Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dispirit Of Radio

Part Three: The Future of Radio
(Parts 1 and 2)

By 2004, Clear Channel’s stock price had dropped nearly two thirds in four years and FM radio was jammed with commercials and shrinking playlists. Listeners were turning en masse to other media for their entertainment and their options were quickly expanding.

The advent of mp3 downloads in the late 1990s coupled with file sharing programs and Apple’s invention of the Ipod in 2001 now allowed disaffected radio listeners to program their own extensive playlists. For those seeking to broaden their musical palette, internet radio services like Pandora were not only commercial free, but constructed playlists and suggested new artists based on a listener’s musical preferences.

Satellite radio is also becoming a viable alternative, particularly for listeners who spend a considerable amount of time in their cars. Commercials are limited and playlists are almost entirely under the control of DJs and listeners, much like FM radio had been in its early years. Best of all, satellite radio can be picked up worldwide with minimal signal problems.

With these new innovations, however, come limitations. The sense of community felt on local FM rock stations is missing on satellite radio, since it broadcasts to a worldwide audience. Furthermore, satellite does not offer the all encompassing programming that made local radio shows so successful. Music, weather, news, traffic and comedy are all found on different stations for the most part. Programs and entire stations change frequently, giving the impression that the medium is still young and programmers are still experimenting. But the big obstacle for satellite radio has been and continues to be its subscription costs. Putting a price tag on something that has always been free will inevitably keep many listeners away, regardless of how nominal the fees are.

Podcasts are an exciting alternative. Listeners can download programs in mp3 format and play them back at their leisure on a music player. Legalities in terms of fair use of music and payment of royalties for material used is up in the air as podcasts are not regulated. There is also no real time aspect of podcasting. There is no one telling the listener what is going on “now” in their community.

If developers can work together with the music industry to address issues royalties, copyright infringement and perhaps incorporate some type of real time feature for podcasting, radio could once again be exciting, thought provoking and – most importantly - done by and for the listeners.

No comments:

Post a Comment