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Archive for the tag “radio”

No Zeptember or Rocktober in Norway – FM radio is being shut down

Chris Kim A linked to an Atlas Obscura post that linked to a phys.org post. The common topic of all of these is the phased shutdown of FM radio stations in Norway, beginning on January 11 and extending through the year.

I’ve talked about FM radio shutdowns before – my college campus radio station, KRRC, surrendered its FCC license several years ago. This was partly due to government hassles – other nonprofits kept on trying to grab KRRC’s spectrum allocation, and in some cases were successful, causing the radio station to move. (During my college years, a frequency change resulted in a change of KRRC’s slogan – the former submarine of the airwaves became the highest station on the dial.) Another reason – with only 10 watts of power, the station signal couldn’t go all that far. As digital radio technology improved, it became easier to just can the whole thing.

Norway actually has similar issues on a technological front. According to phys.org, “[t]he FM spectrum has room for a maximum of only five national stations.” There are already over 40 digital stations, so why not switch now?

Only one problem. Most of the population can’t receive those digital stations yet.

But many think the shift is premature.

A poll in Dagbladet newspaper in December found 66 percent of Norwegians are against shutting down FM, with only 17 percent in favour.

While around three quarters of the population have at least one DAB radio set, many motorists are unhappy, as only about a third of cars currently on the road are equipped.

Converting a car radio involves buying an adaptor for between 1,000 and 2,000 kroner (110 to 220 euros), or getting a whole new radio.

This is a common problem when a government phases out one service to replace it with another service – people aren’t willing to pay to make the change. Often the government has to force the issue, as the United States government did a few years ago when it forced the analog television channels to shut down in favor of digital channels. People who didn’t have cable had to buy special digital antennas to receive the new channels over the air. (But the antennas didn’t cost over $100.)

Should such a scenario happen in the United States, there is one advantage that we would have. While my smartphone cannot pick up digital radio broadcasts, it can pick up streaming Internet broadcasts via various apps such as the iHeart Radio app, so even if I didn’t buy a digital radio, I could still listen to some stuff on my phone as I drive.

However, the loss of FM radio in countries beyond Norway, probably also including the United States, will also have a cultural impact. While FM radio first appeared in 1945, it didn’t really hit its stride until the late 1960s, when FM “rock” stations began to appear. Technically, they offered better sound quality than the AM radio stations of the time. Culturally, they offered…well, something.

Hello, I’m Jim Ladd. (sucking sound) Now we’re going to play an entire album side of music, recorded live at the Spent Seed Hall by a supergroup featuring members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, along with The Grateful Dead, Big Fat Green Colombian Marmalade, and The Archies. Put your headphones on now. After this, I’ll be heading out to the Sunset Strip, and the next show on this station will be hosted by The Rock Chick.

Hi, I’m the Rock Chick. After this 25 minute album side, I’ll be speaking to you in my deep gravelly voice and playing the new Zeppelin cut. Since it’s August 31, this is a great time to hear this, because we are going to be celebrating Zeptember all next month, followed by our celebration of Rocktober. Let me say that again in my deep voice – ROCKTOBER. Then I’m going to replay yesterday’s interview of a Black Panther at the local Free Clinic.

So what will the cultural impact of digital radio stations be? Will R. Crumb trucking give way to R. Scoble in the shower?

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Getting lost over a much larger area

One of the consequences of the tremendous increases in transportation capabilities is an increase in our ability to get lost over a much wider area.

Let me explain.

Recently, on an episode of the Petros and Money Show, co-host Matt “Money” Smith described an automobile trip he made many years ago. Smith, who lived in Los Angeles at the time, wanted to drive to Las Vegas. Back when he made this particular trip (which was around the time that Sam Kinison died), the way to get from Los Angeles to Las Vegas was to drive eastbound on Interstate 10, then drive northbound on Interstate 15, cross a lot of desert, then arrive at Las Vegas.

So, late one evening, Smith set out in his car, driving eastbound on Interstate 10 and crossing a lot of desert.

Now many of you can see where this is going, but remember that Smith couldn’t see it at the time. He thought he was doing fine, but he wasn’t seeing Las Vegas at all, so he pulled over to ask for directions – and discovered that he was in Blythe, California, a long way away from Las Vegas. You see, Smith missed the turnoff where he was supposed to get on Interstate 15, so instead of heading north and east, he was instead heading east and south for several hours. He was 200 miles away from where he was supposed to go, and while Blythe and Las Vegas are connected, they’re certainly not connected by an interstate freeway.

So why am I writing about this in tymshft? Because our advances in transportation allow us to get lost over a much larger area.

Think about it. What if Smith had set out on his trip 100 years ago? You probably could have driven from Los Angeles to Las Vegas back then, but you would have been much more careful about how you proceeded. And you wouldn’t have been driving at 70+ miles an hour, so even if you did get lost, you wouldn’t have gotten that far out of your way.

And what about the time before the car was invented? Of course Las Vegas didn’t exist back then, but if you were going to make a trip of comparable length – say, a trip from Richmond, Virginia to New York, New York – there’s no way that you could end up 200 miles out of your way and not know about it.

Of course, back in those days you could quite literally get lost in your own backyard – something that couldn’t happen to most of us today.

This year’s version of the death of cable is kind of like the previous versions

I have been writing about the cable/satellite industry for several years now. This 2010 post in my Empoprise-BI business blog links to some of my earlier posts on the subject. The basic issue is that you have content providers (such as Comcast/NBC) and cable/satellite providers (such as Comcast), and the two factions are constantly at war with each other.

Those who believe that content is king have been saying to themselves, “What if we could eliminate the middleman and get the content directly?” Well, in some cases you’ve been able to do this for several years now. Back in 2010, I quoted from a Mike Johns comment on a Michael Hanscom post:

The coolest part of the Roku is what it means for the future of TV. I have already dropped my cable and pretty much watch all of my shows on Netflix. The other channels on the Roku, even the premium channels, make it worth the money. I spend 9 bucks for netflix, and 6 bucks on the kung-fu, cowoby classics and drive in movies – and that has replaced my $75 cable bill.

Since Mike Johns wrote that comment, Roku and others have provided complete direct access to content, and the cable and satellite providers have all shriveled away.

What? They’re still around? Whoops.

Obviously, cable and satellite providers aren’t going to just wither away when their lifelines are threatened. They need to maximize their profits for their shareholders, and they’ll do anything in their power to ensure that their business model remains viable. Earlier in this post, I alluded to the fact that Comcast, a cable provider, has purchased NBC, a content provider. It’s kinda like when tobacco companies buy food companies (remember RJR Nabisco?) – a company will do whatever it wants to continue to survive.

This hasn’t stopped people from trying to liberate content from the evil cable/satellite providers and allow it to run free. Jesse Stay has shared a Chris Brogan share of this story:

Newly launched website TakeMyMoneyHBO.com wants to send HBO a clear message: We love your shows. We’re willing to pay to watch them upon release. Now please, for the love of Winterfell, give us a way to do that — without forcing a cable subscription down our throats.

The expectation is that HBO will see this website and observe all the tweets – with hashtags! – and will suddenly and immediately tell the cable and satellite companies, “Thanks for all you’ve done for us for the past half century, but based on these powerful hashtags we’re going to go it alone.”

For some reason, I suspect that TakeMyMoneyHBO’s strategy will not be entirely successful. Wendy Cockcroft has noted that HBO benefits from the current system.

When the interviewer presses [HBO’s Eric Kessler] again about a stand-alone option, here’s what he has to say:

“We benefit from the existing ecosystem… from bundled cable TV packages… it’s important to keep that transactional machinery going. It’s about economics.”

Kessler says here that he’s doing better from an economical point of view in the current HBO strategy than he would if he opened up the content safe and let some goodies out into the cloud.

Some people think that piracy will drive content companies to create a new model that reduces piracy, but if content companies are making enough money under the old model, why change?

Now I still believe that it’s entirely possible that the middleman may be eliminated, but rather than cutting the middleman out entirely, perhaps the middlemen may continue to buy content providers just like Comcast did.

However, presently the old model is still very much alive, which means that if I want to see or hear a sporting event, more often than not I have to turn on a TV or a radio. With some rare exceptions, I can’t watch or listen to a sporting event over the Internet. We of the Internet just don’t pay enough money to get the rights.

What was that song on the radio?

Radio stations have played music for nearly 100 years. While the radio stations themselves hope that you will listen to the music and then listen to the commercials aired by the radio station, the music publishing companies hope that you will listen to the music and then go out and buy it.

But what if you don’t know what song you just heard?

Back in the day, if your favorite deejay neglected to mention that he just played “Love Child” by the Supremes, then you’d have to continue to listen to the radio station to hear the song again. Or you might go to your friends and ask them what that “love wild” song was that you heard on the radio.

Nowadays, if the deejay neglects to mention the name of a song, there are other ways you can figure it out.

Perhaps you have one of those newer car radios that allows the display of textual information about the broadcast. In many (not all) cases, the radio station displays the name of the song and the artist on the radio itself.

If the radio station displays some other text instead (“Your Hit Leader!!!”), or if you don’t have such a fancy-dancy radio, perhaps you can go to your favorite search engine and type in some of the lyrics.

But if you can’t make out the lyrics, there’s one other avenue – the radio station’s website itself. Radio stations didn’t have websites back in the 1970s or in the 1920s, so you couldn’t really go online and view all of the songs that they just played. Perhaps you could write a letter to the radio station and ask, “What was that song that you played at 12:32 pm on November 5, 1962?” But I don’t know if you would get a response.

Last week I spent the day in San Diego, and occupied part of my afternoon by driving around in the warm southern California weather and listening to the radio station 91X. Now a couple of words about 91X – people who lived in Los Angeles about 10-15 years ago would probably compare 91X to the Los Angeles radio station KROQ. Both play “alternative” music. Both have hired deejays with accents.

However, it should be noted that 91X is technically not a San Diego radio station, since its transmitter is located across the border in Mexico. Because of this, it has to comply with Mexican broadcasting laws. During the afternoon that I was listening to 91X, at least half of the commercials were public service announcements from Mexican government entities informing people that the government could not compel you to vote for any particular political party. Oddly enough, these commercials were all in the English language. Either Tijuana is losing its Spanish-language heritage, or the Mexican government is hoping that most Mexicans won’t hear these commercials.

But back to my drive. So I was driving around, listening to 91X, and I heard this song that I hadn’t ever heard before. If the deejay announced the name of the song/artist, I didn’t hear it. I was driving a 20th century car, so I didn’t have the fancy-dancy radio. The only lyric that I caught was the word “paradise,” which could be Green Day or Meat Loaf or just about anyone.

So what did I do? Several hours later, when I was back home in Ontario, I fired up my computer and found 91X’s on air playlist. I scrolled back a few hours and found a song from Coldplay called “Paradise.” The song had been #1 in the UK several months ago, and had charted elsewhere (including the United States) several months ago, but I seem to have missed all of that brouhaha. I am not trendy.

Here’s the official video of the song, if you’re interested. (If you read the Empoprise-MU page on Google+, you know that I’ve already said that the video is kind of a mix of Bob Dylan and the Banana Splits, but in retrospect I guess I should have been able to identify it as a Coldplay song.)

Would Reagan or Franken have achieved political success in the late 19th century?

Many people have switched to a political career after doing something else. Biography.com lists nine actors who became politicians. I’m going to concentrate on two of those people, former President Ronald Reagan and Minnesota Senator Al Franken, primarily because of the remarkable similarities between them.

  • Both grew up in the Midwest (Reagan in Illinois, Franken in Minnesota).
  • Both majored in the social sciences in college (Reagan in sociology and economics at Eureka College, Franken in political science at Harvard University).
  • Both were union members (Reagan with the Screen Actors Guild, Franken with the Screen Actors Guild and three other entertainment unions).
  • Both enjoyed television success (Reagan primarily with General Electric Theater, Franken primarily with Saturday Night Live).
  • Both participated in movies and radio at various times in their career (Reagan before his television success, Franken after his television success).
  • Both benefited from the Watergate scandal (Reagan from the removal of Nixon, Agnew and Connally from the political scene and the weakening of Gerald Ford; Franken from his “Final Days” sketch on Saturday Night Live).
  • Neither was ever elected to a local political office (Reagan went straight to the Governor’s Mansion, Franken straight to Capitol Hill).
  • Reagan had a secretary named Franken, and Franken had a secretary named Lincoln. (Not true.)

The most important similarity, however, is that both Reagan and Lincoln were able to use their pre-political careers to prepare themselves for politics. Reagan’s time as SAG president, as well as his speeches for General Electric, allowed him to participate in and comment on major issues of the day. Similarly Franken, both through his SNL writing and his Air America hosting duties, was able to comment on various issues.

Of course, both Reagan and Franken – as well as other actors-turned-politicians such as Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger – enjoyed another advantage. Because of their onstage experience, these actors were/are able to speak in front of a crowd, and (especially important today) speak in front of a camera.

But what if Reagan had been born in 1811 instead of 1911, and Franken had been born in 1851 instead of 1951? Could they have acquired the skills necessary to compete in 19th and early 20th century politics?

The opportunities for 19th century entertainers were vastly different than the opportunities for 20th century entertainers. Reagan, rather than engaging people through movie roles, probably would have become a stage actor. And in the 19th century, stage actors did not have much of an influence on politics – with the notorious exception of John Wilkes Booth.

But what of Franken? While vaudeville began to emerge in the late 19th century, it was not necessarily suited for Franken’s talents. It’s more likely that Franken would have pursued a career similar to that of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), as a storyteller who used his writings to comment on the social condition.

Neither Reagan nor Franken would have built up an entertainment career that was sufficiently powerful to propel them into statewide or national political office. For the most part, people who enjoyed political success in the latter part of the 19th century were lawyers (such as Grover Cleveland), rich people (such as Theodore Roosevelt), and Union Civil War veterans (just about everybody else).

So this is one case in which the technological changes of the 20th century provided new opportunities for people to excel in fields – even when those technological changes (in this case, in entertainment) were not directly related to the fields in which the aspirants eventually participated.

At least he didn’t say “Get off my lawn” (technology of the aged)

I still have to write the follow-up to the Empoprise-BI business blog Jitterbug post from 2010, and the February 21 tymshft post that mentioned the Jitterbug in passing.

But while looking for material for a Jitterbug post, I ran across this rant from Vancouver’s “Steve in the KT” about the various types of people who call sports talk radio. One of Steve’s pet peeves is the caller who complains that sports aren’t what they used to be.

And Steve ends up complaining…about the technology used by such callers. Here’s the relevant section of the rant:

Halcyon Days of Yore Guy – You like to call in on your Jitterbug or corded phone to let us all know how sports were when you were a kid.

Phone attached to the wall? Ouch.

“These guys don’t know how good they got it. In my day, the players were always dying of the consumption and the Kaiser was constantly drafting us into service.” You scoff at things like visors and kevlar neck guards. When you watched hockey, sometimes a Bengal tiger would get loose on the ice and kill 3 or four of the players. You’re obviously, confused, alone, possibly under the impression you were calling a Bea Arthur sex line. Either way, your grandkids need reminding of how you fought for their right to get lower back tattoos.

More here.

And as for me, I need to check out a page with a Bea Arthur picture.

Do you own a radio?

So anyways, I have this whole new blog that I have to write stuff for, so I began conceiving a post about the history of music distribution. I was beginning to visualize it in my brain. First you started with sheet music, and then you had 78 rpm records, followed by 45 rpm records. followed by 33 1/3 rpm records. 8-track tapes fall somewhere in there. Then you moved from 33 1/3 rpm records to cassette tapes, and from there to compact discs, and from there to digital downloads.

It was all a nice neat progression, except for the 8-track tapes part. But then I realized that I had left something out.

Radio.

After all, radio has been a major music distribution service for about a century. It has had a profound influence on the other distribution media. Services such as Billboard use radio airplay as one of their major determinants of song popularity. Plus, it’s a potential revenue source for the recording companies.

“But,” you may argue, “radio is different from the other media. You can own a CD, but you can’t own something you hear on the radio.”

Well, CAN you own a CD? The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that Section 109 of the U.S. Copyright Act gives you ownership privileges, but the major record companies have consistently fought this over time.

For example, at the turn of the 20th century, book publishers tried to impose a minimum resale price on books by putting a notice in every copy. In the 1930s, record labels put “private use only, not for broadcast” notices on records in an attempt to block radio stations from playing their records without additional payment. In the 1980s, movie studios tried the same thing with video cassettes, trying to control the video rental business. Congress, the courts, and free markets have consistently rejected these efforts to undermine the first sale principle.

But that hasn’t stopped Universal Music Group (UMG). In May, UMG sued Roast Beast Music for auctioning “promo CDs” on eBay, CDs which Roast Beast Music had itself purchased from used record stores around Los Angeles.

And even if you believe that Section 109 of the U.S. Copyright Act gives you ownership of those CDs, it doesn’t necessarily allow you to own those digital downloads that you’ve purchased. Back in January 2011, Ed Bott spent some time looking over some legalese at the iTunes store. Here’s part of what he found:

You agree that the Service and certain Products include security technology that limits your use of Products and that, whether or not Products are limited by security technology, you shall use Products in compliance with the applicable usage rules established by Apple and its licensors (“Usage Rules”), and that any other use of the Products may constitute a copyright infringement. Any security technology is an inseparable part of the Products. Apple reserves the right to modify the Usage Rules at any time.

Now I will grant that there are also “usage rules” to a CD – I can’t wipe Whitney Houston’s vocal off a song, replace it with my own vocal, and sell it – but it looks like this whole idea of “ownership” is just an idea, with little basis in fact.

So your “ownership” of a digital download might be equivalent to your “ownership” of something you hear on the radio.

And if you want to test this theory, try to sell either of them.

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