Sunday, April 04, 2021

Sometimes old technology is the best solution to the problem

This is an interesting use of old technology to circumvent new technology restrictions by an oppressive government: the military in Myanmar. In this case, when the government shut down all internet, the people turned to Pirate Radio.

These are the messages of a psy-ops campaign called Operation Hanoi Hannah, one of many digital fronts opening against the military in Myanmar, whose creators said would be broadcast over pirate radio in hope of persuading soldiers and police to side with the people – and to not rely on the internet, which the authorities ordered shut down yesterday.

For the full story Click Here.

For an actual pirate radio guy in the US's blog click here.

For a pirate radio community on reddit, click here.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A great argument for having a public service broadcast company like the BBC in the US

On Public Service Broadcasting:

Public service broadcasting.

The BBCs remit is to serve the public. There have been several commissions over the years to define what "public service broadcasting" actually means. The most recent one reiterated some of the old definitions but added that part of it was to serve the needs of people who are not normally served content. This is why they show niche content. It's their purpose.

(If you want to know more about the benefits of public service broadcasting keep reading. It's all half remembered knowledge so sorry if I fuck anything up.)

This was part of the reason Channel 4 was created. The goal was that small cultures and subcultures within the UK would be served. Afro-Caribbean, Irish, Asian, Grime, Garage etc. That's why Father Ted (Irish) The Big Narstie Show (grime) The Kumars at no. 42 (Asian) and other shows were commissioned.

And guess what happened? They were successful! The prevailing wisdom was that you aim everything at the largest possible market. And more specifically with commercial television the richest, youngest market. But these shows could be huge.

What happened was they would capture a huge portion of these target markets and that was enough people to drive the other markets that the show wasn't aimed at to embrace it. 2 Irish lads in the office talking about how funny Fr. Ted is and soon enough it's one of the biggest shows in the country.

So what happened next? Commercial channels noticed. Moone Boy (irish) The Kumars(asian) on sky and other commercial channels and other shows tried to capture that success for monetary gain. Not to mention stuff that wasn't designed for minorities necessarily like natural history programmes and good quality current affairs content. Sky and Netflix now do great natural history series. It never would have made financial sense until Planet Earth was one of the most successful BBC series ever.

A good public service broadcasting system raised the quality of ALL broadcasting. It's a quantifiable and repeatable phenomenon. You could argue that the success of stuff like Black Panther and other content that would never have been made a few years previously has shown this phenomenon can absolutely work in America too.

I'm Irish, we have a relatively shitty public service broadcasting system compared to the UK but it has still had an unbelievable impact on our general broadcasting landscape.

I see so many people asking how you solve the huge issues in US media and I think the answer is a robust, independent and well funded public broadcasting service.

A rising tide raises all ships. One of the purposes of the government funding stuff is to try to show private enterprise that these things can be worthwhile. And even without the private sector you get amazing results from a service that is meant to serve the people. Even if only a few thousand people watch something the service has been successful and every so often the service can show commercial entities how to do it properly.

Anyways rant over. Sorry but believe it or not I'm quite passionate about public service broadcasting. PBS should be heavily funded by the US government and possibly exclusively. Of course the issue is independence. Even the mighty BBC is feeling the pinch of government interference (please fight this people of the UK). But with some safeguards you can prevent this from happening.

-Hyippy An Irish Reddit user

As an aside for those of you who say PBS is the same. No, it's not. It's a private corporation. It's funded almost entirely by donations that work a lot like advertising in the for profit world, which means big donors get to help decide what the programming is. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of PBS.

But it's biased by the same issues for profit broadcasting and media is.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

US and allies to build 'China-free' tech supply chain- We're heading into a very different phase of world history

US and allies to build 'China-free' tech supply chain

And so it begins.

You're watching the beginning of the splitting of the world into two major power centers that aren't that different than what we had before the 1990's with 'communist' Russia, China and their vassal states.

The difference is that it's fascism that's in charge now. China may call itself communist, but it operates just like Stalin's fascist-like extreme version of communism.

And Russia, well, Putin IS Stalin all over again. He's running a mafia state (i.e. fascist state) and has been for over a decade.

The only difference between Hitler's fascist/Nazi Germany and todays fascist states is they're better at handling information in general and the media in particular both inside and outside of their respective spheres of influence. Especially China.

This is going to completely disrupt commerce, politics, education and pretty much everything that's been developed the last 30 years or so that's global in nature. Late stage capitalism is showing it's cracks more and more.

It's also going to fuel a re-charging of the military industrial complex like we haven't seen in decades.

All that's old is new again.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Funding Local News

I recently wrote an email to a few colleagues (one an executive at Google, one an executive at McClatchy Newspapers and one to a fellow I've worked on and off with in various media entities over the years). This post is based on that email.

Just for fun, I worked out a 'thing' that's been running through my head for a few months now. Particularly the last few weeks with the insanity happening with our government.

It's also obvious that the consolidation of the existing private news infrastructure is more than a little problematic. It's become dangerous to our democracy. The far left publication Jacobin actually did a pretty well reasoned and not too far left in it's analysis of the situation in an article published this week titled "Capitalist Finance Is Incompatible With A Free Press'. 

With the Chicago Tribune's publishing company on the verge of being swallowed up by the hedge fund industry, capitalism’s ongoing destruction of the free press through downsizing and asset-stripping has become the number one threat to American democracy.

I believe one of the base issues with the threats to our democracy we see now is a lack of common understanding of what's happening, particularly at a local level, and one of the primary reasons for this is a lack of local news that provides local news, opinion, commentary and investigative reporting as well as connecting local businesses with local consumers.

But you know all this. My guess is you've already had these thoughts and, like I just did, run some numbers.

When I look at what it would take to create a national network of local news entities, it's not cheap, but, it's not THAT expensive either. Not in todays world where Airb-n-b hit's a $100B valuation on day one.

I came up with a cost of around $6.7B a year using a really simple model (simple can be good: occams razor solutions tend to work best).

With that money you could put a local virtual newsroom (no office, all online), like the compass experiment, with real staff in each town, focused on that town and building trust in the system in that town.

I'll bet that either a private consortium of billionaires with a social conscience, large companies with a guilt complex and government, if we positioned it as a key to how you fix our broken social and political system and was essential to saving our democracy (because it damn well is), could put together that kind of money reasonably easily. Either through commitments they make to support it, or funding an endowment ($115B earning 6% would throw off that much each year).

There's about $20 trillion (with a T) sitting, uninvested, right now. $42 trillion in the stock market. All just in the US.

Harvard and Yale, between them, have over $70B in endowment funds, for instance. That's just two institutions.

I know R-------'s doing a lot along these lines with Google, but, I'm not sure just one company can do something like this and have it be trusted by people. Not in todays 'Big Tech is scary' world. I also think the Compass Experiment* is thinking along these lines, but, I don't think a hedge fund owner with it's tendency toward predatory capitalism will have much interest (or capacity) either.

Alternatively, I also think you could fund it by creating a national tax of some sort that we all paid into. It would work out to about $3.58 a month per US worker in the country ($43 a year), assuming about 156M working people (2018 number). That's about what we each pay now for our local public libraries (usually via a tax as well; sales tax in our town. Property tax in many others).

Anyway, I know it's a little nuts. I just wanted to get my thoughts down and see if it even made sense to anyone else. Feel free to ignore this if you think it's too out there.

Note: everyone did respond and the conversation is ongoing.

I also, still, think the idea of creating a Library Information District that includes a newsroom built into the new 21st century Public Library, is more than a little viable. 

*Shortly after writing this to them, the Compass Experiment (a collaboration between McClatchy and Google) was disbanded. Apparently, the new hedge fund owners of McClatchy don't like Google and killed off the partnership.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Stepping down at Longmont Public Media


I'm the co-founder and have been the general manager at Longmont Public Media for the last year and, even though we had some bumps at the beginning, have deeply enjoyed the experience. 

It was a hell of a year to try and launch a new public access TV and Media makerspace (a global pandemic and all), but, we got it started up, we've got it running with a much better and more flexible technical infrastructure with far more reach (live web streaming, Facebook, YouTube and a ROKU app for smart TV's) and much more community content than was available before. Most importantly though is we have the basics required for long term success in place.

Why leave now? Because, this world of day to day media creation belongs to the next generation, not an old guy like me, so I'm handing off to my co-founder, Sergio Angeles. He'll be taking on the GM role as of Jan 1st, 2021.

He'll do great. Here's a link to the annoucement.

I'm going to call myself retired for awhile. I just had my 63rd birthday and taking some actual time off sounds like a good idea to me.

Scott Converse. Late 2020

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

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