17 March 2006

Of Radio, Horses and Barns... and, oh yeah, the CRTC

Rob Hyndman has a good analysis of the upcoming commercial radio hearings at the CRTC, and a view of briefs-to-come from those whose business model oxen are in the process of being gored. Essentially, commercial radio broadcasters are suddenly waking up and noticing that fewer people are listening via FM because more people are listening via IP (that's Internet Protocol). It's not as if we haven't seen this before - any professional blacksmiths out there in the audience?

Podcasting and clever incarnations and experiments in streaming music (like the very cool Pandora) have, to be perfectly trite and cliché-y about it, reinvented radio. Actually, it's more like a retrieval. The point is that radio is an intimate medium - the on-air content is delivered to the listener for her/his personal and intimate enjoyment. Direct to the ears. Radio was never a social medium (although it was, according to McLuhan, a socializing medium.) Podcasting and services like Pandora retrieve this effect in a new way, and intensify it, essentially obsolescing the business rationale behind conventional, commercial, broadcast radio.

The CRTC is going to hear a bunch of whining from those companies who are vested in the old way, and have not been paying attention to the train that's been barrelling down on them for the past half-dozen or so years. There will be calls for loosening content restrictions, and an equivalent volume (as in loudness) for tightening content restrictions. However, not only has that horse bolted from the barn, but the barn has burnt to the ground! The CRTC can do nothing - and should rightly do nothing - to fiddle with content in a faint-hope attempt to make an obsolesced business model (not obsolesced medium - conventional over-the-air radio has been obsolesced since the mid-1950s) live again. Broadcasters - and especially the public broadcaster - should begin to understand the Internet as a social medium, and rejig their businesses to exist happily in a UCaPP world.

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