Who are the real radio pirates?

Since writing the blog entry “Digital broadcast TV & the spectrum famine,” I have been thinking about the way the power to communicate has been acquired through the years.  There is a great Ken Burns documentary titled “Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio” which takes viewers on a journey through the ruthless early days of radio broadcasting.  It makes the backstabbing surrounding the birth of Facebook shown in the movie “The Social Network” look like child’s play.

Today broadcasting, both TV and radio, has become nearly totally consolidated among a small group of national broadcasting conglomerates (save for NPR and the few community-based broadcast outfits), leaving few independent voices to be heard.  Even cable TV, once a bastion of alternative entertainment, is now an expensive dumping ground for Viacom, Universal and Disney.

Will the cycle repeat itself with the Internet?  Will the Web go from the Wild West that radio once was to the sterile, corporate mouthpiece that is broadcasting today?  Early radio had its off-shore pirates, dissidents who were eventually quashed.  Today it is the MP3 pirates who are in the corporate crosshairs.  But all of the legal wrangling over the years begs the question: Who are the real radio pirates?

The image attached is a design I cooked up while staying up nights worrying about such banalities.  Contact me if you would like to order a 24″ x 36″ poster print.