Is it Obsolete? NPR Radio Stations

It Hasn't Even Been a Year Yet...
Thanks to podcasts, NPR maybe be obsolete

I am a huge listener of public radio programming, but I no longer listen to my local NPR station. Most of the time I just listen to podcasts of the shows that would otherwise be broadcast on NPR. The basic force behind this is the same as the reason why I loved my MythTV when I had cable TV. I don’t want to have to do appointment radio listening any more than I want to do appointment television. In many cases this is because the shows I enjoy listening to come on the air while I’m at work, in the gym, or sleeping. The shows I listen to are produced by NPR, Public Radio International (PRI), and American Public Media (APM). That includes Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, On the Media, Media Matters, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Away with Words and On the Money with Christ Disimio. Together with other non-radio programs and some BBC programs, these provide for all of my radio-listening needs. This started out (and a big reason I got into podcasts a few years after most techies had) because, in Baltimore, the local NPR station at 88.1 is interrupted by XM (or Sirius) FM transmitters. So I got pissed that whenever I happened to be available when a show I liked was on, every time someone with satelite radio passed by I couldn’t listen to my program. This is why I donated to the Washington DC NPR station – that one isn’t subject to interference so I’d rather pay for a station I can hear.

But I stopped donating to my local NPR station because I just bought a house and I don’t have the discretionary money to donate to as many places as I used to. And when it came around to it, I don’t even listen to NPR on the radio. I listen to podcasts. So why support this station or that station. In fact, as far as I know, some of the programs I listen to aren’t even carried on the local NPR stations. So I think the stations are, as more people switch to podcasts, becoming obsolete.

This presents a problem in the form of funding. Podcasts of real radio programs with paid hosts need money. But when I donate, I don’t want to waste my donation providing for the operations of my local NPR station. I want all of the donation to go to the programs I actually listen to. I think, going forward, that the various NPR (and PRI and APM) programs are going to have to either solicit donations individually or as a collective. Of course, this means less popular shows may fall by the wayside, but that’s capitalism. If they can’t attract enough listeners to donate, the program goes away.

One possible innovation for public “radio” funding could take a page from churches. Many churches allow the tithers to check a box dictating where the money should be spent. So you could say out of $100 that $50 goes towards the building maintenance and $50 goes towards missionary work. So perhaps we eliminate the station middle-man and basically I can donate to NPR, PRI, and APM. And when I donate I can say I want portions of my money to go to show A and portions to go to show B. This way there’s a direct corelation between who stays on the air and how popular they are.

So I say that NPR Radio stations will become obsolete, but hopefully the content continues to be produced under new funding models.

The Untold Rebate Check Story

As you know, unless you’ve been living under a rock, the US Government (USG) wants to give us all rebate checks to spur the economy along.  All you have to do is file your taxes and you’ll get up to $600 if you’re single or $1200 if you’re married.  What hasn’t really been publicized in the mainstream media, however, is the drastic measures the USG is willing to go to make sure you spend your rebate and to help the economy.

Ever since the story broke that the USG wanted us to spend our money on material goods, there have been many people appearing on the news saying that their real problem was that they had too much debt and they were going to use their rebate check to pay down their debt.  Unfortunately, if everyone did that responsible thing, it would make the rebate checks pointless as a way to help the economy.  Therefore Uncle Sam decided to help you out.

Our wonderful government has put people’s social security numbers into a computer program to figure out who is most likely to use this money to pay down debt.  Do you owe a lot on your house or credit cards?  Are you a student?  If so, you may be a bit surprised when you file your taxes this year.  According to a story that aired on National Public Radio (NPR), via American Public Media’s Marketplace, if you’re likely to use your money to pay down debt, the government will buy something for you and send it to you.  To a family in Arizona they sent an air conditioner.  Never mind that they may already have one or may not want to use one.  That’s what the good ole government has determined you should get.  People in the north may find themselves getting snow blowers.

I find the whole thing disgusting.  What do they know about what I want or need?  If they truly want to make sure that we can’t use the money to pay down debts, they could just send us Visa Gift cards.  That way we’d have to use it to buy things, but we’d be able to buy whatever we pleased.  If I wanted to buy computer parts or a DVD, I’d be able to do so, rather than be stuck with what some computer in DC says I need.

Sometimes this administration just pisses me off.

Charitable Donations for 2008

This year I decided to mainly support technological causes.  I donated to the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  I think that rms and the rest over at the FSF are really doing a lot of great work to preserve our freedoms.  I especially like the Defective by Design campaign they’ve been running.  So this year they get the lion’s share of my money. 

The EFF has been doing a lot of work with other things I care about such as opposing the broadcast flag and overall protecting our electronic and Internet freedoms.

Finally, I donated to NPR because I enjoy their programming every day and I thought it was time to help keep them afloat.  This was especially urgent as Congress has recently been reducing the mount of funding they give to public broadcasting, a real shame. 

I was going to donate to the Gnome foundation this year, but after their blunder with their support of OOXML and other moves that seem to legitimize Microsoft’s shady actions, I decided to withhold any funds from them this year.  There are only two ways to vote in the Free Software world, with programming talent and with money.  They get neither from me for 2008.

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