Friday, March 6, 2009

Time for Pirate Radio Again?

I read today that the Adam Carolla show has been cancled, and the reasons for it have me thinking that the time has come again for pirate radio.

Don't know who Carolla is? Don't know why his show has been cancled? Never heard of pirate radio? Wonding what the hell I'm talking about?

Well let me explain...

First, Carolla. He is a comedian and actor who has been on TV (The Man Show, Crank Yankers, Family Guy, Dancing With the Stars), in movies (The Hammer) and on the radio (Loveline, Adam Carolla Show) for many years.

Up and until this week, he had his own nationally syndicated radio show on LA-based station KLSX FM. It's been a long running, moring drive time comedy and talk show in which everyday life is disected and commented upon. With features like, "The Week in Rage," "Gay Walking," "Deaf Frat Guy," "Will Angie Eat It?" and many others...Carolla delivers his world weary, no-nonsense, whip smart brand of humor that speaks to me and a lot of other people as the show enjoyed good ratings. High brow entertainment? No. Make you laugh out loud live while you're driving to work? Most definately. But in any case, if you like it or not is not the point.

Next, his show has been cancled because the station is going through difficult economic times. Which, given all that's happening in the economy, is understandable. Advertisers are pulling back or pulling out. Bills (and talent) are increasingly hard to pay for stations. So, I get it on one level.

However, the station's choice of new format tells the bigger tale I think. The station is not folding. Oh no. Rather, it is moving to a pre-programmed, all-music format. That means no DJs or on-air personalities and an automated playlist. So yes, much cheaper to produce. This is a trend that started in radio and TV well before the current economic troubles as media companies (like most companies) seek maximum profit in as short a time as possible. And now of course, it's worse. Not to mention, when the economy turns around, I doubt these stations will give up their "cost efficient" models and go back to live, in-studio programming.

The upshot is a drastic reduction in original, live and free entertainment such as the Carolla show. Nope, just pre-programmed fodder. To get quality talk or music you like, increasingly you have to pay for it - usually through a satelite radio subscritpion. You can see the same thing happening on TV. Where the best shows? HBO and Showtime. Premium paid channels. And for every Damages or maybe No Reservations-type shows on basic cable there is a daily universe of horrible programs on regular cable...most of which is cheaper to produce than dramas, commedies or movies.

So anyway, this is a disturbing trend that is not good for society I think. I mean, we're less well off without access to free, live entertainment via the radio and TV. Seriously. Our culture is moving from a bold and creative one to a dumbed down, pre-programmed dull society...unless you pay extra. Not good.

And this trend brings me to the next item...

Pirate radio. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s there was a thing called pirate radio in the UK becasue in part radio programming in the nation was so horrible. It was a situation in which some people got together, scaped up some boradcasting equipment, got together some personalities and some records and a few boats. Yes, boats. They then stationed these boats in the English Channel out of British or any national jurisdiction and used them as a platform to broadcast music and shows that people actually wanted to hear rather than BBC-controlled broadcasts. I think there's a movie coming about about it sometime later this year actually.

Anyway, the Carolla situation got me thinking...maybe with Web technology and all being what it's time for some pirate radio 2009 style. That's the spirit we need.

I think we're in a weird period here where traditional radio is less and less interesting and more and more commercial, but while technologies like podcasting and streaming audio and video exist, they are not mainstream enough yet...or at least as easily accessed as regular radio or cable TV.

But none the less, the foundational elements of free, live and compelling entertainment are here today.  So, how to create original, live audio content that can get to the masses easily for free? What is today's equivalent of those pirate radio boats?

I think the Web is indeed the answer. I think that as radio and TV go down in quality and diversity, we'll see little by little, more and more people or groups creating their own content and posting it online as streaming broadcasts, video "webisodes," podcasts and more.  And, as technology continues to advance I think that online content will be easier to get in your car, home and work...more than from a PC or even cellphone. Online will be where the action is rather than the airwaves. 

Sure, you'll still be able to pay for good stuff on satellite radio or cable TV, but at least the creative juices will continue to flow for everyone thanks to the free and open Web.

Let me know if you disagree.


Anonymous said...

Watch online tv from, it has more channels which is really great.

Marc said...

Brad, thanks. I will check it out!

Braden said...


This is really awesome.Thanks for sharing.