aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Podcasting Broadcasting & RCA-casting
When I worked in Public Access Television I believed that it could be a return to the conception of broadcasting that held sway at its birth: television as an educational instrument; television as a way to foster a more responsive government; television as a tool for the ordinary citizen; and television as a means to a more democratic culture.
Sterne says he doesn’t like the term podcasting and argues that it should rightfully be called broadcasting, while what we have come to believe is broadcasting should be called RCA Casting because it is a centrally controlled corporate model (founded and propounded by RCA) that explicitly excludes anyone who was not professional. Like podcasting today…
In the early days of radio it was dominated by amateurs and… hobbyists and it was somewhat chaotic. People did what they wanted… There were different names for radio in this early period - wireless telephony, wireless telegraphy, radio telephony and so on and so forth. But between about 1922 and 1934 RCA’s model of broadcasting gets defined as the natural model for radio… Receiving only sets...became the dominant form of radio that people acquired purchased and encountered in their every day lives. The other thing is that amateur broadcasters were edged out by stations that had larger transmitters and by regulators that gave most of the spectrum to professional broadcasters. So in other words, whereas in 1925, professional broadcasters might shut down in a city on Tuesday night for amateur night… by 1929 that didn’t happen anymore.
Listen to the talk, very interesting. His appears to be a message of cautious optimism for the future of citizen produced media via whatever name podcasting will eventually come to be known as. He’s confident it won’t be podcasting:
Can the name be changed? Yes and it probably will be if history is any indication. Podcasting is a year old. Let’s talk about other media techniques when they were a year old… Radio didn’t become radio until the 1920s, actually quite late. People called it wireless for some time. So will it stay podcasting, no, not necessarily. And one of the reasons it’s important for me to come to a podcasting conference and call it broadcasting is maybe some podcasters will go back and start calling it broadcasting. And say all we’re doing is broadcasting on the Internet and we have the same rights and should have the same legitimacy as the people who previously held the monopoly on the term.
Community TV: The canary in the coalmine?
The DMCA is going from bad to worse (a draft of the bill is now available). Congress is about to give away the Internet by abolishing net neutrality. And I have a special personal disappointment with the news, via Jeff Chester’s piece in The Nation, that Congress is poised to kill community TV:
Congress is about to strike a blow that would eliminate the last remaining policy insuring local oversight of communications companies. A GOP-led effort on behalf of the telephone lobby (principally Verizon and AT&T), also backed by many Democrats, is about to toss in the dustbin the longstanding policy enabling cities or counties to negotiate a “franchise” agreement with companies that provide cable TV service. A key House committee is poised to pass legislation that would strip away the rights of communities to have any say in how phone and cable networks serve them in the digital era. [...]
Little has been written in the mainstream press about what the potential loss of cable franchising will mean. More than thirty years ago in The Nation, Ralph Lee Smith wrote the visionary “The Wired Nation.” Even back then, activists recognized cable TV’s ability to serve as a “community communications” system (they even used the word “broadband” back then). Cable was supposed to be an alternative to mainstream commercial television. There would be many local channels, addressing the needs of education, civic participation, free speech and the arts. Cable systems and programming channels would be owned and operated by people of color, potentially ameliorating what was--and still is--a communications industry dominated by white males and largely programmed to their interests. The cable lobby adopted much of this rhetoric as companies vied to secure lucrative deals with cities. We will be your “community medium,” they declared, promising to deliver PEG and an endless array of local services. But once these giants, whose successors today include companies such as Time Warner and Comcast, won the franchise, they used their political power--at City Hall and in Washington, DC--to break most of their promises. The cable lobby assembled a powerful political machine, including key Democratic leaders, and was able to win national legislation in 1984 that largely freed them to operate as national programming services.
I left Public Access Television as a career in 1999. I watch podcasting and vlogging develop today through the lense of that experience. I see precisely the dynamic - the energy, the creativity, the hope and optimism, the promise and potential - that I saw in the early 80s as I began my career in community media.
I see, too, that the “powerful political machine” built by the telecom giants is stronger than ever, and operating in a DC environment even more susceptible to its influence. I like to think that because the technology has gotten cheaper and easier to use, and because the architecture of the internet (as it stands today), there’s some hope that this technology of choice may survive and thrive.
It’s time for progressives to take a stand against the broadband banditry of Congress and the cable-telecom cartel. Any Internet-era telecommunications legislation should insure local control, provide low-income Americans with residential Internet service, protect online privacy, and keep the Internet open and free from the control of big cable and phone companies. Such legislation should also help develop a noncommercial digital commons designed to promote civil society (as opposed to the madcap commercialism that will run rampant on the broadband networks). In that way, we can honor the vision--and the political work--of activists in decades past who strove for a democratically run “community communications” system.
I certainly agree. I’m just not seeing how we get from here to there. The death of Community Television looks to me to be an inevitability. And hardly a good omen.
Ambiguously Gay Duo to host SNL
[O]n April 29 Saturday Night Live is having an all-animation evening. Titled “The Best of Saturday TV Funhouse Cartoons,” the episode is a collection of “Saturday TV Funhouse” cartoons by Robert Smigel, many of which were produced in collaboration with Sedelmaier. With reprises of “The X-Presidents,” “Fun with Real Audio,” “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” (who will be hosting the show) and hopefully-oh please, oh please-the brilliant “Saddam & Osama,” this promises to be the funniest SNL in years.
Drip, drip, drip
I just bought a new showerhead for the new shower in the new bathroom. Am I a flagrant water waster?
If there are 650 gallons of water in a pound of cheddar cheese, is it futile to make small gestures like turning off the water when you brush your teeth in the name of saving it?
It helps with water bills, so it makes sense in that way. And it may make sense with local water resources, which may be constrained, just within a small town, or even a community.
At the global scale, no, it doesn’t make much difference. Most of the water that each one of us uses comes from the water used to irrigate the crops that we consume. That’s principally food, but not only. Cotton for our clothing is a major user of water around the world.
We don’t really know as we pick up the food from the store whether our purchases are responsible for making some local crisis elsewhere worse, but it is often the case. Many countries are facing serious water shortages; often their rivers are running dry, or their water tables falling very fast, and in many cases much of that water is being exported by those countries in the form of goods. Yet, when we pay market price for those goods, that price doesn’t usually include any estimate of the cost to the water resources. We still think of water as an unlimited resource rather like the air we breathe.
That from Fred Pearce in Salon calling for a Blue Revolution. Maybe I’ll return the showerhead.
[W]ith Lake Nasser behind the Aswan High Dam in Egypt—one of the world’s kind of totemic dams—that the evaporation from the reservoir behind that dam annually amounts to, in metric, 15 cubic kilometers of water [3.6 cubic miles], if you can imagine a vast amount like that.
That is roughly the amount of water that is used by the whole of the United Kingdom in a year. In other words, you could fill every tap, meet every water demand in the U.K., a country of more than 50 million people, simply by the water that evaporates from the surface behind the Aswan Dam.
Pearce says, “conserving water in one location can mean just donating it to someone else to squander.” Maybe I’ll keep my showerhead.