The Future of Radio

In 2006, I wrote an article which was published the following year on (now defunct), entitled “To Pay For Free TV”. At the time, feedback I received indicated a majority of my readers didn’t see the prediction I asserted as likely to happen. I respond: You don’t have to be a prophet to see certain trends. Now, prepare yourselves to peek into the future past… or… whatever

To Pay For Free TV

When I was a child in Northeastern Ohio in the sixties and seventies, there was no such thing as cable television. We wrestled with “rabbit ears” antennae in our efforts to get what we considered a clear picture. There were approximately one channel from Akron and five from Cleveland. On a clear evening, we could even get some snowy reception of two stations from Youngstown! There were no VCRs, DVRs, or DVD players. If you missed your favorite show, you could watch the rerun in the Summer.

That all may seem ridiculous these days of digital high-definition cable or satellite, receiving hundreds of channels, some from all over the world! I now have digital cable, including a digital video recorder. I can record more than one program simultaneously while watching another. I receive about 200 channels of CRYSTAL CLEAR entertainment (well, mostly) twenty-four hours a day. Is there such a thing as the old off-the-air test patterns that would wake you in the middle of the night when you’d dozed watching Johnny Carson?

Now, my cable company gives me a special rate because I have bundled with the cable service digital phone and high-speed Internet. But it is still a hefty chunk of change, for television! But, we live in a day when people pay one or two dollars for a bottle of water. That is a phenomenon my father would not have understood. In fact, my father never had cable TV. In the last year of his life, 1998, I offered to get him cable for his room in the nursing home where he spent his last two months. He said he never saw the need for it. He still had his rabbit ears.

About five years ago, I went shopping for a new TV. There were many impressive models in the store, and I needed some specific information, so I approached a sales associate in this store that specialized in televisions. I asked him if the televisions were “antenna-ready” when he assured me that every TV was completely cable-ready.

“Antenna-ready?” He chortled. “What do you mean?”

“I need to hook-up an antenna.” I explained. He was still puzzled. “I don’t have cable.” I further elaborated.

He laughed so hard he began coughing. I did not buy a television from him. I did buy a new TV, and after spending hundreds of dollars for this fine piece of technology, I found that even the very best antenna, including a roof unit, gave me at best, poor audio and snowy picture on all of the local channels. There was nothing I could do to watch my new TV… except of course, pay for cable.

I became convinced that the local free television stations were decreasing their signal on the airwaves. It was logical. They could make more money selling their signal to cable or satellite services. Earlier this year (2006), I shared my theory with a friend who works for the cable company.

He not only confirmed my belief; but my friend also disclosed that there is a plan in effect that will completely remove any free television signals over the airwaves within two years. It is logical to assume that this plan is national and/or global.

So much of what was once free is now expensive. Its true because we let it be so.

published Oct 14, 2007

Of course we all know that the FCC actually made it against the law to broadcast over the free television airwaves in 2009, in effect causing everyone who wants to watch TV to either subscribe to cable or satellite services, or buy a converter box for an exceptionally-reduced program selection. I hate to say I told you so, but…

Now, I have observed a trend developing in radio. Let’s see what my crystal ball (figuratively speaking) has to say.

Commercial radio stations, at least in the Midwestern states, assign themselves a genre, i.e. country, R&B, pop hits, classic rock, etc. This sets parameters for what they will and will not play. That seems perfectly reasonable, right?

As I see the primary offender of what I’m going to discuss momentarily, a large-market Cleveland radio station with the chosen genre as “OLDIES”. I listen to a vast variety of music, and have long-enjoyed this station. However, as of late I have noticed, as well as several people with whom I’ve discussed this, the “OLDIES” radio station should have such a massive song-list, ranging from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, they should probably almost never repeat songs. However, if you listen to them everyday you will soon learn they have a playlist of about 75 songs. That irritates me. Other local commercial radio stations have an even smaller playlist. One even claims: “We play anything” (incidentally, owned by the same conglomerate as the oldies station). They claim also that listeners choose the selections. But, you never hear the requests on air, and they have a playlist of about 40 songs. I know I’m not alone in my agitation.

Now that I have finished my tirade, here comes my prediction:
In 5 years or less, free radio over the airwaves will no longer be available. Currently, there are fewer people who listen to radio in that way. An increasing number of people are paying for subscription services, Sirius for example. Most, and perhaps all radio stations are now available on the internet, or they listen on their mobile devices. This trend will continue until paying for radio will be the only way to listen. Creating your own playlists on websites that provide such services (with limitations for free accounts are always seeking upgrades for a fee. And if you think you are receiving these benefits for free, who is your internet service provider, and how can I contact them?

People said I was wrong back in ’07 about TV, and some may say the same about this prediction. I was right about TV; and I hope I am wrong about radio. But I don’t think so.

What do you think?


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I am 56 and live in Ravenna, OH USA. I am a writer . I am a father and grandfather. I have been a Christian since 1982. I am a musician and singer. I teach guitar (when I can get students). I am an avid reader and Bible student. Under the name Mike Mattice, I write Christian nonfiction. Also, I write web content for a web developer, articles and blogs on various topics.

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