The Promise of Radio Paradise: An Open-Source Challenge to Commercial Radio
Remember when “commercial broadcasting” didn't ridicule the archaic concept that broadcast bands were a public space where stations and their owners operated by the grace of public trust?
That idea started falling out the window somewhere in the Nixon administration. By the Reagan administration it was hanging by its toes. The Clinton administration gave it the heave-ho by deregulating station ownership to the extent that one company, Clear Channel Communications, owns large hunks of the radio dial in nearly all the major markets, including 5 FMs in New York, 5 FMs and 2 AMs in San Francisco, and 5FMs and 3 AMs in Los Angeles, to name a few. In Santa Barbara, the small city where I live, Clear Channel owns 4 FMs and 3 AMs. The total number of local stations isn't much more than that.
As Brad Kava of the San Jose Mercury News points out in his current column, the company's influence extends much farther:
To comply with the legal limit of eight stations in any market, the company sold off three signals in the San Francisco market: KXJO-FM to Spanish Broadcasting, and KCNL-FM and KFJO-FM to Chase Radio Properties, both minority-owned broadcasters. But Clear Channel continues to program the stations. For a sale to be legal, the new owner must program at least 85 percent of the station's content, according to federal regulations. Clear Channel is simulcasting all of KSJO's content on KFJO and KXJO.
No wonder the commercial radio dial is wall-to-wall generica. Nobody protests, for two big reasons: 1) If the last administration didn't care much, the current one cares even less. This administration clearly loves Big Business, as its toothless proposed settlement with Microsoft amply demonstrates, and Clear Channel is bent on becoming the Microsoft of radio. 2) Clear Channel controls much of the local cross-promotional entertainment advertising flow as well. Here's Brad again:
Clear Channel is also the country's largest promoter of concerts and theater events. Locally, it owns Shoreline Amphitheater and books the biggest shows into San Jose's and Oakland's arenas and Saratoga's Mountain Winery. It advertises these events heavily on its competitors and works deals with those stations so they can sponsor events at its facilities.
The competitors can't afford to risk losing those ad dollars.
Not that anybody is up for a fight with the company that Eric Boehlert calls Radio's Big Bully and a Tough Company on Salon.com. Nor is anybody raising a stink about the role played by the record companies in all of this, which Eric wrote about in his article, “Pay for Play”: “Listeners may not realize it, but radio today is largely bought by the record companies. Most rock and Top 40 stations get paid to play the songs they spin by the companies that manufacture the records.”
Back when I was a kid, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, “payola” made front-page headlines when it was learned that disc jockeys took money and favors for playing certain songs. In those days radio mattered. So did the concept of public trust. Today it's a rare jock that gets to choose his or her own music. That's essentially a corporate decision.
It gets worse, but we've explored the darkness far enough. Rather, let's look at the alternatives.
On the Demand side, there's music sharing, which Napster pioneered and for which it got destroyed by the music industry. In the open-source world their work survives in the form of Limewire and other systems that take advantage of the Gnutella network protocol.
Whatever else one might call music sharing over the Net, it serves as the listeners' workaround of the commercial radio's failure to care. In the old days, radio was a system whereby professional connoisseurs shared their music collections with listeners. Yes, there was commercial involvement but not of the massive and cynical industrial sort we see today, where radio acts as a sampler tray for goods pumped from Production to Consumption through thoroughly integrated manufacturing, promotion, distribution and retailing pipes, whose unseen powers bear a creepy resemblance to those of The Matrix.
On the Supply side, we have on-line radio stations created and run by the same kind of connoisseurs that once thrived on commercial radio (and persist on some noncommercial stations). You'll find a few of these on Yahoo's and Real.com's radio listings, which are dominated by licensed commercial and noncommercial stations that employ those companies' server software. You'll find a lot more on places like Live365, which lists on-line stations streaming MP3 audio. Apple's iTunes tuner also lists hundreds of streaming MP3 stations (maintained, I am told, by a Kerbango veteran). Ogg Vorbis is out there too.
Taking the lead at making on-line radio an actual business is “Wild” Bill Goldsmith, who is responsible for the lovably anachronistic KPIG, a highly successful commercial FM station that serves the Santa Cruz-Salinas-Monterey Bay area of California over the air on 107-oink-5 (from, no kidding, the town of Freedom), and the rest of the world over a sparkling 128Kb MP3 stream (plus others of lower fi). Bill's other labor of love is Radio Paradise, which he runs out of his place in (no kidding) Paradise, CA.
Bill has built both KPIG's and Radio Paradise's on-line broadcast systems on Linux and other open-source hacks, which he is eager to share with the rest of the world. There's even money in it, Bill says.
I'm bringing this up today because Bill will join us on “The Linux Show” this evening, and because I've written about Bill twice already for Linux Journal, and the links are still fresh. Here they are: 1) the January 2002 “Linux For Suits” editorial , and 2) the November 1, 2001 SuitWatch newsletter.
And yes, I have an ax to grind. I love good radio, and I miss hearing more of it on the air. I believe Open Source Radio is the best hope—not only for on-line broadcasting but for over-the-air commercial broadcasting as well, mostly because it not only saves money but gives commercial broadcasters a cornucopia of connoisseurs that might well serve as sources for over-the-air “content”.
For that we'll need the Open Source community to start pushing the ball Bill started rolling.
Are we up for it? I'd like to hear what you think.
Doc Searls (email@example.com) is Senior Editor of Linux Journal.
Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- Google's Abacus Project: It's All about Trust
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Back to Backups
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction
- Working with Command Arguments
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Installation
- Fancy Tricks for Changing Numeric Base
- Linux Mint 18
- Seeing Red and Getting Sleep
- The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide