenters/DJs all seem to fit the same formula for which ever type of station they are.  What really gets me is how they portray themselves as being unique and individual!  Maybe so if you don't get out much.

Thank goodness for NPR (USA) and CBC (Canada) for quality, interesting radio.  Double thank goodness for CBC remaining advert free.  Aside: recent research indicated that advertisers prize CBC listeners the most as they are often wealthier - unfortunately for them, one of the reasons the listeners choose the CBC in the first place is to get away from the advertisers! ;)

CBC (none / 0) (#104)
by rootdown on Fri May 30, 2003 at 04:58:16 PM EST

unfortunately for them, one of the reasons the listeners choose the CBC in the first place is to get away from the advertisers!
And to listen to content instead of yelling DJs.

[ Parent ]
Absolutely right (none / 0) (#106)
by DodgyGeezer on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:11:00 PM EST

Yes, those are the two main reasons why I choose to listen to it.  Sometimes they have stuff I'm not interested in, or stuff that is just plain weird... but not enough to put me off.  I guess it must appeal to somebody and no commercial station would broadcast it.

[ Parent ]
May actually be the same station (4.00 / 1) (#145)
by sphealey on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 08:06:57 PM EST

I've moved around in N. America a few times in the last decade. I've noticed that every city basically has the same major radio stations under different names. Their advertising, content and presenters/DJs all seem to fit the same formula for which ever type of station they are. What really gets me is how they portray themselves as being unique and individual! Maybe so if you don't get out much.
Actually, Clear Channel have big "disk jockey farms" where the magic of digital electronics is used to allow one DJ and newsreader to handle 10 or 15 stations simultaneously. So the stations you are hearing not only sound alike, they may actually be the same station!

sPh

[ Parent ]

college & other locals, contests (none / 0) (#153)
by gps on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 04:34:13 PM EST

college stations and other local stations are often quite good.  sure, some of their programs you don't care about at all.  but they provide much more interesting variety than the mindless clearchannel stations.

another amusing note about clearchannel and the likes is that all of their "call in and you'll be entered to win 1 million dollars" stupid promotions are the -same- single contest being held nationwide.  you're not competing with 10,000 people from your metro area.  you're competing with 100 million people around the US.  (similar to those "enter to win this car" booths at shopping malls; those are nationwide pools and merely give your name and address to telemarketers and timeshare droids)

[ Parent ]

Noise (4.00 / 3) (#95)
by Baldrson on Fri May 30, 2003 at 02:16:41 PM EST

Law should treat electromagnetic noise almost the same as acoustic noise, but due to the history of political control over broadcast radio and television, the rational faculties have departed the lawmakers. In the United States the Constitution was effectively thrown out the window with the Telecommunications Act of 1934.

Effectively, the way noise ordinances work is to treat acoustic noise coming onto your real property as a potential violation of your right to control acoustic signals on your property. The principle can be extended to electromagnetic noise. The FCC should never have been involved in anything but regulating interstate noise (as controlling content is prohibited by the first amendment) as a potential violation of State sovereignty over its spectrum.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


British side of the story. (5.00 / 1) (#96)
by bigbtommy on Fri May 30, 2003 at 02:22:30 PM EST

We have a wide range of radio stations in the UK. We have both the BBC (publicly funded), plus commercial pop stations. All of the commercial pop stations are basically the same. In London you have Capital FM, and everywhere else has a clone of that. Close to me we have Southern and Invicta, and I honestly can't tell the difference.

For the last few years I've been commuting daily by bus, and nine times out of ten, they put Southern on, and it is the most trivial crap. The only reason you'd want to listen is for the traffic reports. (Fortunately, modern car radios have the Traffic Scan option which lets you listen to a national station or your cd or cassette, and it'll switch over to the local station when the traffic is on and pause your tape)

Hence to say, I now only listen to BBC and a few online bits-and-bobs. Until our radio band is allocated more fairly, I'll be stuck with this darn Real Player.
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up

Yeah (none / 0) (#108)
by golrien on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:36:17 PM EST

Realistically, we have great radio over here. Close to me, yeah, there's a bunch of commercial local radio stations, a lot of them owned by the same company, and often I can flip between them and they'll be running exactly the same playlists. Even on request shows, they'll have different callers, but playing exactly the same songs :) Although I live in a crappy part of the country, it's true that most local radio is crud. It does make money, and it's a good starting point for new DJ's, but it's not really worth anything other than playing in waiting rooms and coaches and the like. Occasionally you get good local radio (like, say, XFM in London), it's mostly balls. Nationally, we have a bit of commericial variety.. Virgin, playing mostly rock, Jazz FM, Classic FM, etc. Then there's the BBC. The BBC do everything from mainstream pop crud (=Radio 1) to records of which literally five copies exist on the planet (also Radio 1, but in the evening). And everything in between. You name it, it's pretty much guaranteed that somewhere in the country, they play it. Excellent system.

[ Parent ]
The answer is John Peel. (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by bigbtommy on Sat May 31, 2003 at 10:24:01 AM EST

I'm telling you, it is.

If a clever radio station in the US rebroadcast his shows, all that ails popular music Stateside would be healed.

"it's not really worth anything other than playing in waiting rooms and coaches and the like". Here here. I had to suffer 7 years of Southern FM thanks to the school coach...
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up
[ Parent ]

Don't knock college radio (3.00 / 1) (#97)
by guyjin on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:09:22 PM EST

The most popular radio station in town is KIWR - 89.7 "the river." It is very well run.

http://www.897theriver.com/home.html
-- 散弾銃でおうがいして ください

WRONG! (none / 0) (#179)
by Hapy on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 12:21:59 PM EST

I checked and your favorite station -- while "the most popular" in your circle of friends -- gets no ratings in your town.

And this is one of the problems with those OUTSIDE of radio: You have no concept of how the business really works. (Notice I said "business," because that's what it is.)

I'm sometimes asked by listeners why we, at my station, don't play more of the classics. I tell them that we're not a jukebox -- we have to play what 90% of the audience wants to hear 90% of the time. It's safe to say that 90% of ANY radio audience wants to hear a classic/oldie now and again, but you can't program a station that way. You pick your format (the one that matches the demo you want to promise to advertisers) and you do your best to become the best at that format.

In my neck of the woods we have a wonderful community-supported radio station (not government-funded Public Radio). The DJs are volunteers; they ask for donations unwanted LPs, CDs, etc., for an annual fund-raising record sale, they sell live commercials. It really is true grass-roots radio that's fun to listen to. Thing is, their ratings aren't all that good. In fact, I can't listen all the time because, while they have adopted block programming, when my favorite block runs out I tune out.

Radio stations have to be run like any successful business: you pick your niche and stick to it. McDonald's doesn't serve pasta with salad and bread sticks 'cause that's not what they do. If they carried 100 items you'd get frustrated at the drive-thru. If your favorite radio station had 1000 songs in its playlist and you never heard the current hits, you'd get frustrated.

(Think about it: even stations like the one I mentioned a bit ago are serving a niche. Their playlist is all over the place, but that's their niche. You tune in to them to hear what's new and different and not mainstream. The problem is their time-spent-listening isn't as long as a mainstream station.)

And finally, there's the competition. Radio of old couldn't survive today. It's competing against MTV, VH1, iPods (MP3), CD, Satellite Radio, Internet Radio streams, satellite TV music feeds, etc.

[ Parent ]

iRadio? (3.00 / 1) (#98)
by Flave on Fri May 30, 2003 at 03:12:52 PM EST

I think it's much too late to save radio. Actually, I don't even think radio *needs* saving. Radio, as it stands today, works for a large portion of listeners and owners are making money. Whether it's 'Top40', 'format', or 'Format', it works for everyone concerned. Leave it alone. Of course this does create a vacuum and as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. There is still a very large audience for music not being played by the conglomerate stations. Are their needs never to be fulfilled? I think so but this will take the creation of a new medium, not the reform of an old. I predict that Internet radio is this new medium and it is more than capable of fulfilling this role; in fact, it has already started to do so. The new world will have two parallel radio paths -- 'old media' and 'new media' (kind of like the 'old economy' and 'new economy' monikers of the late nineties). I can't wait to buy my first wireless Internet radio. Hey, maybe I should try to get a trademark on 'iRadio'.

google (none / 0) (#128)
by Hana Yori Dango on Sat May 31, 2003 at 03:15:33 PM EST

dumbass



[ Parent ]

Why change things? (3.00 / 1) (#109)
by mrcsparker on Fri May 30, 2003 at 07:26:09 PM EST

Either the radio starts playing music I am interested in or I will continue not to listen to it.  I am part of a major demographic - young, will disposable income - and my radio needs aren't being met.

It seems that every once in a while a station comes around that I am really interested in and I listen to it until it falls into a commercial pattern and ends up like most of the dreck on the air.  Right now, in Houston (where I am from), there is a pretty damn good country station just playing country from the 50s-80s.  Not a big country listener but the variety of music really appeals to me.  Until the switch to a more commercial format they have a listener.

By the way, why hark on "Friends" so much?  It might be a bit fluffy, but it has some on the best writing on television.

re. Friends (none / 0) (#110)
by The Baptist Death Ray on Fri May 30, 2003 at 08:16:34 PM EST

I have nothing against Friends... it is just a successful "pop" show, that makes a good contrast to Masterpiece Theatre, which is a "cultural" show.

The Baptist Death Ray
"The urge to destroy is a creative urge."
- M. Bakunin
[ Parent ]

Johnny Fever Was Always A Pipe Dream (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by thio on Fri May 30, 2003 at 09:59:53 PM EST

Where I lived radio was dead in the 70's. Radio was terrible and is terrible now except in a different way. Actually where I live radio is better now slightly with Clear Channel. The area I come from is no great center of music and perhaps the situation was different in area noted for a musical tradition or in a big city such as New York where there is always an audience for a little more eclectic fare. In the hinterlands the national fare of Clear Channel is a somewhat broader format than what local radio used to play. I think one has to go back to before TV before one can say radio was any good.

The day the music died... (none / 0) (#121)
by Arker on Sat May 31, 2003 at 10:51:44 AM EST

I think most radio stations have always sucked. But the article is right to cite the payola scandals as a watershed - that's how they got rid of Alan Freed after all.

The great thing is that his sort of radio is coming back, in fits and starts, with the internet. Boot Liquor is my current favourite, not to most peoples taste I'm sure, but the beautiful thing is if you look around you can find stations to suit whatever your taste is.



[ Parent ]
Radio isn't only music (4.50 / 2) (#115)
by gidds on Sat May 31, 2003 at 12:41:01 AM EST

Of course, some of the best radio isn't even music. It's speech. And I don't mean the inane chatter that that usually conjures up; I mean news and journalism, documentaries, science programmes, consumer affairs, soap operas, dramas and plays, comedy programmes, arts, history, religion, literature... you name it.

Where do you think The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy started off? Or where the writers of Red Dwarf first tried out their ideas? Who else would attempt a 13-hour adaptation of a well-known epic? Or dare to put on a show of such unrivalled silliness as the antidote to panel games?

Of course, there's still some degree of targetting and audience awareness, but it still leads to distinctive, challenging, stretching listening. Maybe if it was commercially rather than publically funded, it couldn't do this. But it shows that radio doesn't need to be Formatted, bland, repetitive, safe, or homogeneous. Not by a long stretch!

(Oh, and if you're not in the UK, you can listen over the internet.)

Andy/

Second and third links are broke. (none / 0) (#122)
by pwhysall on Sat May 31, 2003 at 12:31:29 PM EST

I think you omitted the "http://" part.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]
I ain't telling nobody... (4.50 / 2) (#117)
by cestmoi on Sat May 31, 2003 at 10:02:01 AM EST

...what station I listen to now. Virtually zero advertising as in one or two ads an hour. No inane dj chatter - just great music and lots of it.

So why not let you in on this gem? I listen to it via the Internet and their server is full. More listeners means higher chance of refused connections.

I think that for Internet radio to work, tools like Realplayer and WMP will have to give way to a Bit Torrent model so that more listeners means better listening for everybody. As it is now, there's a dis-incentive in place to plug a favorite station.

Finishing the thought (none / 0) (#118)
by cestmoi on Sat May 31, 2003 at 10:12:05 AM EST

Hit the wrong button...

Once an Internet broadcast model is in play that encourages people to plug their favorite stations, Clear Channel's power will wane. KRST's main allure from a business perspective is its transmitter's location. 5 states and on a good night, Kansas!

The stations I listen to are based in other countries but the net makes that point moot - I still can hear what they're playing or, occasionally, saying.

[ Parent ]

P2P radio (none / 0) (#149)
by jonathan_ingram on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 10:00:34 AM EST

There are at least two relatively recent 'P2P radio' systems out there: Streamer and Peercast. Sadly, neither make the source to the current version available, and Streamer seems to be a lot less popular than the last time I looked at it.
-- Jon
[ Parent ]
What about libertarianism ? (1.00 / 1) (#123)
by Fen on Sat May 31, 2003 at 01:11:13 PM EST

We all know libertarianism runs rampant through geek cultures, so why not apply it to this. I think we first need to get rid of intellectual property (which is a form of market regulation), then there wouldn't be this payola junk in the first place.
--Self.
An analysis of the typical radio station response (5.00 / 1) (#129)
by jd on Sat May 31, 2003 at 04:47:35 PM EST

I've called a number of radio stations, over recent years, to comment on the lack of music, or to make requests that - if they can't meet, they damn well should in future.

The response has been much the same. "We're only going to play music that's popular here."

Ok. Let's examine this argument. First, we need to define "popular". I'm going to define "popular" as any song that meets any one of the following criteria:

  • Has reached and sustained a number 1 position in at least one US chart, and also reached number 1 in at least one other country (ie: it's not just a fluke hit)
  • Has hit gold in the US, -and- sustained a top 5 position in at least one US chart -and- hit gold in at least one other country. ("Gold" and "Platinum" refer to overall sales, whereas a chart only shows the popularity at that time.)
  • Has hit platinum in the US, -and- sustained a top 10 position in at least one US chart.
  • Is recognised as the primary song on an album that hit gold or platinum in the US and one other country, but was never released as a single.
  • Is recognised as the anthem, or one of the primary songs, for a group that headlines tours in the US and one other country, where the group plays to crowds of no less than 100,000 in all stadia, with a minimum of 50 concerts in the tour in total

Those are pretty severe requirements for "popular". They're intended to be. They're intended to make very very sure that if something does fit these requirements, then absolutely nobody can call that music "unpopular" or "unheard-of".

So far, I have verified over 250 songs that qualify as "popular" by this definition that Clear Channel Radio won't play. You will never hear a single one of those songs on any of their radio stations, on the pretext that "they're not popular here".

Let us compare this, for a moment, with a pirate radio station (sadly defunct for many years) that was popular in the Manchester area. Their name was "KFM", and they were entirely funded by donations and advertising by local companies.

Yes, local companies actually paid a pirate radio station to sell their stuff. Think about it. An open, public, association with people violating the law. You're about as likely to see major US corporations publicly campaigning for brothels at JFK airport, and then openly sponsoring it.

IMHO, this sort of stuff is only going to happen if the radio station is so damn popular that the bad publicity and possibility of legal action is insignificant in comparison to the benefits of reaching a lot of people who can bring in a lot of business. (ie: The listeners can't be penniless drop-outs, but moderately well-to-do folk who have cash to buy commercial products.)

So what was so different with KFM? Why were they so enormously successful that they were able to buy transmitter after transmitter (police raids would result in confiscation of their existing equiptment)? Transmit their actual location in full knowledge they were making it easy for the police to raid? Pay the staff enough money to operate as an actual business? And have sufficient spare change to act as a lobby group to pressure for changes to the UK's very strict broadcasting regulations?

The answer is amazingly simple. They broadcast live (no censorship). They allowed people to include brief messages in the requests. They never said "we don't play that" - if they had the album, every song was on the playlist. If they didn't, then they soon would.

KFM was the anti-CCR. They were so polar opposite in their approach, in their philosophy, in their attitude. And yet they still got ratings. They still got those big advertisers. It didn't cost them success to be responsive.

So what's my conclusion? KFM would likely not survive in the US, but not because it's not what people want, OR what corporations want. We have an actual case study that proves that. No, it's because one lone dissenting voice in a crowd of 1,200 cloned stations cannot get heard. It can't survive, not because it doesn't work (it's established it does), but because sheer numbers, together with limited bandwidth released to civilian use, together with the limited number of listeners in the US, together with having to compete on wages with these big giants or risk losing anyone with talent, make the starting ramp way too steep.

If it's not possible to maintain a talented group, obtain a good frequency, get a good enough transmitter to be receivable with the trashy radios that get mass-produced, get enough power to have a range that has a good number of listeners, AND attract enough listeners quickly enough to keep the revenue rolling in, then there is no free market. It's not possible to realistically compete under those conditions.

the solution is simple (4.50 / 2) (#133)
by dh003i on Sat May 31, 2003 at 11:27:55 PM EST

Set aside a certain portion of the spectrum for unregulated use, by ordinary individuals. Make this section of the bandwidth more like the internet -- open to anyone. See Lessig for ideas on the exact implementation of such a system (Lessig's "The Future of Ideas").

Social Security is a pyramid scam.

Right but... (none / 0) (#134)
by msimm on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 01:00:26 AM EST

In reality commercial interests wont be giving up any of their bandwidth.

While I agree with you (and Lessig) it just wont happen, at least not until that portion of the spectum loses its commercial viability.



Legends: Awesome FREE Linux and Windows FPS!
[ Parent ]
Dont forget the big guys... (1.00 / 1) (#136)
by msimm on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 05:38:32 AM EST

Like the National Association of Broadcasters and NPR spend a lot of money lobbying government to keep public broadcasting away from the public.


Legends: Awesome FREE Linux and Windows FPS!
[ Parent ]
Public broadcasting and Triple J (5.00 / 2) (#137)
by Tom Rowlands on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 08:39:40 AM EST

Articles like this make me even more glad Australia has the ABC and in particular their youth and contemporary music radio station Triple J. For no obvious reason I'm immensely proud of the people that make the ABC run.

Programmes such as Home and Hosed (two hours of locally produced music every night) and Live at the Wireless (at least half an hour a week of new live music) are simply not available on commercial radio stations.

There is a place for public broadcasting in a responsible modern society, as Hutton points out in his book The World We're In, and this article reveals just one of the reasons.

BTW: It is possible to sample Triple J over the Internet using Real and WMP.

--
Tom Rowlands
(Sorry, I can't sign this.)

when it works too well (4.00 / 1) (#148)
by Fuzzwah on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 12:43:17 AM EST

Firstly, let me begin by saying that for nearly 5 years I was a some what fanatical fan of the J's. Back in about 2000 I stopped listening to it so much, mainly because my taste in music kind of switched away from the "alternative rock" which Triple J hammers out.

They still use a format. They still have a heavy rotation. The upside is that a lot of it is local produce.

I just feel that it's getting a little too close to mainstream for my liking. This is in a way a backhanded complement. JJJ have basically raised the profile of Aussie bands into the mainstream, so much so that most commercial stations now play the early "unearthed" bands on high rotation.

Hell, Killing Heidi have sold out to Channel 10. 'Nuff said.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

freeform readio (4.00 / 1) (#142)
by vanjulio on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 04:51:27 PM EST

I recommend Radioparadise, WFMU, and my alma mater's station, WREK. You can access the webcast from those links.
============= koyaanisqatsi
LET IT GO!!! (4.00 / 2) (#143)
by greggman on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 05:02:32 PM EST

I know that almost nobody will agree with me but instead of fighting it in the courts, let it go.  We don't need better radio.  What we need is wireless net access and wireless net radio stereos.  You can already do this at home.  You can do this with some cellphones.  It won't be too long until you can do this with car stereos etc.  When that happens, make your own station.

One argument I can see to this is the argument that net radio stations are not allowed the license to play the music owned by the big music companies.  I say, screw them.  If your favorite band signed away their rights to the big music company either lobby your band to change or stop supporting your band and support bands that don't sign that crap.

You don't NEED laws for this.  You need to provide music and an audience for music that doesn't use the current system.

Don't let it go too far (none / 0) (#157)
by ph0t05ynth on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 03:33:11 AM EST

You don't NEED laws for this. You need to provide music and an audience for music that doesn't use the current system.

Good idea, but don't ignore the laws. We might be able to move on to an alternative system on an unlicensed part of the spectrum this time, but there is no guarantee that someday telecom companies won't try to encroach on that as well. Sensing a whiff of popularity, they may "enter that market" with a mind to either charge you for access (except you already know better), or clutter up the airwaves with their choice of unimaginative junk so that your own uses for it are diminished. In some distant future, they may even think they can prosecute you for intruding on what they will see as their airwaves. There is a point where laws do begin to matter.

Recently, the FCC had also considered freeing up unused UHF spectrum for unlicensed use. Participating devices would be designed to avoid existing TV broadcast station frequencies, but that aside, there would be enough bandwidth left over for about ~50 DTV channels worth. I was thinking a neighbor-to-neighbor network would spring up where people would route content to each other. I was beginning to look upon the FCC as forward-looking. Unfortunately, they were persuaded to table the proposal, on a technicality (database lookup? gimme a break.) It's sad to see that obsolete analog TV technology continues to hog the empty airwaves.

Even if you don't mind the current laws, at least draw a line somewhere and watch for encroachment.

[ Parent ]

The balancing factor... (5.00 / 1) (#158)
by Pyrion on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 05:43:54 AM EST

...that tends to rear its ugly head now and then is that whenever one of the "evil mega corporations" gets too big for its britches, it implodes, crumbles, and if it's lucky, splits into many smaller companies. All the while the development put into such things as the television channels is already there and benefiting from the revenue that comes when a large corporation takes a risk.

The thing that would've bothered me is if this didn't pass. With satellite and digital cable now offering hundreds of channels, we don't need four hundred public access stations. Public access stations are a waste of bandwidth. Does anyone actually pay attention to the garbage that gets put on them? Most of that crap is worse than the stuff the "evil mega corps" put out.
--
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Why can't other stations compete? (5.00 / 2) (#144)
by ziegler on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 05:46:34 PM EST

Over the last several weeks, especially in light of the FCC meeting tomorrow, I've seen and heard lots of arguments about Format and mergers leading to homogeneity in radio. All of the arguments I've seen include, in one form or another, the idea that people want more variety from the radio they listen to. What I have not seen is someone discussing why, if people do want variety, there aren't more stations with more varied formats competing and winning in the marketplace. Does anyone have any good links / information on this? It seems to me that unless companies like ClearChannel are involved in anti-trust behavoir, there is no reason companies wouldn't spring up to fill this need. Yet, I've heard no arguments about monopolistic behavoirs by the media companies with regards to radio stations. Unlike, for example, CD price fixing by record companies. - Sam

Well (4.00 / 1) (#146)
by Arker on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 09:27:00 PM EST

I think part of the answer is that they do, but they don't last.

Read through the comments and you'll find several instances where radio stations have broken out of this trend - and usually enjoyed great popularity as a result.

But this never lasts. The popular, free-form station attracts new ownership at an inflated price, or the old ownership gets scared or freaked out, and the management boot comes down. Every time. Killing the goose that layed the golden egg? Pretty much. But give them time and the suits always do it. Whether out of desire for control or fear of the FCC or of some other group. Popularity brings money, and money brings more control freaks...



[ Parent ]
There are reasons (5.00 / 3) (#147)
by pyramid termite on Sun Jun 01, 2003 at 10:33:20 PM EST

1. The belief that playing certain songs will magically cause a good part of the audience to turn the dial.

2. The belief that certain demographic segments matter more than others.

3. A small percentage of the population is actually knowledgable enough about music to appreiciate real variety - this group is more likely to buy the records than to listen to them passively on the radio. Radio has been prone to ignore the tastes of this small group - worse, record companies have started to lose touch with this audience, too, even though they buy a sizable percentage of the music. It's only hurting radio a little - but it's hurting the record industry more.

4. "Promotion", which is a fancy form of payola. Many of the records that are played are played because stations are paid promotional costs to play them. Furthermore, many of the records are made to fit into one particular format, so they won't be identified by program directors as songs that won't fit.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Don't Know About Your Town, But... (5.00 / 1) (#151)
by Lagged2Death on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 10:49:59 AM EST

...in mine, every available FM radio slot is taken. Some of them are mostly unlistenable, because two stations on opposite sides of town use the same frequency.

I'm guessing that means it's terrifically expensive to start a new station, since you basically have to buy out a going concern. A concern which has its market value inflated by the scarcity of FM slots. With all that money at risk, the new owner probably won't want to rock the boat too much, and would rather stick with the proven money-making Format formula. A bird in hand, you know.

The only way to break out a new, format-free station would involve the participation of an eccentric millionaire. Someone who wants to run a radio station for fun, and who regards profits as a bonus. Like Paul Allen or Steve Wozniak. But they don't live around here.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
Station buyouts? Consumer apathy? (none / 0) (#152)
by msimm on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 04:19:28 PM EST

I think you ask a good question, but I suspect the answer is fairly simple. Clear channel buys existing radio station and I'd bet popular stations would be higher on their list. The other thing is the "format" works, sometimes tolerable and sometimes enjoyable. At the very least not bad enough to seriously erode their market.

I think people are tired of the format, but not tired or motivated enough to make a very big stir, like with a lot of things.

Legends: Awesome FREE Linux and Windows FPS!
[ Parent ]
different kind of diversity/homogenity (5.00 / 1) (#167)
by dirvish on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 10:04:33 PM EST

Clear Channel has purchased many of the stations in my town. This doesn't necescarily lead to homogenity in the types of music on the air because they change all the stations they buy to the same format. What it does is give one company control over what gets on the air. This means that only artists signed by certain labels get on the radio. This further means that artists have to sign with one of these select labels to get on the air. This gives those labels the power to treat the talent poorly because they have all of the power. Air play is still the only reliable way of selling records and filling concert venues. This leaves many artists who will not compromise to record label's demands out in the cold, thus depriving us of the enjoyment of their talent and creating a different type homogenity. The air waves are homogenous with artists who had to sell out to opressive record labels that have too much control. If radio station ownership was more diverse the music would in fact be more diverse.

Technical Certification Blog, Anti Spam Blog
[ Parent ]
I tell a lie (5.00 / 1) (#150)
by jonathan_ingram on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 10:06:41 AM EST

The sourcecode to Peercast is available using a combination of GPL and another licence, plus some extra conditions.
-- Jon
STOP THE PRESSES! (3.20 / 5) (#156)
by thelizman on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 09:42:57 PM EST

Amidst all the shrill hystronics from the AntiKapitalists of K-5, nobody really stopped to look at the actual release from the FCC. Had they done so, maybe they would have noticed that the FCC rules now limit the concentration of large companies like Clearchannel in a given market. The rules are actually arranged to promote diversity of formats and local ownership.

That is assuming that the debate was ever actually about such things as local control, free speech, and all that jazz. Critics of deregulation (i.e., the reduction of government control of the media) fail to point out that the first round of deregulation resulted in over 3,000 new radio stations in the US. They also failed to point out that the big boys like Clearchannel and Infinity control less than 40% of the market. They might have even bothered to mention that a new wave of independant stations are capitalizing on nascent unease in the public over mega-corporate ownership of radio stations, primarily because they all have the same tired boring formats and performances.

The truth in the matter - for all y'all disposed of a balance viewpoint - is that the primary reason many people are against deregulation is that it will remove power from the Federal Government, and put it back in the hands of the private sector (aka you, me, and yes, the evil mega corporations). They are antikapitalists, antikorporate, and pro-big government. Had they been around 228 years ago, we'd probably have burned the Constution, shot the Continental Congress, and coronated Washington as Comrade in Cheif.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
Not quite (4.00 / 1) (#159)
by OneEyedApe on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 08:00:14 AM EST

With regard to your last paragraph, I personally am against deregulation, but I am strongly in favor of keeping a tight leash on all levels of government. Both corporations and government have a long history of corruption and abuse of their power. The people who are at the head of large corporations typically care for little except makeing as much money as possible. This often seems to be the case with a great many politicians too. I think both deregulation and an overpowerful government are detrimental to society, and the only thing that makes sense to me is a reasonably small set of clear, sensible, and to the point rules.

[ Parent ]
How disingenuous (4.50 / 2) (#160)
by pyramid termite on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 08:15:05 AM EST

Amidst all the shrill hystronics from the AntiKapitalists of K-5, nobody really stopped to look at the actual release from the FCC.

That's because the article was written on Thursday and the FCC paper wasn't released until Monday. Please explain how it was we were supposed to stop to look at something that wasn't released yet. (It didn't stop YOU from discussing the issue, did it?)

The truth in the matter - for all y'all disposed of a balance viewpoint - is that the primary reason many people are against deregulation is that it will remove power from the Federal Government, and put it back in the hands of the private sector (aka you, me, and yes, the evil mega corporations).

Then explain, if you would, why the government's limiting public access to the airwaves by failing to provide enough bandwidth for low power radio stations - 1200 applications, as of 2000 were received - very few have been approved. It is technically feasible for there to be 10 low power stations in every market, if enough bandwidth is cleared for it, which would still leave plenty for the commercial stations. And yet the FCC refuses to even license the bandwidth it has available under current rules - because the commercial broadcasters don't want it to. Yeah, that's capitalism - hire the government to act as a protection racket to do in those who would like the opportunity to compete.

They are antikapitalists, antikorporate, and pro-big government. Had they been around 228 years ago, we'd probably have burned the Constution,

And had you and your subverters of the American system been around back then, they'd have re-written the Constitution to make sure that it was clear that the Constitution referred to people, not legal fictions, that freedom of speech and of the press referred to all future forms of communication, not just to paper, that representation was to be voted for, not bought, that aggressive military action was war and must be formally declared by Congress and that no unreasonable searches meant that there was to be no police state tactics in the war against drugs, or terrorism, or the Boogeyman of the Month.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Oh No, You Don't Get Away That Easily (3.00 / 1) (#165)
by thelizman on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 06:34:03 PM EST

That's because the article was written on Thursday and the FCC paper wasn't released until Monday. Please explain how it was we were supposed to stop to look at something that wasn't released yet. (It didn't stop YOU from discussing the issue, did it?)
But you and your cohorts were all to quick to make claims as to what deregulation WOULD accomplish. Now, you claim that you had no way of knowing what the rule changes would have done? If you want to talk about who is being disingenous here, consider this: You manufactured the lies before you knew you could even back them up. And now that the lies are staring you in the face, you're trying to weasel away from the issue by claiming that there's no way you could have known otherwise! This simply proves my point - you people aren't concerned with reality, you're concerned with politicizing an issue to your own ends.
Then explain, if you would, why the government's limiting public access to the airwaves by failing to provide enough bandwidth for low power radio stations
The government is limited access to the Low Power FM band (LPFM), and they're doing it for precisely the reasons they stated: too much potential for interference. Under the relaxed rules, any schmoe could set up a LPFM transmitter and broadcast. If you know anything about radio equipment, it doesn't take much to make a piece of equipment interfere with another. Even perfectly legal CB radios can interfere with equipment like TV's - which are way out of the CB band and MODEM class. Predictably, this mostly impacts the so-called free speech crowd, and ironically it's those idiots that are the biggest danger. People like Pyramid Termite - who only recently found the CAPS-LOCK key on his keyboard, would have wrecked havoc in legion with improperly strung antennas and poorly grounded base stations. Thank god for the FCC that I don't have people like him (and you) causing my computer monitor to fuzz out.
And had you and your subverters of the American system been around back then, they'd have re-written the Constitution to make sure
Yeah, we would have...and it would have turned out the same way it is now. The problem is that leftists like to argue over things like "intent", and what the meaning of "is" is, and the result is that the 2nd Amendment only seems to apply to muskets and the 1st has grown to include the right of some groups to have more free speech than others.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Oh, look, the popup toaster mentality again (4.50 / 2) (#166)
by pyramid termite on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 07:04:55 PM EST

But you and your cohorts were all to quick to make claims as to what deregulation WOULD accomplish.

And now that it's just the day after, the effects are all so obvious, aren't they?

Now, you claim that you had no way of knowing what the rule changes would have done?

And you do? Can't have it both ways - if I'm jumping the gun then so are you.

If you want to talk about who is being disingenous here, consider this: You manufactured the lies before you knew you could even back them up.

Where did I lie? I say there's a lack of variety in radio and that the new regulations - (not deregulation, as you misname it) are likely to result in less variety.

The government is limited access to the Low Power FM band (LPFM), and they're doing it for precisely the reasons they stated: too much potential for interference.

I happen to believe that's a red herring. But what happened to that 95% of the dial that you were saying was free? Your inconsistencies are obvious proof that you don't really understand what you're talking about.

People like Pyramid Termite - who only recently found the CAPS-LOCK key on his keyboard, would have wrecked havoc in legion with improperly strung antennas and poorly grounded base stations. Thank god for the FCC that I don't have people like him (and you) causing my computer monitor to fuzz out.

You're showing your ignorance again - it's the responsibility of the owner of computer equipment to make sure that it's shielded from radio transmissions, not the licensed and legally operating radio operator. Look it up and educate yourself.

Yeah, we would have...and it would have turned out the same way it is now.

Perhaps so ... but note that all you offer in reply to my position is a cynical belief that the Powers that Be would be in control anyway - so much for any kind of ideology or morality. The only real conviction I read in your spewing apologetics is that you'd like to suck up to whoever's in power for your own personal gain. You would've defended Soviet Russia in the same manner had you lived there in the 50s.

The problem is that leftists like to argue over things like "intent",

Any reading involves interpretation. Sorry, but that's the truth.

and what the meaning of "is" is,

Feh. Don't even try to put me in the position of defending Mr. Clinton. But I will observe that one can get away with lying about why a war should be fought a lot easier than one can lie about a blow job.

and the result is that the 2nd Amendment only seems to apply to muskets and the 1st has grown to include the right of some groups to have more free speech than others.

People who argue that the 2nd Amendment only applies to muskets are morons - although, come to think of it, wouldn't this reading result from a literalist argument, rather than one of intent? You'll never hear me saying that handguns or assault rifles should be banned - in fact, I'm for broad allowance of concealed weapons.

I'm not sure what you're driving at with the 1st, but some have made the case that a lack of low power licensing favors the speech of broadcast corporations over small community groups.

Your problem is you shove an issue into the toaster of your beliefs and pop-up with the answers 2 minutes later, whether the answers are cooked or not.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Hmm (4.00 / 2) (#169)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 02:06:54 AM EST

...you and your cohorts were all to quick to make claims as to what deregulation WOULD accomplish.

I suppose if I said the sun will rise tomorrow, you wouldn't believe me until it happened? Some things can be predicted, with admittedly varying degrees of accuracy, based on past events. Simply put, anti-deregulationists (and our "cohorts", as you so lovingly called them) have seen the results of blind deregulation time and again. The results are usually pretty comparable. They vary in scope and in scale, but they bear a marked resemblance to each other. The evidence is nice because it backs us up. But we're not going to WAIT on it to start decrying what we know is wrong. See, the point of learning from (the bad parts of) history is to NOT repeat it. This requires prediction and avoidance.

I have no direct physical evidence that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. But it's no more likely to change in the near future than human nature, which dictates the results of such deregulation.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Re: the FCC decision (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 01:20:52 AM EST

Did anyone else watch the coverage of the meeting (would it be called a press release?) of the FCC the other night? In specific I refer to the speeches given by Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, the dissenting (Democratic) minority opposed to the decision. I was watching on CSPAN.

In particular, I was impressed with the caustic sarcasm and style of Copps' statement, though perhaps it left a bit to be desired in presenting factual evidence. IMO his arguments against the relaxation of the rules, and in particular against bright-line (one might say "blanket") solutions as opposed to a case-by-case approach, were devastating. Adelstein also had some interesting things to say, but the man is no public speaker, and his otherwise interesting speech was riddled with pauses and mistakes which reduced its impact. He certainly seemed earnest and dedicated, but was waffling between attacking the positions of the majority and avoiding outright namecalling, which Copps didn't mind stooping to. Of the Republicans, I only caught Kevin Martin's speech, which was short and mostly just fawned a bit on his colleagues and was mostly full of blindingly obvious insights.

I was also struck by something Commissioner Copps mentioned: that he had not even seen a copy of the final order in its current form until (IIRC) a week ago (two weeks ago?). To me, that smells of outside influence. One of the five commissioners, the people who will be voting on whether this monumental, sweeping rules change will be enacted, and he doesn't even get to consider it for three weeks? It seems to me that the order as written, or at least the gist of it, was handed down from On High, and the Republican majority in the FCC, one of which I know is a Bush appointee (Kevin Martin) rubber-stamped it. =\ In particular I'm disappointed in Michael Powell, who normally seems like such a sane guy. Of course, I'm no economist. Maybe there IS some good, hard-nosed economic way that this order will be good for the nation. All I can see is the homogenizing effect it will have on our media. =\

Another thing that struck me was Copps' and Adelstein's insistence that a vast majority - both of them used the figure "99.9 percent" - of Americans they spoke to were against the rules change. Surely this could be checked up on and debunked if it were falsehood. Could anyone at k5 supply more info as to whether this might be true? I for one believe it. The 0.1 per cent in favor, of course, are the people who stand to gain. Just as in all monopolies. =P And before anyone accuse them of misusing statistics, I should mention that Copps *did* admit up front that public opinion doesn't actually have any bearing on the FCC's duty; however, he did see it as something that shouldn't simply be disregarded, as the FCC has done.

I also found it scary how, when the speeches were over, and Powell called the group to a vote (which was done as if with a sense of relief: "AllthoseinfavorAYEallthoseopposednay"), and when a few folks stood up singing a protest song against the decision right there in the room, the burly security guards were RIGHT THERE next to them and escorted them out INSTANTLY. I really mean that, it took less than 2 seconds for the guards to get to them, and less than 5 to escort them out. To me that stinks of planning. Do protestors go to events now and tell security beforehand that they're planning to sing a song at the end, "so please make sure you manhandle me out the door immediately so no one will hear it!" Wonder how long it'll be before we decide to just ban the protests altogether and save ourselves that horribly long five fucking seconds of listening to the common person's views, on any matter we decide to take action on?

It was also funny how the reporter, who was THERE, could not remember the song as well as I can: "mass deregulation of mass communication is the end of democracy" (certainly extreme (plus it assumes democracy exists in order to end!), but it gets the point across).

So, here comes another wave of buyouts. I wonder if it'll be possible for me to turn on my radio 2 years from now and detect any differences between the channels. I wonder if there will be any channels left where I can escape that asshole Michael "Savage" (real last name: Wiener =P). Hell, radio's already a wasteland. So's TV. And internet service providers may be heading that way. In 5 years' time, I may finally be able to afford all the entertainment toys, like DSL this and satellite that, that the geek in me has been longing for. I'm imagining the irony if, by that point, there is so little content available that interests me that I might just say "fuck it" and buy more books instead. =P

It's funny. Every time I hear about some new merger or monopoly, I see a lot of enthusiastic people. I also usually hear the phrase, "growing/combining/merging to serve you better!", and a lot of rhetoric about how greater market control and capital will lead to better products and services. Of course, what always happens is the small business owner and the customer wind up getting the shaft. Yet people apparently buy the same lie every time. From now on, when you see the word "serve" in such an ad, mentally replace it with "screw" so as to not be confused.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
more video (5.00 / 2) (#174)
by akb on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 07:57:11 PM EST

Here (real) is some more video of the event, the Code Pink women getting kicked out, and some from the rally outside with some more chanting.  Found it by way of DC Indymedia.

Code Pink had disrupted the FCC's previous open hearing so they were expecting it, Medea Benjamin is well known (her last big disruption was Rumsfeld), they'd have been silly to not have people on hand.

I wonder if it'll be possible for me to turn on my radio 2 years from now and detect any differences between the channels.

Radio was mostly deregulated in '96, the national limit was raised from 40 stations to no cap (there are local caps).  Clear Channel now owns 1200 stations.  I would say radio now sounds substantially different.  It sounds the same every where you go in the country, there are less of the cool independent stations on the dial, and there is less local content on stations.  That's what we have to look forward to.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

Libertarian view. (2.00 / 2) (#173)
by Fen on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 05:40:39 PM EST

Less regulation=good thing. Everything is simpler and more elegant from a libertarian viewpoint. At some point we need to get rid of intellectual property (which is a government regulation as well), and you'll see much more diversity.
--Self.
Your thinking is backwards.... (5.00 / 2) (#175)
by richieb on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 10:38:28 PM EST

You are assuming that the purpose of radio is to play music. This is wrong. The product that radio sells is the audience. It's sold to advertizers. So whatever it takes to get more audience, gets more money for the radio stations. Clear Channel just makes this process seem more efficient.

Having said this, I have a funny feeling that the way advertizers think about media like radio and TV is all wrong. I don't think the adds work as much as they think. It's just that measuring their effectiveness is so flawed, that people can fiddle with the numbers and make it appear to work.

As an example consider Internet advertizing. Here, where you can measure the response exactly, it does not work (see Norman Nielsen's articles about it).

So, it seems to me that this whole thing of selling adds for a station with 10,000,000 listeners is just a sham.

...richie
It is a good day to code.

You are correct (none / 0) (#178)
by Alan Dershowitz on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 09:23:22 PM EST

but they are using my (and your) airwaves. If the FCC isn't doing something to try to keep a diverse and accessible selection on the radio, then they aren't doing their jobs. The current argument should be a reminder to these companies that they do not own the airwaves (although they effectively do now, thanks to some crooked politicians.)

These companies have an obligation to their shareholders to generate profit, but they are also supposed to be bound by an obligation to the public.

They're still not off the hook.

[ Parent ]

Playing into thier Hands and Micro-broadcasting (4.33 / 3) (#176)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Fri Jun 06, 2003 at 07:32:25 PM EST

  For all the shrill ranting I've heard from the anti-deregulation camp, I have yet to hear a reasonable alternative that would both preserve diversity in TV/Radio broadcasting and deregulate the industry.

  Frankly, most have you have played right into thier hands.  They want you to believe that deregulation and diversity are mutually exclusive, and they want you to propose dead brain schemes that either borders or communism or returns to excessive regulation, because they know you're proposals will never get the public's approval, and you'll need a lot more than the public's approval to get anywhere.

  You'll need to give the right politicians and beaurocrats the right amount incentive to light a fire under their ass.

  So, let's get started by figuring out the REAL root of the problem.  

  The question you need to ask yourself is to figure this out is:

How is it possible with all the available Radio and Television spectrum available, that ONLY a handful companies make up a majority of broadcasters?

  Radio technology has advanced at a phenominal rate, and the equipment has gotten rediculously cheap, so why don't we see smaller/nimbler radio/TV broadcasters out there, especially with so many people creating so much content on the Internet?  

  Could the FCC be possibly regulating the broadcasting industry so that the barrier to enter the market is so high that it effectively kills smaller/nimbler competition?

  Broadcasting derives its revenues from directly ratings.  It IS a zero-sum game, which means that in order to survive, you need to capture a large percentage of the audience.

  The Answer to Fixing this Problem lies in Making Broadcasting Cheap enough for any asshole to run his own station for a couple thousand dollars a year.

  Don't think it's possible?  Pirate radio has been around for decades.  Microbroadcasting is a cheap reality that anyone with a transmitter can do from thier home.

  The only reason there is no diversity in radio and TV broadcasting today is because the National Association of Broadcasters (ClearChannel) donates a generous $6,000,000/yr to make sure the FCC regulates radio so only the voices of long range commercial can afford to broadcast can be heard.

  The answer isn't socialism or regulation, the answer is REAL deregulation, or atleast inexpensive licenses for Micro-broadcasters

Socialism/Communism does nothing but promote corruption.  Ask any Russian.


don't want variety (none / 0) (#177)
by Phantros on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 02:54:56 AM EST

I don't want variety from radio anymore than I want variety from McDonald's. I want something that is predictably palatable by the majority of the population, that will change at a rate just barely sufficient for freshness. If I want the gourmet, then I don't go through the drivethrough of the airwaves. For that, I should play my carefully chosen CDs (and if you belive there's insufficient variety there as well, then you should probably stop talking and start singing - maybe you're onto something.)

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The Consolidation of Radio in America | 178 comments (150 topical, 28 editorial, 2 hidden)
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