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There is Enough Content: South Florida's Radio Markets Need Elected Program Directors

Evan Rowe is a local songwriter and performer best

known as Catalonia, a professor of political science and history at

Broward

College, and a small-d democratic strategist with no party affiliation.

Each

week, we surrender our space for his thoughts on the music industry and

how

they relate to our region. This week, questioning corporate control of

radio, round two.

In my last piece I laid out a general framework and case for

democratizing the airwaves.  In short,

there is an oversupply of content, and too narrow an outlet to

distribute it,

and new online communications technologies that will allow democratic

processes

to grow and flourish in a participatory way.

Since it is impossible for the music listening audience to hear

all good

music that is produced in one year -- let alone the built up congestion of

good

content created over decades since the invention of recorded music, it

makes

sense to use the polity to limit the audience's exposure in a way that

is

sensible for the most important living stake holders in the music

economy:  The artists and the audience. All programmatic incentives and benefits

should revolve around these two groups.

The middlemen, be they coordinators, DJs, programmers, and

elected system, etc. should be third place.

They will be there, they will be needed, but they are not to be

the

center of the new system.

I should say in advance warning, that there will be opposition

to this plan and it will come from the traditional sources in our

society: The right wing, anti-democratic business

institutions which privately own and control the vast majority of

economic space in our country, along with their pro business factional

and

cultural allies and grass roots activists.

From the food supply, to media, from clothing to investment

houses, from

the drug trade to banks, from hedge funds to hedge clippers, the vast

majority

of the economic space in which we lead our lives is not even close to

being

controlled by big government, it is controlled by institutions that are

completely unbeholden to the general population and managed by the types

of

people that Franklin Roosevelt referred to as "economic royalists".

This tiny elite (in percentage terms -- in real

terms the number is three million people) and their foot soldiers will fight

the democratization

of the airwaves simply because of their opposition to democratic

institutions

in general.  If you trust your peers,

and we have the online capacity to accomplish the transition -- then what

other

possible reasons can there be to oppose the plan?

But the question of incentives is important and should be

addressed.  So is the question of how to

develop a system that pushes the quality content up to the top of each

sphere

(local, regional, national, and international). And by quality we are talking about popular consumer

preferences -- not "scene"

preferences, though I do believe there needs to be a smaller working

space for

the musical craft that may not be currently in style -- but may become so

in the future.

The basic framework I am proposing (and since this is an

early sketch -- principles are more important than details here) is to have two

sections of the elected spectrum. The

first section is the direct election of program directors for single

year

terms. The program director will assemble

a small staff, bring on DJs, and take their own approach to what type of

content should be played. The second

section of the spectrum will be more direct involvement in content by

the music

consumer and this can be the direct election of DJs for 3 hour slots

elected

monthly in online voting. The

organization of which DJ goes to which part of the spectrum for which

time slot

are details we don't need to cover. 

The

core idea is that part of the spectrum will be the faster, more

impulsive part

of the system where the audience is directly closer to the content they

are

pushing to the top, and that the other part of the spectrum, the program

director slot can afford to be more patient, having a full year to win

over the

audience with content that may initially be too cutting edge for

audience

tastes.

Within this initial two-prong framework, we have the local,

regional, national, and international mandate.

Assuming my initial percentages, 25 percent of what is being played by any part

of the spectrum must be local. This

means that there is a chance that there will be uncertainty and audience

confusion in the early part of the experiment, but once things get

rolling and

the money to reinvest in recording production rolls into the local acts,

then

the quality will become better -- and better organized, and provide a real

(bottom up) economic stimulus to boot.  In

part three of the series, I will discuss why digital economy does not mesh

with

markets, what it means to the music scene, and what can be done to

remedy the

situation.

-- Evan Rowe


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