Could Noncommercial Radio Be the Technology of the Future?

Bangladesh-Online-RadioNew Orleans   Recently I was visiting an amazing collection of fancy, high-tech radio studios that had largely been used to make commercials for local and national companies to run on the radio. According to the owner that business isn’t gone, but it’s drying up, partially because fewer dollars are being spent on either radio or television ads, but also because the technology has become more accessible and more companies and radio conglomerates are doing everything themselves. You buy an ad, and you get the production for free, essentially, or at least rolled into the price in a one-stop move, rather than jobbing it out. As I left he said something off-hand that caught my ear about radio being fading technology.

Of course that’s the buzz, since contemporary wisdom would be that the internet owns all of the future, but I wonder.

Amazon, which is a pretty future-forward company for both good and evil, has a new device called an Echo. Like the Kindle e-reader years ago, it’s not the most expensive tool out there priced a bit over $100. There’s a genie living in the Echo, whose name is Alexa, and you activate the device by talking to Alexa. You know the drill, “Alexa, what is the weather in Paris today?” “Alexa, what is the 7-day forecast in Toronto?” And, here’s the deal, Alexa answers you. No muss. No fuss. Amazon is one of these classically super secretive, super competitive techie companies, but when it comes to the Echo, they have encouraged other companies to develop applications for the device, which seamlessly connects the apps from your computer or whatever.

So what does this have to do with radio not being a horse-and-buggy technology but, just maybe, a hot ticket to the future? Well, accessing radio is still a million times easier to do from your car or old-fashioned radio set, than from your mobile phone or other devices. On the other hand with the Echo, all you have to say is, “Alexa, play KABF,” and, bam, there it is streaming in your house from a million miles away.

But, I’m not a salesman for Amazon, so my point is that this emerging revolution in voice recognition software and computer intelligence and capacity means that in a few years you can easily expect that we’ll be able to tell our phones, our computers, and any other devices, exactly what we want to hear, when we want to hear it, wherever we are, and there is nothing more ubiquitous than music on the radio. Certainly this is true for terrestrial stations that also stream on the internet, but it is also likely something that may become true for internet-only stations that could be accessed more easily on a voice-command.

Podcasts are not a growing audience according to surveys, but they are also more easily accessed in the same way by voice-command on a device like the Echo. Music still trumps because it more easily adapts as a background soundtrack to life, and noncommercial radio and internet stations will also have an advantage there because there will be less underwriting, talk, and commercial-like blah-blah. There will continue to be some business-model problems to resolve, but far from radio going the way of the manual typewriter, the new world coming of voice-command, immediate search and deliver internet-enabled music could provide radio with a spring in its step for quite a long time, everything being equal.

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Please enjoy Banta’s Three Feet From Gold.  Thanks to Kabf.

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Stopping Speech or Spam in Canada?

Web threatKiln     Everywhere we look the internet is under assault in one way or another.  Countries are banding together to regionalize the internet so that it is less worldwide and more immune from the NSA by creating a Euro-web or other nationalized webs in Iran, Russia, Turkey, and wherever.  Cable monopolies are handling the FCC like a red-haired stepchild and trying to block access and create variable speeds on the internet highway in the US.  Access is strained everywhere, and costs are rising.  In fact the very utility of the internet as a necessity for communication seems endangered, even as communications authorities in North America prepare to open the debate on classifying the internet formally as a public utility.

And then there’s the new Anti-Spam Legislation in Canada (CASL) which seems to be designed by either intent or incompetence to curtail almost any communication, including those of nonprofits like ACORN Canada and thousands of others.  Columnists are moaning about “regulatory overreach.”  Lawyers are having a huge payday, largely because no one seems to have a clue what is banned and what is allowed through so-called “implied consent” versus explicit consent versus a right to privacy.

Total consensus seems to exist on two fronts.  One is that the fines are crazy high ranging from a $1 million for individuals to $10 million for corporations.  The other universal agreement is that the anti-spam legislation will not stop 98.5% of the stuff coming into your in-box that in fact is spam from countless sources from Nigeria to wherever.

All of this is especially worrisome to nonprofits who have embraced e-communications as an inexpensive and effective way to keep their members informed, activate support, and even mobilize resources.  From the south side of North America where we still scream about “freedom of speech” night and day, I would have thought that communications by nonprofits and especially membership organizations were by definition NOT commercial electronic messages (CEMs as the constantly refer to them).  Unfortunately it’s not a clear call, as this legal advisory tries to spell out:

Yes, section 6 of CASL applies, but consent may be implied where CEMs are sent to members of an association, club or voluntary organization. When sending CEMs to your membership based on implied consent, you should ensure that you are only sending to members.
“Membership” means the status of having been accepted as a member of a club, association or voluntary organization in accordance with its membership requirements. You should also ensure that your organization is a club, association, or voluntary organization that is:
·         a non-profit organization,
·         organized and operated exclusively for social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure or recreation or for any purpose other than personal profit, and
·         no part of its income is payable for the personal benefit of any member, proprietor or shareholder unless that entity is an organization whose primary purpose is the promotion of amateur athletics in Canada.
The CEM must still respect the other two requirements – it must contain the identification information and unsubscribe mechanism.

 

So, ACORN Canada may be OK, but a lot of others, especially those nonprofits that are not membership-based, are going to have to spend money they don’t have to solve a problem that doesn’t exist while risking fines so onerous that they would be put out of business.  It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the internet has become the same kind of threat in Canada now as we read about in Iran, Turkey, and elsewhere, and that this is way more about curtailing speech, than stopping spam.

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