Monday, December 29, 2008

The death of broadcast radio

Jon Landau famously wrote in 1974 "I have seen rock and roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." This, of course, was before Bruce Springsteen became famous outside New Jersey and the household name that he is today.

While this statement might have been a bit overdone, there's no doubt that Mr. Landau was prescient in predicting Bruce Springsteen's later impact on rock and roll. This statement was written by Mr. Landau after having seen Mr. Springsteen and the E-Street Band perform in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The performance must have been a revelation for Mr. Landau - a moment when he realized nothing would be the same, ever again, for rock and roll.

Well, I too have had my moment of revelation, when I realized that nothing would be the same, ever again. What it that, you ask, that will never be the same, ever again? Why, broadcast radio, of course.

It's becoming increasingly clear, at least to me, that broadcast radio will soon be dead, both in the sense of broadcasting to reach a wide audience and broadcasting over the AM and FM bands of the radio spectrum. I doubt that I'm the first to reach this conclusion. But it was my moment of revelation, and I insist on enjoying it while I can.

The fact that broadcasting to reach a wide radio audience will soon be dead can be seen from radio's sister medium, television. The increasing number of specialty channels on television and the trend towards program distribution over the internet signals the demise of television broadcasting. Television viewers now have the choice of specialty channels to meet every interest, with additional channels being added each year. If you doubt this, take a look at your local cable provider's lineup or what's available on the internet.

Television broadcasting, in the sense of the television signal being broadcast over the air, has long been replaced by cable television except among those die-hards who refuse to pay for cable and still have an antenna on top of their house, or rabbit ears on their TV. I expect cable will soon become the primary medium for internet access and television viewing, rather than simply for program distribution.

"Broadcast radio is still alive and kicking", you might tell me in response. Yes, but just give it time. I expect broadcast radio over the FM band to rapidly diminish in the next few years, just as AM radio gave way to FM radio. What will cause the death of broadcast radio? Internet radio. Yes, my moment of revelation came this past Christmas when I received my latest toy as a present, an internet radio.

If you've been reading this blog up until this point, you will know how enthusiastic I have been about my Sirius satellite radio. Well, I'm sorry to say, internet radio just blows satellite radio away. While my Sirius satellite radio gives me Symphony Hall, classical music 24/7, with internet radio I now have the choice of classical music from Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy - well, you get the picture. Radio from all over the world. All that you need is an 802.11b or 802.11g wireless router, an internet connection and an internet radio and you're off, never to listen to broadcast radio again.

While I don't believe internet radio is available for your vehicle yet, there have been several announcements of internet-enabled vehicles and WiMax networks to distribute the content. Just give it time.

What does this mean for CBC Radio Two? Well, the tremendous irony in all of this is that it was the CBC's decision to decimate classical programming on Radio Two that caused me to investigate satellite radio and internet radio in the first place and to become an adopter - a mid-to-late adopter in the case of satellite radio, an early adopter in the case of internet radio. Talk about driving your customer base into the arms of your competitor!

Yes, CBC Radio has hastened its own demise. Sorry, CBC Radio, but there it is.

No comments: