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Opportunity

My son and daughter are playing ice hockey this winter. Which means that every Saturday morning I have to get up very early and haul them off to the rink for practice and a game.  It is actually a lot of fun because I love watching them play.  Having played a certain version of pond hockey in my youth, it brings back good memories.

In any case, last week, after they finished their game and changed out of their hockey gear, my son wanted to watch the older kids play.  Thus, we sat down in the bleachers for a few minutes to watch the 12-15 year olds play against a traveling team.   Most hockey leagues are mixed, that is to say girls and boys playing on the same team.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the girls can be decerned not only by their pony tails but also the pink stake laces or pink hockey gloves.  I also noticed that the girls seem to play a more cerebral version of the game, which is a joy to watch.

Not soon after we sat down, a fast break play developed at mid ice.  It was truly a thing of beauty.  A player from the home team intercepted a pass from the opposing team and took off down the ice.  She was followed closely by another player from her own team.  As they crossed the opposing red line, the other team closed in.  I watched the lead player move fast toward the goal then fake out the goalie, lifting her stick oh so much as she made the shot.  The goalie was completely fooled and dove for the non-existing puck, which was left on the ice for the following player, who neatly scooped it into the goal under the goalie’s leg.  It was over in a flash of white jerseys and pink laces.  I thought to myself; these are kids are great!  You do not have to watch an NHL game to see good hockey and sometimes the so called “professional” sports is overrated anyway.

Which got me to thinking about LPFM.  How many budding journalists, play by play announcers, DJs and presenters are out there waiting for an opportunity to show their stuff?  An opportunity that they may never get because most commercial and many public radio stations are locked into an increasing automation loop.  Locally originated programming is constantly being cut and replaced by satellite syndicated formats and or out of market voice tracking.  It is truly a shame, because the strongest leg that terrestrial radio can stand on is localism.

LPFM can be that opportunity to return radio to its community of license.  It will not be easy, clearly the rules were written to prevent LPFM from ever competing with commercial or even public radio stations.  Restrictive power levels, odious interference rules, and limited fund raising capability will keep all but the true believers and perhaps ignorant souls from attempting for a license.  It will be hard, but not impossible and the true believers will make a go of it.  The October 15th, 2013 filing window will very likely be the last opportunity for community organizations to establish a local radio station.  After that, the remaining spectrum crumbs will be divided between translator aggregators to create ever larger networks of mostly redundant content.

Terrestrial radio may well go through an evolutionary change.  As more and more broadcasters are finding out, once a license is owned, there is a great deal of expense in operating a station.  Things like employees and office supplies can be cut, however; towers need to be maintained, transmitters and antennas need to be replaced periodically, electricity bills must be paid, etc.  The larger the station, the more operating costs are involved.  Another serious economic downturn like 2008 and the crazy train will be off the rails.  The inexpensive to operate, volunteer run local LPFM may indeed be the last radio station(s) standing.  I have heard many decry this type of station as “amateurish” or “not professional.”  Here is what can happen if you give a bunch of amateurs a free hand:

Good stuff.  Big picture stuff.

Local Radio, WDEV style

I found this article in Boston.com an interesting read:

Vermont’s unsung Hurricane Hero

Just as the flood waters were rising and people in Vermont were struggling to escape their homes with merely the clothing on their backs:

…when I checked the CBS Evening News moments later, I watched in astonishment as the head of the National Hurricane Center, with a sweep of his hand toward Vermont, declared that the danger had passed. The storm was over, and overblown. The national media, focused on New York City, missed where Irene hit hardest. Vermont simply didn’t exist.

This is why radio, localy owned, locally run radio is vitally important.  In the midst of disaster, WDEV opened it’s phone lines to the listeners and received information about flooded roads, people needing to be rescued, evacuation centers and a whole host of other things that kept the people informed and the potential death toll low.  All of this while the power was out, the cable system disabled, the internet unavailable and battery powered radios were people’s only information source.

I have driven by the WDEV AM site in Waterbury, VT several times.  It sits back on a hill side off of US Route 2/I-89 with three, what look like Miliken self supporting towers.  It signed on in 1931 and has been owned by the Squier family since 1935.  An FM signal was added in 1989.  Stations like this are one of the reasons I still work in this business.

NPR to change it’s name to NPISAIPD

National Public ?

National Public ?

NPISAIPD: National Public Internet Streaming Audio with I-Pod Downloads.  Lets face it, when the National Public Radio CEO, Vivian Schiller, basically talks about doing away with radio in the next 5 to 10 years, what are they going to call the network?  I suppose they could just say “National Public Media” or something like that.  With radio’s current trajectory, she might not be wrong.

Of course all of the NPR affiliates that kick large sums of money up the chain to the network may have something to say about all this.  After all, they are the one heavily invested in transmitters, towers, STL’s and all the other equipment, buildings and real estate required to transmit radio signals.  Not that I particularly dislike NPR, I think they have some fine programs, but much of it is syndicated and this is where radio is falling apart.  Non-local radio stations will perish.  Only stations that offer something different and not available through other sources will survive and thrive, voice tracking and syndication will become the kiss of death.

This also leaves a bit of a problem for NPR itself.  Much of its revenue (more than 50%) comes from network affiliation fees with member stations.  If they intend on short circuiting those stations cutting them out of the programming loop (Schiller says no but we’ll see), they are going to have to figure out how to make up that lost revenue.  If I were an NPR member station, I’d surely be looking at my network affiliation agreement and looking for ways to replace some of that content with something local.  That would be planning ahead.

Local Radio.

Local news, local music, local arts, local sports, local weather, local content.  I can find out what is going on in China, Israel, India or almost any place around the globe with a few key strokes on the computer.  I can’t find out what happened at the local town board meeting, what the county legislature is up to, or whether the school budget passed.  All of those things have immediate affects on my taxes and therefore my family finances.

Local radio.  Fill in the void left by dead newspapers.  That is what radio stations need to do, go local or perish.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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