Thursday, 6 December 2007

Wrong business about radio

I was reading an italian online magazine about IT and i found a bizzarre comparison between radio and DRM. The article is called "Radio? it was born with DRM" I thought DRM, do you mean Digital Radio Mondiale? It can't be, it's a new standard. He meant the (in)famous Digital rights management. And what does it have to do with the radio?
The article links to a post of a blog called "Learning from the past: how DRM failed in Australia"
I found the site "The history of radio in Australia"

The Sealed Set Scheme

The radio manufacturing industry in Australia, led by George Fisk of AWA, lobbied the Government for the introduction of radio broadcasting in these early years. In May 1923 the Government finally called a conference of the main players. This led to the sealed set regulations where stations could be licensed to broadcast and then sell sets to 'listeners-in'. The receiving device would be set to receive only that station. 2FC in Sydney was the first to be licensed on 1st July 1923 but its opponent 2SB ( later to be called 2BL ) was first to go to air officially starting on 23rd November that year. 3AR and 3LO went to air on 26th January and 13th October 1924 in Melbourne.

However the sealed set scheme wasn't taken to by listeners, only 1400 people took out sealed set licences in the first 6 months of 1924. It was quite easy to avoid the licence fee by building your own set or modifying one you'd bought to receive more than one station.


He thought it was cool comparing that thing with DRM situation today. But do the 2 situations have something in common? One thing for sure: people weren't happy about that idea and aren't happy about DRM now. But a lof of things are very different. First, in 1923 we were at the very beginning of radio industry, therefore it's normal that nobody knew which direction the business could lead. The important difference is that in 1923 manufacturers were pushing for that businell model and now manufacturers aren't lobbying, the labels are.
Maybe the lesson learned was: if manufacturers are greedy about a new device, buyers will not buy. Today the lesson could be: if labels want to make money selling "locked" music, they won't cause people have an easy alternative such as downloading for free.
Instead of pointing out the failure of the first licensing scheme, why don't we think about the very revolutionary idea, i mean allowing private companies broadcasting? In Europe private companies couldn't broadcast legally for decades!


Jens said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jens said...

Hi there! It's Jens, the guy who posted the piece on blogcampaigning. Thanks for your interest.

I have to disagree with you about "that nobody knew in which direction the business could lead". The US, where the first regular commercial broadcast commenced on August 28 1922, from the beginning embraced radio as free enterprise with stations competing against each other for the good of the consumer. In England, as a product of a real distrust of the power of broadcasting to debase cultural standards, the BBC was taking shape. It commenced broadcasting in 1923. In short: There were to established models Australia could have adapted but didn't due to industry pressure and the apathy of the government.
Interesting point about the manufactures. On the other hand: Does it matter eventually who enforces DRM respectively who's behind the whole idea? It is still the same principle. As someone on BoingBoing commented: "it's the same sort of 'you can only use our content on our device, even though you're the one paying. oh and you can't change it to work better either'": The industry is crippling technology because it fears for its revenue, a strategy that is bound to fail.

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