Regular Citizens v. Corporate Citizens

My spies in Memphis tell me that there is no longer news radio on FM during the day.  Okay, I don’t actually have spies (though, wouldn’t it be cool if I did?).  Shannon told me*.

We were talking about this at the progressive thing (the Tennessee Alliance for Progressives All Get Pissed at Mack For Shooting off His Big Mouth meeting or TAPAGPAMFSOHBM, for short), how we own the airwaves, as citizens of the United States, they’re part of our collective** holdings.

And yet, not only don’t we have the ability to access and use the airwaves how we’d like, we can’t count on anyone to provide us with stuff we need–like the news–if it doesn’t fit their profit expectations.  And we can’t count on our public officials to act in our best interests and to protect our public property (see the AT&T debacle).

What options do we have, then?

America, I’m sorry to tell you this, but we must return to Pump Up the Volume.  We must make peace with being a nation of hackers and pirates.  There are worse things.  But, I think, we must stop playing nice with giant corporations that don’t play nice with us.

That is why, I must say, I am deeply tickled to discover that one can can convert one’s iPod into a pirate radio station.


*Memphibians, you can write here to complain.

**Let us all pause and wait for someone to go check on Exador, who is probably horrified at the idea that he owns anything in common with anyone except his wife.  Is he choking for real or just gasping in outrage?

10 thoughts on “Regular Citizens v. Corporate Citizens

  1. I was just talking about our long history (extending back to the 17th century) of smuggling, theft, rapine, vulgar language, drunkeness, lewdness, and profligacy…one of the things I like best about teaching colonial North American history is that it becomes clear to students just how the “rule of law” thing worked in the Empire as a class maintenance device wielded by elites (who not coincidentally both got to be the judges and the legislators) against non-elites.

    I don’t mind being a pirate as long as I don’t have to talk like one.

  2. Oh, and I’ll totally be a Memphis spy for you. I’m sure I’ll suck donkey balls at it, but I’d like to have the nameplate.

  3. I listen to podcasts of WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show, does that count?

    Our Houston NPR station switches to classical between rush hours. I never understood that. Do people really listen to classical on a radio? At home or in the car? Isn’t that what CDs are for? I guess it’s better than paid advertisements about skin cream and real estate development.

    Oh, to understand how others think… (Or maybe once you understand, you stop wanting to hear them talk… and hence classical music)

  4. I listen to classical music in the car, especially when the Kid is riding along. We have two NPR stations in our town — one devoted to news in the public interest, one to classical music — and there’s talk of opening up a third. The town was faced, some years ago, with the “choice” of booting either classical or news and the residents figured out that it was a bogus choice. If the public owns the airwaves, why can it only have one station per market?

  5. If the public owns the airwaves, why can it only have one station per market?

    Well, it could have more, if it were willing to pay people to work there.

    That’s honestly my biggest issue with the “who owns the air” thing. I agree that the radio frequencies themselves are held in common by all of us, here. The problem is that creating a radio station that actually uses those frequencies is a little stickier than that; you need a building, a broadcast tower, people to DJ, people to work the phones, and at least one person to wrangle the copyright and usage issues. Which requires money. Which means that either people donate to pay for it (hence NPR etc.), or corporations pay for it (*cough*ClearChannel*cough*), or super-rich people pay for it out of pocket*. (I don’t have any examples of this, but it could happen… if Bill Gates wanted a radio station, I’m sure he’d have it) Which means that the controlling interests set the agenda, and corporations don’t like competing with themselves (and radio is an industry particularly prone to geographic monopolies)… so they do one radio station in each flavor, and you get to suck it up or find something else to listen to.

    That’s the major way the radio differs from the internet; signal strength. To get your radio show heard, you need the hardware and the people power. To get your blog or feed or podcast heard, you just need the labor**. You trade initial filtering and access (there are only a certain number of radio stations out there that you can hear at any given time/place, and it’s generally either intelligible or not, but more people have access to radios than computers) for ease of transmission and control.

    * Alternatively, with some creative grant writing or really creative lobbying/legislating, it could be paid for through taxes or other similarly mostly-public monies. But I’m not entirely sure what that would wind up looking like.

    ** Yes, there are moderate tech barriers, and there’s the whole digital divide issue. But it’s still a whole lot easier to buy a computer and internet access and an iMic than it is to buy and maintain a broadcasting tower of any strength.

  6. They didn’t even tell us that they were going to yank our news off! There was just static one day, and I had to ask the memphis livejournal what was going on!

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