Radio

Every One of Those [artificially scarce] Late Night Stations/Playing Songs Bringing Tears to My Eyes

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Wondering why radio sucks in its Feburary "Why Things Suck" cover package, Wired reporter Brendan Koerner goes to the expert: our own Jesse Walker. An excerpt:

The sad decline of conventional radio is an Econ 101 lesson in the consequences of artificial scarcity — and a B-school case study on the limits of scientific management. The scarcity is the fault of the Federal Communications Commission, which decided in the mid-1940s to confine FM broadcasting to its current frequency range, roughly between 88 and 108 MHz. The FCC's spectrum-allocation rules, designed to prevent station signals from interfering with one another, further limited the number of broadcasting licenses it granted in any one market.

By the '70s, thanks to a fecund period in popular music, a generation of audacious DJs, and cheap radios, FM had become wildly popular. That made stations valuable properties — so valuable, in fact, that only large companies could afford to buy and manage them. "The legal cost alone of getting on the air is enormous," says Jesse Walker, author of the radio history Rebels on the Air. The government could have eased this situation by allocating more spectrum for radio use and increasing the number of licenses, Walker argues.

And read his Rebels in the Air.

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  1. I saw that article. Oddly, no mention of satellite as a potential savior. I’m a Sirius subscriber and love it. Worth every dime if you have a long commute like I do.

  2. The legal cost alone of getting on the air is enormous,” says Jesse Walker, author of the radio history Rebels on the Air

    What about all those low-power stations that many religious organization buy up and broadcast on? Is the cost of getting on the air that way less? Do they interfere with other broadcasters in their local markets?

  3. Hmmm. Rebels in the Air? Radio Clash?

  4. ChicagoTom, the FCC probably gives them free licenses, you know, to “spread the Word.” Fuck the rest of us, we’re all heathens.

  5. The government could have eased this situation by allocating more spectrum for radio

    Any specifics over which other parts of the spectrum could have been pulled aside for commercial FM radio? This kind of argument seems a bit of a stretch to me. The radio spectrum has been very valuable for a long time, to lots of different interests, and there’s a generally finite supply.

    I’m not even sure I agree with the premise that radio sucks at all. Commercial radio does what it needs to draw listeners. Broadcasting always means compromise. The magic of narrowcasting, on the other hand, is a reality with modern developments like satellite and internet radio.

  6. I got religion a couple years ago when I started subscribing to XM.

    I haven’t listened to FM radio since, for which I am eternally grateful. I put on the occasional AM talk in the car, but it’s nothing but Internet streaming, satellite and MP3s for me. Screw the NAB and the horse it rode in on.

  7. $55.00 ??!! You’d think it was a textbook or something. Oh, just saw the paperback. For a second there I thought I was going to have to make an indecent proposal.

  8. Apparently every hertz of otherwise empty bandwidth (with which I would love to use my mp3 player/radio adapter in my car) in Los Angeles is taken over by an all-encompassing network of Christians with a 100-watt broadcasting range.

    It’s ridiculously irritating to drive to work listening, for a while enjoying your favorite Tito Puente album, then suddenly having it be taken over for 30 seconds by “PRAISE JESUS!!!”

    Yes, I know… this has nothing to do with the article, but it’s a bitch I’ve got so deal with it 😛

  9. Digital radio is already here. Just like digital television, each station can broadcast more than one digital signal (depending on the technology, AFAIK). There is the matter of buying a digital tuner, but that’s no worse than buying a satellite tuner and paying a monthly fee.

  10. Sean, I have to wonder though if it might occasionally work out so that as you fade out of range of the Jesus station Tito comes back in and it sounds like he’s personally whomping the bejesus out of the preacher?

    (Pun intended.)

  11. Are the digital stations censored? I assumed they were, which is why I went with Sirius over digital.

  12. I’m not even sure I agree with the premise that radio sucks at all. Commercial radio does what it needs to draw listeners. Broadcasting always means compromise. The magic of narrowcasting, on the other hand, is a reality with modern developments like satellite and internet radio.

    From the radio trade mags I’ve read, the most popular music channels on XM and Sirius are those that are programmed using the same methods terrestrial radio uses – playlists designed with safety in mind. Whih basically means the reason people think radio sucks is mostly due to running commerical breaks for far too long.

    Of the 80 or so music channels the satcasters have, there’s only about a dozen that attempt to play the same old same old. There’s plenty of web-based options to stream music in a radio-style mix, at lower cost than the satcasters, that satcasting for lesser-known music isn’t even worth it.

  13. “there’s only about a dozen that attempt to play the same old same old. ”

    Should read “… to play anything other than the same old same old”

  14. In my limited experience with XM, most of the music stations were material I could not hear on FM broadcasts. And while the most successful stations are undoubtedly closely modeled on conventional FM broadcasts, overhead for producing a satellite broadcast is not structured the same way as for an FM broadcast and it remains profitable to add less popular but more unconventional broadcast formats to a satellite lineup. (Without bothering to find it, I’ll add that Reason had an article some time back about long-tail economics).

  15. IIRC, the portion of the spectrum between 88.5 MHz and 91.9 MHz is reserved for non-commercial/non-profit stations, basically colleges, churches and public radio. I believe this is because it has lesser range than a station higher up the dial at the same power output.

  16. the premise is false. radio is not known to suck. lol.

    well, anything to worship those ideologies of “free markets” hehe

  17. Whih basically means the reason people think radio sucks is mostly due to running commerical breaks for far too long.

    As well as the fact that their rotation is basically like 100 songs, most of which you have been sick of hearing for at least 20 years.

  18. “Sean, I have to wonder though if it might occasionally work out so that as you fade out of range of the Jesus station Tito comes back in and it sounds like he’s personally whomping the bejesus out of the preacher?”

    Not nearly as often as I’d like.

  19. Shecky: I gave a quick overview of some of the ways more stations could be fit onto the spectrum in this old article.

    ChicagoTom: Believe it or not, FCC regulations discriminate in favor of those stations and against stations of the same power level that originate their own programming. You’d think it would be legal to buy one of those stations that just retransmits a signal and give it its own format and schedule. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.

  20. In the ’70s i called an FM station in the wee hours of the morning with a request to play an album side (R.E.O./T.W.O and I’m not ashamed). The DJ did. I don’t think stuff like that happens anymore. Money changes everything.

  21. Russ 2000,

    Maybe on the channels that are standard format like Top 40, R&B contemporary, Country Hits etc.. But the niche channels play stuff you would never hear on regular radio in 1000 years. And like Ventifact said, the play-lists on all the channels are much deeper and less repetitive. My subscription is subsidizing a lot of channels I don’t listen to, but the options I have make it worthwhile. I caught an old Don Rickles stand up routine on the way home the other night. That alone made this month’s $12 worthwhile as far as I’m concerned.

    i just listen to my ipod

    The iPod is still in the mix, but you lose some of the element of the unexpected with an iPod in my opinion. It’s all music you put on there. You never discover anything new listening to an iPod. Not to mention guilty pleasure songs you like but would never buy.

  22. Since the definition of the word “suck” is rather subjective in this case, I’m sure we’re not all going to agree.

    That said, if I can use my music industry credentials to add any further weight to this comment:

    Yes, radio sucks. Ballz.

    The commercial breaks and safety bumpers don’t really concern me that much – radio has always had that… hell, NPR has that too in addition to their irritating pledge drives – they just do it at the beginning or end of segments like old-skool radio did.

    My main beef with radio comes down to quality and diversity of programming – the lack of which often comes down to it’s corporate structure a lot more than DJ choice. Especially if we’re talking Top-40 Radio. Payolla is quite rampant (though it really has no business being a criminal offense if you ask me), and even when it’s not that direct, a lot of major labels own large shares of major radio stations. We can’t really blame them for trying to use their connections or money to promote their current “top” artists, since that is how they all earn a living, but at the same time, it tends to mean that anyone who isn’t that interested in recycled Top-40 horse$h!t is going to think that FM “sucks”…

    Like I generally do.

    So I’ll definitely go with the premise – I won’t however, go with the conclusion. The FCC should be abolished for a billion reasons on its own without needing to get into it’s apportionment of frequencies. That said, usable radio frequencies are scarce no matter what, so they’re going to go to the highest bidder with or without the FCC… Fortunately, none of us are stuck with radio as our only media option on the go anymore.

    Now if only I could get more power to Mr. Puente so that he can destroy the idiot radio-preaching…

  23. As an aside, when I learned what “payola” is and that it’s illegal, I practically pissed myself in surprise. And I’ve always thought labels should just pay for 4-minute commercials consisting basically of a song they want to promote. I’d rather listen to a bad song than an average commercial any day. Imagine how few real commercial breaks stations might be able to take and still make a profit if they could be paid by labels for playing specific music?

  24. NeonCat, you’re mostly right: U.S.-licensed stations between 88.1 and 91.9 must be operated non-commercially–but, if anything, they would have a slight bit more range at the same power levels and antenna height, because of their slightly lower frequency. (However, it’s nowhere as important as it is for AM, because the frequencies for AM stations are so much lower and range so much more within the band.) Also, Canada and Mexico don’t have the same restriction, which explains why you have some commercial FM stations in, say, Detroit and San Diego between 88.1 and 91.9 (on the flip side, though, they would be subjected to Canadian-content quotas or would have to play the Mexican national anthem every day).

  25. I haven’t listened to radio in about ten years but if it’s anything like television, I wouldn’t be surprised if the portion devoted to commercials has increased substantially.

    Anecdotally, when I was growing up in Rochester, there were lots of independent stations, mostly but not exclusively on the left-hand side of the dial, playing all kinds of interesting music. Today, most of these are now commercial, and most of them are owned by the same one or two companies.

    Now I’m in NYC, and radio is a total joke. All the stations are either Spanish, “urban” or “dance”. AFAIK there is no decent “rock” station, at least one which plays a library of more than twenty songs. The fact is, nobody who wants to hear anything remotely out of the mainstream listens to radio any more, and the stations have all merged into a bland sameness.

  26. Rhywun:

    Sometimes you can get the Seton Hall station late at night, no? I guess that doesn’t really add to the discussion. NYC radio is a good example of Walker’s whole point.

  27. there’s only about a dozen that attempt to play anything other than the same old same old

    You must have a different satellite receiver than I do. Sure, lots of their stations have basic approaches that are similar to what you would hear on FM, but I’ve never run across one that didn’t have a playlist that was a lot deeper.

    And don’t get me started on the niche channels, with whole playlists that I bet have never seen the inside of a terrestrial station.

  28. 1. KUSF

    2. KFJC

    3. KALX

    4. WFMU

    Listen to any of these rather than the Clear Channel dreck. Oddly, non-profit/community/college stations are more interesting than what the for-profit Market(TM) has chosen. Go figure!

  29. That’s a good distinction R C. When I listened to XM, instead of an oldies station and a classic rock station, there were separate 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s popular music stations (plus other related stations) and all these stations had much deeper playlists than a normal FM station. Four deep stations vs. two shallow stations covering the same basic genres means much more interesting airplay, even if the content is nominally the same.

  30. By the way, what’s the deal with tax-subsidized “art” music radio broadcasts? Don’t listeners to jazz and especially classical broadcasts by public radio tend to be more affluent than average? Doesn’t this mean everyone’s subsidizing the tastes of the affluent, in the name of “the arts”?

  31. Incidentally – if you live in Portland, OR or the immediate surrounding area…

    89.9 has hands down, the best jazz radio station I’ve ever heard anywhere in the US.

    Mt. Hood Community College – low wattage… fantastic music.

  32. The Blues and Comedy channels on Sirius are perfect. Clearchannel and Infinity can perform prostate exams on themselves for all I care.

  33. “By the way, what’s the deal with tax-subsidized “art” music radio broadcasts? Don’t listeners to jazz and especially classical broadcasts by public radio tend to be more affluent than average?”

    Yeah… but… uhh… national news? No clue.

  34. Let’s also try not to forget that the truly “niche” listeners have almost ALWAYS had to go hang out at record stores for the latest and most interesting music that fit their interests.

    Anyway… it’s all kind of moot. Within the next 10 years wireless internet will be so ubiquitous that you can get Pandora or link up to your home library any time/anywhere you want. Here’s hopin.

  35. Sean — I love that station! It pains my libertarian heart to acknowledge how glad I am to have heard a publicly funded station of such quality. At least school stations serve an ostensible educational purpose. (Well, some of them do. I DJed at one that definitely was an expensive toy for about 95% of its mostly affluent student operators.)

  36. As an aside, when I learned what “payola” is and that it’s illegal, I practically pissed myself in surprise. And I’ve always thought labels should just pay for 4-minute commercials consisting basically of a song they want to promote.

    It’s legal as long as it’s announced as such. Same thing in print media, where paid material has to be labeled “advertisement”. The only things illegal about payola are (1) bribing someone who works there to usurp his fiduciary responsbility to his employer to use his implied judgement as to what to play, and (2) implying to the audience that a selection is made according to such judgement rather than as a product placement.

    And Rhywun, try listening to WFMU on 91.1 MHz or http://wfmu.org . Or if you’re in northern Sussex NJ or Orange or Sullivan NY, 90.1 for the simulcast on WXHD.

  37. It’s been a solid year-and-a-half since I’ve listened to an FM station for anything more than a second. I don’t miss it even a little.

    Lucy, Ethel, Fred, a bit of Squizz, a bit of Fungus, some XMU, a touch of XMLM, and the Verge make FM look pathetic. Throw in The Joint, and the Jazz channels, too.

  38. Sean – Out of curiosity, are you the Sean Malone of Cynic/Cordlandt/Gordian Knot/etc fame? Doesn’t look like it from sean-malone.com (!= seanmalone.net), but my curiosity got the better of my common sense.
    -K

  39. By the way, what’s the deal with tax-subsidized “art” music radio broadcasts? Don’t listeners to jazz and especially classical broadcasts by public radio tend to be more affluent than average? Doesn’t this mean everyone’s subsidizing the tastes of the affluent, in the name of “the arts”?

    Ventifact, the whole point of the Wired article is that corporate-dominated radio sucks and what to do to make it not suck. It’s nice to know that not all libertarians are tin-eared philistines like yourself.

  40. e, I’m not sure how you could call me a tin-eared philistine. (To be honest, I cringe whenever this blog/forum turns to its fascination with 80s music, but that’s another story relating to my own self-enforced ignorance…) The sum of my statements of musical enthusiasm in this thread (and to my recollection in H&R at all) are that I would rather listen to a bad pop song than a commercial — I mean, commercials are REALLY, AGGRESSIVELY annoying, whereas pop is just mostly just boring — and that I love a great jazz station in the Portland area.

    You have not addressed my point, which is the objective reality that “the masses” pay taxes which financially support the tastes of an audience that is significantly more affluent than the rest of radio listernship, which listenership, because it is not tax-supported, has to listen to its music riddled with commercials.

  41. …Perhaps you take issue with my “scare quotes” on the term ‘”art”‘ music? Well, I don’t like the term and so I use it only provisionally, in quotation marks. It is an elitist term used by those who don’t bother to actually define “art” or “beauty” in the first place.

  42. No… am not… annoying to have the same name though. I don’t play bass as well unfortunately.

    I’m actually a vibraphonist primarily (as a performer) – but mostly, I work overseeing cruise-ship bands and composing music for film, aside from the occasional concert work or jazz tune I write for my own enjoyment.

  43. And Rhywun, try listening to WFMU on 91.1 MHz or http://wfmu.org

    Thanx for the suggestion guys. Streaming it now – neat. The current DJ appears to be NUTS.

    I see it’s listed in my iTunes “Radio” section, which I’ve never entered before. Good grief there’s a lot in there.

  44. Yeah – I’ll give 89.9 a tax-funded break being a community college station. I mean 1. it’s “educational” and 2. it’s a community college so it’s not just an expensive toy for rich kids to play with…

    Ironically, satellite radio is exactly what NPR CLAIMS to be. “Listener supported”.

    I hate radio ads as much as the next guy, but it’s the only way to have radio that is free to consumers. Much like commercially sponsored tv…

    I’d much rather pay 15 cents a station and not pay taxes that support stations that I almost never listen to. Besides, there’s far more than enough “free” radio that I don’t even see how the argument initially made for public radio even applies.

  45. You have not addressed my point, which is the objective reality that “the masses” pay taxes which financially support the tastes of an audience that is significantly more affluent than the rest of radio listernship, which listenership, because it is not tax-supported, has to listen to its music riddled with commercials.

    Alright, I’ll address it.

    1. Where are your numbers that only yuppies listen to public or non-profit radio? I’m pretty lazy myself so I won’t blame you for it if you don’t find the numbers.

    2. It seems like a wedge argument to dismantle the public and non-profit sector and turn over everything to the evil corporations like Clear Channel. It’s the same thing I hear libertarians say about rail transportation: “well no one takes it but smug green yuppies, so let’s get rid of it”.

    Do you favor a fairer scheme of distributing money to the arts that would give more government spending for music that low-income people listen to? No? Then why even make an argument about who benefits from government funding? Just say, “eliminate all tax funding for all arts” and be done with it. Who are you trying to convince with your arguments about “eliminate public radio because it is only for yuppies”? Not libertarians, surely.

    I guess it’s supposed to convince lower income people to think “hm, this isn’t fair – let’s cut funding for classical and jazz because only those damn yuppies listen to it and I hate them.” It seems dishonest to me because you are relying on the hidden premise : “government funding for the arts should be fairly distributed” which you don’t in fact believe.

  46. “Then why even make an argument about who benefits from government funding? ”

    Not to speak entirely out of turn here, but even libertarians have to at least try to be pragmatic about achieving our goals don’t we?

    Removing funding from things we feel shouldn’t be publicly funded to begin with is going to have to gain some more support – starting perhaps with who gets that funding and whether or not it is benefiting anyone.

    Short of starting an entirely new country, I’m not really sure how else to approach getting a more libertarian society.

  47. I hate radio ads as much as the next guy, but it’s the only way to have radio that is free to consumers. Much like commercially sponsored tv…

    This is a fair argument, and one I readily agree with until they push it too far. Commercial radio reached that stage many years ago for me. Commercial television is rapidly reaching the same stage. The tricks they pull to squeeze in more advertising are disgraceful. Crushed-up end credits. No more intros. Running times from “9:00 to 10:02”. “Edited to fit the time allotted.” It’s the same crap with some of the food products I buy–they shrink the size thinking we won’t notice. Arggggh. /rant

  48. Believe me man… I know.

    TV pisses me off more generally actually since the ads have started covering up actual programming.

    Lower 3rds and sidebars are starting to come complete with sound effects too… that way not only do they cover up something you probably need to “see”, they muddy up the soundtrack so you can’t even hear what people are saying anymore.

    Rant away… it’s a whole lot of crap. And if you ask me, a lot of it comes down to the desperate convulsions of a dying industry. Across the board people are moving to subscriber based services in all forms of media which cater more directly to their tastes – from satellite radio to cable/satellite TV to iTunes…

    The nature of distribution is changing dramatically in art. It’s a mixed blessing for me as an artist. On the one hand, it’s starting to cut out the middleman, but it’s also lowering both the standard of quality and the pay in a lot of areas… at least temporarily. Internet is changing everything and I fully intend to stay ahead of that curve. That said, the internet is still a free-for-all home to undifferentiated user generated content. Good: It will expose some really great talents who were only being held back by lack of access to interpersonal connections and the financial resources to acquire them… Bad: We have to put up with several years of crap while the industry gets it’s shit together again and figures out how to handle the changes.

  49. In the ’70s i called an FM station in the wee hours of the morning with a request to play an album side (R.E.O./T.W.O and I’m not ashamed). The DJ did. I don’t think stuff like that happens anymore.

    Normally, I’d say it’s a shame stuff like that doesn’t happen anymore. But your example un-won me over.

  50. The FCC’s spectrum-allocation rules, designed to prevent station signals from interfering with one another, further limited the number of broadcasting licenses it granted in any one market.

    Jesse, I suggest that you spend some time with an electrical engineer that specializes in radios. Granted he will likely not be objective on the political side of the topic, but you need to digest some technical information to be taken seriously.

  51. Rhywun | January 24, 2008, 8:03pm | #

    And Rhywun, try listening to WFMU on 91.1 MHz or http://wfmu.org

    Thanx for the suggestion guys. Streaming it now – neat. The current DJ appears to be NUTS.

    That’d be Dave the Spazz (“Music to Spazz By”), and actually he’s one of the less nutty ones.

    If you listen only to the stream, then you’ll miss “JM in the AM” (Jewish Music in the morning with Nachum Siegel) — unless they’re offering that as a stream separately now.

  52. As a long-time radio broadcaster, I can say that Jesse’s comments are a refreshing departure from the belleyaching I usually hear inside the industry about how “deregulation ruined radio.” I’ve been in the biz for thirty years and can tell you it wasn’t exactly an idyllic wonderland before Telecom ’96. Returning to the “good ol’ days” of heavy regulation won’t fix a damn thing…but I fear that’s what we’re gonna get…

  53. My kids think I’m the best DJ ever….

    TWC FM

    I sit at my desk and spin tunes while they drift off to na na land every night.

    Been doing that for a decade.

  54. e,

    I must first of all concede that I have no scientific evidence to back my claim that jazz and classical audiences skew to higher incomes over popular music stations.

    If I might maintain for sake of discussion the premise that NPR is listened to by higher-income folks, I have to say that I don’t want to enact any “wedge argument to dismantle the public and non-profit sector and turn over everything to the evil corporations like Clear Channel.” I made no suggestions for improving the radio system, although I think making legal obstacles to broadcasting cheaper and expanding the available FM spectrum would be good moves.

    As for your good question ‘Who [am I] trying to convince with [my] arguments about “eliminate public radio because it is only for yuppies”?’ I must say that I am in part appealing to libertarian values, as I understand them, and also to political sensibilities I think most people have. It just seems unfair for everyone to subsidize the lifestyle of the affluent.

    Now, maybe I’m wrong in thinking that line of reasoning has any bearing on libertarianism, but I am under the impression that one of the reasons someone might be mostly against government spending is because government spending is often manipulated in the names of good causes (and I would say “the arts” are a good cause, without meaning that I think they do or don’t need a certain source of funding) such that it ends up benefiting those who are not in need anyway. Libertarians often get accused of shilling for corporate domination, but libertarians are strongly against corporate welfare and I do think part of this sentiment is the unfairness of giving an advantage to those already ahead (and for counter-consideration, note that many self-identified libertarians acknowledge the desirability of some governmental social safety net for those hitting on hard times).

    But I’m not attempting to promote a line of thinking you offer that says “hm, this isn’t fair – let’s cut funding for classical and jazz because only those damn yuppies listen to it and [we of lower income] hate them.” I detest such identity clashes as much as I suspect you do. The line of thinking I’m suggesting is “Hmm, this isn’t fair — let’s cut funding for music the affluent can afford to provide themselves with since we’re all paying for it but we don’t care about it.” (Now, there’s a lot of folks who might say the same about NASA…)

    You see me as being “dishonest” for relying on the premise “government funding for the arts should be fairly distributed,” which you don’t think I, in fact, believe. I believe the best role of government is definitely for services where the benefit can be said to be fairly distributed. This can be hard to pin down, and it’s true enough that in a sense highbrow music broadcasts are evenly distributed because anyone can tune in, i.e. all people have been given the option to listen. But it’s a little akin to spending tax money to maintain a registration system of alexandrite values according to stone characteristics — anyone might make use of it (indeed it would be exceedingly valuable for e.g. a poor person who inherited or won alexandrite jewelry and didn’t have an objective source to learn the stuff’s value), but naturally the system would end up providing most of its service to the wealthy. Whether I think the government should fund art at all is really beside the point, even if libertarians are not generally keen on the government funding art regardless of considerations for the funding’s “fairness”.

    By the way, I listen to a buttload of public radio, both news and music. I’m not saying they don’t do good stuff, by many standards.

  55. I hate radio ads as much as the next guy, but it’s the only way to have radio that is free to consumers.

    Well, payola could ease the burden of ads. Why not even go so far as to have stations owned and operated by specific labels to promote their musicians?

  56. That’d be Dave the Spazz (“Music to Spazz By”), and actually he’s one of the less nutty ones.

    I think his name was “Dusty” – and it switched to someone else just after I wrote my post. Lots of weird, breathy segues and chopped up clips.

  57. “Well, payola could ease the burden of ads. Why not even go so far as to have stations owned and operated by specific labels to promote their musicians?”

    I don’t have any kind of moral or legal qualms about that – it’s just that that would just mean that we’d be trading periodic interruptions of irritating commercials for a station that would very likely run the same irritatingly bad 10 songs over and over all day.

    So from a practical standpoint, I don’t see how that is any better. I really don’t mind the ads enough to want to go that direction… If it comes down to listening to a more diverse selection of music while having to suffer 15 minutes of advertising per hour, I’d rather do that than listen to no ads and shitty music for an whole hour.

    I don’t know who else on here has listened to much in the way of old radio dramas… or for that matter, conservative talk radio actually. But in both cases, the advertising is mostly handled by the radio hosts themselves putting in a :30-:60 plug for their main sponsor. In the 40s it was Kellogg’s “Pep” and Petri wines, now it’s “Buy gold”… same thing.

    The only reason I like the 40s version better is because it’s quaint and amusing to me… very likely I’d have a different feeling if I was living in the 40s.

    As for payola, it shouldn’t be a crime to pay to have your songs played on the radio – if anything, it probably happens secretly *because* of FCC rules on that sort of thing…

  58. Jesse, I suggest that you spend some time with an electrical engineer that specializes in radios. Granted he will likely not be objective on the political side of the topic, but you need to digest some technical information to be taken seriously.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. There are plenty of engineers who agree that the FCC’s current distance separation requirements are archaic and far too stringent. And there are easy ways to adjust the spectrum allocation rules, short of the radical deregulation I ultimately want, that would increase the number of available FM slots. In the many markets where Channel 6 is unused, for example, it could be reallocated from VHF to FM, opening many new spaces in each of those communities.

  59. “There are plenty of engineers who agree that the FCC’s current distance separation requirements are archaic and far too stringent.”

    I expect that to be true, but the narrowing of channels and opening of new ones is caused by improvements in radio technology, not FCC regulations. Newer radio technology can put the same amount of information through a narrower bandwidth than older technology.

    The FCC, when you get away from the nipples-on-TV politics, is fairly hip to this. My only significant radio know-how is in the licensed MAS 400 and 900 Mhz bands. The FCC has played hands-off on spectra allocation here. Even so, there are many more open channels in this area than there were a few years ago. Twenty years ago a radio needed 25khz of bandwidth to send the same flow of information a modern radio can send over a 12.5, or even a 6.25 channel. The new channels openned up as the new technology was implemented. Very slowly.

    The FCC’s geeky side is reluctant to reallocate bandwidth. They don’t want to destroy anyone’s investments. They don’t want to force the development of technology or force the replacement of existing technology.

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