Lee Rayburn, who recently left his position at The Mic 92.1 (our local, Clear Channel-run Air America affiliate), has found a way to get back on the "air" - through the internet. In his quest to find more progressive and/or local broadcasters a public forum for their work, he's helping to launch Roots Up Radio. The first daily show featured through the site will be Rayburn's, which will run from 10:00a.m. to 1:00p.m. and can be streamed live.
I've discussed my feelings and ideas about the possible future of radio already, and this news seems to lend credence to the idea of more progressive content (or more content in general) moving online. Whether or not this will be a totally good thing, I don't know. On its own, I think the shift to the internet has the potential to be a very democratic, equalizing force for news and opinion. But I worry that, because so many people still don't have reliable (or any) access to computers and the internet, the move could leave many people sitting in the dust.
Rumor has it that Clear Channel Communications, which owns thousands of radio stations around the nation--in some cases dominating whole markets--is getting ready to undertake a massive restructuring. Supposedly, this will entail $400 million in cut costs and a move away from any local content to a "national programming" model (something they've been criticized for in the past, and for good reason).
What does that mean for communities that rely on their local stations for emergency alerts, or even just substantive local content? A lot of them are likely just be plum out of luck. But that's what we get for allowing massive media consolidation. We don't have to stand for it, though. The internet might be the future of broadcast, but I'm not entirely willing to give up on regular radio, either. Stricter rules regarding the number of media outlets one corporation can own and operate in a specific market need to be reimplemented. Better funding for public radio, so it can continue to operate and even expand its reach. Things like that will help, if not totally solve, the current problems.
And while we're doing that, innovators like Lee will continue to build the next generation of internet-based information, so that when we finally get the majority up-to-date, they'll have access to a wide range of news and opinion both locally and internationally, free of the restrictive grasp of a single corporate interest.
That's the idea, anyway.