Music, the greatest good that mortals know, And all of heaven we have below.
The Internet is one of the most significant technological developments in our lifetime, and its impact affects many established technologies and media. Radio is one of the established media revolutionized by the Internet because of the expanding multi-media capabilities, leading the way to a more focused medium when compared to traditional terrestrial radio broadcasting. Radio transmissions over the Internet (Web Radio) offers the opportunity to provide content focused to a “niche” audience, while providing an opportunity for broader operator participation than terrestrial radio.
Web Radio is an Information Technology that offers a viable alternative to commercial radio, which has become increasingly consolidated since the Passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Commercial radio consolidation into ten major owners has resulted in less localism, diversity, and competition in radio. Web Radio can restore these elements to the radio industry, assuming policies implemented support the goals of localism, diversity, competition, and interaction.
Web Radio is at a critical stage in its development as an Internet supported information technology. Web Radio content providers are facing several significant issues in the economic and regulatory components of their businesses. Web Radio represents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and producers to establish viable conduits for the content that they are able to create. It is critical that policies concerning the technical, legal, and operational issues be determined in a way that does not cripple the development of the industry.
This thesis provides a blueprint for individuals or organizations that are new to the technology of Web Radio, or would like to review the current state of affairs in the technical and legal components of webcasting. This “Web Radio Blueprint” will assist individuals or organizations with the implementation of webcasting as a way to communicate their music or message to an interested listener. It provides a blueprint for an organization attempting to become an Internet Broadcaster, or add an Internet Broadcasting function to an e-commerce site, by presenting three key areas that should be considered in the organization’s plan. These areas include infrastructure technologies used in webcasting, legal obstacles imposed by the 1998 “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” and other rulings, and operational concerns that an e-commerce organization should address.
A stated goal of the 1996 Telecommunications Act was “fostering innovation and competition in radio …. we also seek to promote diversity in programming and diversity in viewpoints …. ”according to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. However, an extensive report issued by the Future of Music Coalition (FMC) on 18 November 2002 concluded that deregulation has not achieved these goals, and in fact has had the opposite effect on terrestrial radio. The report states that:
• A small number of companies control the news Americans hear on the radio
• Format consolidation leads to fewer gatekeepers, with a small number of companies controlling what music is played, developing shorter playlists that reduce opportunities for musicians to get radio airplay and for citizens to enjoy diversity in programming.
• A “twin bottleneck” has emerged, as the ten parent companies dominating radio interact with five major recording companies (these comprise the RIAA, which will be discussed in detail in the context of Web Radio legal issues) reducing access for independent musicians and reducing program diversity for listeners.
The complete FMC report can be downloaded from:
>> Indicates inserted comments to the original 2004 thesis<<
>> While this link will still take you to the FMC web site today (08 November 2011), it does not link directly to the report. This new link takes you to a report updated to 2006.<<
<< End of inserted comments
The opportunity exists for Web Radio to meet the goals of diversity in programming and viewpoints that post-consolidation terrestrial radio has not. No longer in an embryonic or infant stage, Web Radio has evolved steadily over the last 5-6 years and currently offers more than 25,000 radio operations on the web. However, it is still in an early stage of development as technical parameters such as the bandwidth of the listener’s connection to the Internet, the streaming ability of the servers, the variety of competing formats, and legal issues concerning royalty payments and copyrights have constrained the adoption of Web Radio by Internet users.
Concern over the royalty payments for the use of copyrighted music is a significant hurdle, and forced many existing stations to shut down their streams after copyright rulings over the last few years. Chapter Three examines a new agreement developed during the writing of this thesis, which included significant parties from all sides of the issues.
In spite of all the issues surrounding web radio, it remains a relatively painless process to initiate a broadcast, as we shall see, and continues to offer many advantages to an organization or an individual seeking to reach a greater audience for their particular message. Such an organization might be a faith-based organization, such as the Christian Music Ministry Godsound, www.godsound.com; a public radio station such as www.wxpn.com; or an individual with a particular musical interest and a desire to make that available to a wider public. An example of this application is Beatles-A-Rama available at http://www.live365.com/stations/184315, (featured in an article describing the process of setting up a station at http://radio.about.com/library/weekly/aa080403a.htm). Organizations of this type may have a non-profit classification, but nonetheless are able to generate revenue to cover operating expenses by selling sponsorships and offering subscriptions, operating very much as a commercial operation would.
>> The links above were active in 2004, but may not be today, I have not checked each one. www.godsound.com was intended to be a Christian music web radio project being developed by others at RIT during the time I was writing the thesis. The current link seems to go to only a music magazine. <<
Webcasting also offers commercial opportunities ranging from large commercial operations to small commercial operators that seek to operate a web radio station as a small for-profit business. Many of these types of stations are members of the Webcaster Alliance and can be located through www.webcasteralliance.com; a sample of this type of member station may be found at http://www.houndogradio.com/.
Another category of commercial broadcaster is the traditional terrestrial broadcaster (AM or FM broadcaster) that seeks to extend listenership by simulcasting their free to air signals over the Internet: or offering access to archived versions of content previously aired. While this would seem a natural extension for a terrestrial broadcaster, as we will see, there are many conflicting aspects of the process that force broadcasters to abandon an on-air stream until these issues are resolved.
Therefore, although the precedence is established and thousands of stations are operating at this time, a confusing array of technical, legal, and operational issues confront the start-up organization seeking to begin Webcasting. Given the state of affairs within the terrestrial radio marketplace, careful consideration of policies that develop Web Radio into a diverse universe of both large and small webcasters is critical. Policies that allow webcasters offering mainstream, commercial, and independent narrowcast programming to thrive will provide economic benefits, cultural diversity, and lots of great music, benefiting the citizens and economy of the USA and other countries
This thesis addresses the issues inherent in three basic categories.
>> end of this post, 3 categories to follow<<