Look back at the 2000
The past yearTime, we felt, this month to take a look back at the past year and how far some of our hopes expressed in November and December 1999 have been fulfilled and how radio has moved over the year.
Broadly speaking, we think the most sensible division is a technological one. We'd go for four main areas, traditional radio by which we mean AM and FM, digital, and satellite radio, and Internet audio.
So how have these fared?.
Here there have been no startling developments but
the pressures of the bean-counters have told heavily. They could have
yet more influence if spectrum ever comes to be seen by governments
as presenting the same kind of financial opportunities as mobile communications
spectrum has during the year, even though the money has now started
to pull back in this area.
Digital and satellite radio.Too soon to judge, but digital may significantly change the radio scene over the next few years and digital combined with satellite may yet be a technology to do more to change the existing US radio scene than all the efforts of the Internet combined.
The idea of 200 mostly commercial-free channels available throughout the US, offering a wide choice of both US and international output in a whole variety of formats and good technical quality is most appealing to us.
We can't see both surviving as we suspect that, although many people may be prepared to pay $9.95 a month for the services of a satellite channel, not many will pay double that for two.
However we can hope that the commercial-free model gains a major audience. If it does, then the idea of any programme having nearly twenty minutes of adverts and promotions in one run (RNW Oct 14) may yet be numbered.
If not there are even more numbskulls in the US than we thought.
And if it does deliver the range and quality that is possible by trawling the world for talent, satellite radio could put significant pressures for change on radio all over the place.
It can't substitute for the genuinely local but combined with the latter, whether from community radio or individual stations could certainly do a pretty good job in competing for audience with the current networked stations.
Which we think can only be to the good; it's competition for audience not advertisers that we think is most valuable for radio!.
We welcome the availability of distant and different stations and really welcome on-demand audio, inadequate though provision of the latter seems to be.
However it seem to us that in this area the bean-counters are already doing much of the calling. Even though the number of advertisers online has been growing at around 14% per month, all kinds of dot coms are having a hard time. In addition, almost every time we look nowadays another audio service is going under or being amalgamated with or taken over by a competitor. In the wings as we write, is the threat of copyright charges from the music recording industry, for which the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is lobbying hard.
If it wins all it wants, the RIAA will certainly curb much Internet audio development, as current economics aren't exactly showing how to make profit by streaming audio without any extra charges. Even giant Clear Channel, now making moves by setting up an Internet Division, might find the attractions reduced if charges are too high.
Add a NASDAQ down to half its peak value, many a dot com less than a tenth even if still in business, and, even without a general economic slowdown, we are concerned that internet audio is going to be constrained fairly severely.
Which means to us that those of you who want to have the choice need to make some effort to support the Internet stations you think worthwhile by spreading the word as well as listening yourself.
There's no way you or I or anyone outside Chicago can really affect the future of WNIB as a classical station, but if you find a strong station on the Internet make sure others learn about it.
It won't stop the big boys taking it over but if you then don't like the changes, any one of you could set up an alternative fairly cheaply and if enough people spread the word it may work.
That way competition for audience will continue to matter.
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