Have We Been Here Before?

19As the clock was approaching midnight and people were anxiously waiting to ring in the New Year, many others were just anxious over the future of their streaming radio stations. Live365 put out a press release titled “Live365, Internet Streaming Leader, Downsizes and Looks to New Options in 2016.”

What Live365 said was that due to the new Copyright Royalty Board rates for 2016-2020 its small to mid-size Internet broadcasters would now be faced with “prohibitively expensive” fees for legally streaming copyrighted musical content. Live365 also said that it was losing the support of its investors as well, forcing it to significantly reduce staff. Live365’s Director of Broadcasting, Dean Kattari, said “The true value of Live365 lies in its diversity of content – it’s a sanctuary where you can hear music and other content that is so unlike the template broadcasting that is heard on most terrestrial radio. It would be a great loss for this to all go away.”

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. –Mark Twain

 I’m sure that Hugo Gernsback and Hiram Percy Maxim could empathize with the plight of Live365. Back before big business and government created the broadcast system we use today, amateur radio operators controlled the airwaves. It was an open medium allowing individual access, little centralized control, not all that different than the way the Internet began.

Early amateur radio operators had this vision for radio and for more than a decade this was the dominant model for the medium. What ended this form of radio was big business and government coming together and crafting a highly centralized, one-way, restricted-access system that became the broadcasting we know today.

The past actually happened. History is what someone took the time to write down.–A. Whiteney Brown

 Early radio was two-way communication. Learned men were invited to give speeches on important issues of the day. People shared information about their community, as well as reported news, sports and weather. The first disc jockeys were amateur radio operators that played records.

The American Radio Relay League (www.arrl.org) published an editorial in its magazine QST in 1921: “Do you realize that our radio provides about the only way by which an individual can communicate intelligence to another beyond the sound of his own voice without paying tribute to a government or a commercial interest?” Hugo and Hiram were making the case for airwaves that belonged to the public and would be minimally controlled, available to every citizen and allow for the two-way exchange of ideas and communication. Good behavior would be enforced by the community of broadcasters using the medium. This is virtually the same way the Internet was conceived by its innovators.

When businessmen saw a commercial, money-making opportunity in radio, things changed.

I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future. –Theodore Roosevelt

 Amateur radio would end the way it had been operating in 1922 when big business and the American government implemented new regulations for radio broadcasting that would benefit the business broadcaster. Among the changes were prohibiting amateur radio operators from broadcasting music, talk, weather, news or sports; the very things amateurs pioneered for over a decade of operation.

It is history that teaches us to hope. –Robert E. Lee

 I never knew the radio of Hugo and Hiram. I also missed the “Golden Age” of radio before the introduction of television. I was a child of the transistor, disc jockey, Top 40 era of radio. To me (and many others of my generation) this was radio’s magic moment.

As we approach 2020 and radio’s 100th birthday, the birthday we are celebrating is that of big business radio and not the radio of Hugo Gernsback and Hiram Percy Maxim. I’m sure they would say there’s nothing to celebrate, only morn.

But I would respectfully disagree.

I love the radio I grew up with. I wish it had never changed. But change is life’s only constant.

My broadcast students are in love with the radio they are learning, will soon take over operating, and make their own. They’re also using all the digital tools available to create it.

If radio is to prosper and continue to play a role in the society of tomorrow, it’s important that the next generation be given a chance to innovate the medium.

Understanding the past is an important part of media mentoring the broadcasters of tomorrow.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Have We Been Here Before?

  1. joe bilotta

    Good History Lesson…Yes, we can learn from our past as we look to the future….A defining ‘change’ is the ‘new normal’ of consolidated ownership. The medium is dominated by a cadre of publicly held companies that restrict entrepreneurialism by homogonized protocols in sales, marketing, programming accounting etc. The digital application(s) going-forward will find their own market and Radio will survive….I just wonder where the adventurous new thinkers will be?

    Liked by 1 person

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