Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, October 15, 2004

P2P+RSS Are The Future Of TV Broadcasting

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Mark Pesce has recently published a lengthy, punchy, strong piece anticipating a take over of what used to be major broadcast media by the unstoppable emerging forces of P2P network distribution, personal syndication, and low-cost transmission technologies.

Professor Pesce, now happily emigrated to Australia to coordinate the future of their AFTRS, the national film and TV school, into a 21st century institution, explores scenarios in which users of the Internet will take gradually over the present conglomerate of broadcasting big media via the use of P2P file sharing networks meshed with the potential of a multitude micro-power AM transmitters.

He writes:

"Within a decade - and perhaps a lot sooner - the television networks will have been deprived of nearly all their pre-produced programming.

Television will become a live medium - as it was in its beginning, so it will be in its old age.

Sports, news and event programming (terror attacks and awards shows) will be the staples for broadcasting in the 21st century.

Advertisers will love live television - because it's where the people are - but never again will a television broadcaster be able to dictate to you what you can watch and when you can watch it.


All this means that as the Internet rises, broadcast television falls.

...As more and more material becomes more consistently available to the TV viewer, the trend will be away from the circumscribed choices offered by the TV channel (five or five hundred channels, neither are very alluring when compared to the near-infinity of programming available over the Internet already) and toward the Internet.

Which gives all of this triumph of the media megacorps the flavor of a Greek Tragedy: when they reached their zenith of power, at that moment the seeds of their downfall were sewn."

Later, as he explores the true disruptive potential of some of the available low-cost transmitting technologies and the actual loopholes in the present legislation that allow for their effective and immediate use, he showcases the existing example of RADIO RHIZOME which is already alive and kicking by using some of these very ideas.

Here is an excerpt about this interesting project born out of LA:
"The RHZ Amateur Radio Network is a participatory experiment aiming to create the possibility of a legal, publicly owned and operated broadcast radio that is built like a peer to peer network.

Based on the FCC allowance for individuals to operate a 100 milliwatt micro-radio station, RHZ uses the internet to share content between micro-stations so they can broadcast the same content at the same time. Anyone can have their own radio station, starting with a hobby kit as low as $30!

RHZ is designed to follow the parameters of FCC regulation, abide by copyright law, and use only free open source software to distribute information, while simultaneously allowing the broadcast network to grow to the size of the social network that creates it." (More info here)

But here is the paramount question Mark Pesce leaves unanswered and open for us to work around:

"Or is there another way?

This is the challenge I'm presenting to you - here and now - a challenge that needs to be solved.

In some space between the community access-for-all methodology and the strictly constrained gatekeeper methodology there must be a middle path which allows for an equality of opportunity but also allows for a response to taste and quality.

In the age of computers and the Web, it shouldn't be all that hard - but it's a problem of social engineering, not technology.

I look forward to learning about your own solutions to this problem."

Pesce's healthy doubts stem from the fact that he correctly anticipates a hierarchical closing on the number of voices that have access to a broadcasting medium as the scope and breadth of the medium grow larger.

My personal answer to this challenging question is:

The other way is seeing value in the emergent pattern of human beings becoming curators, librarians, reporters, news specialists in any area they wish to serve as contributors to the enlightening phase we should be setting ourselves up to.

The more channels producing news and leveraging both land-based Internet as well as Wi-Fi, and soon Wi-Max, networks the better.

The goal should have never been one of trying to serve the largest number of people, but rather to serve the people truly interested in whatever content you have.

The paradigm of the last century mass media was driven by the technology infrastructure we had to use. From one big center to many small receiving stations.

Now we have reversed this and extended it. Each node can broadcast and each node can filter and resyndicate. So, the vale is not anymore in having one major broadcaster, but in having as many as possible "curating stations" able to aggregate, filter and syndicate the specific theme, lifestyle, topic I am interested into.

It is a complete bottom-up reversal. But if you can see it coming, you can truly ride this fantastic wave.

We need no more "broadcasting". We need infinite number of channels that select, filter, organize, group, clean-up, verify and serve to us the key information we need. The better they can do this, the more we will want to trust and reward their work.

These up and coming curators, independent publishers/broadcaster, are the future directors and producers, appearing to me now rather more as renaissance guides, visionary minstrels and poets of this new information revolution.

And the network will need hundreds of thousands of these. As many as the topics of topics of interest for a human being may ever grow to be.

Yes, I do say that this is the age of news curators, information djs, research masters. These are the people who will help you find your own, personal way by allowing to tap into information, resources and tools that you can deeply trust.

Some of them already do this in rudimentary ways through blogs, RSS news feeds and newsletters.

As soon as they start to become more specialized, professional and they start to integrate audio and video in their work, there you can see that the TV-based model of broadcasting will go through some profound shifts.

It will not disappear. But it will drastically change.

And nonetheless the technology to do these things is here, the worlds of communication activists and visionaries needs to converge with the one of the technology wizards capable of transforming such ideas in easy-to-use tools that can be easily adopted by great numbers of people.

If it takes only four hours for any mainstream US-originated TV show to be captured, digitized and converted into an easily distributable digital format like DivX or Xvid, why would major broadcaster still want to rely on traditional one-to-many real-time broadcasting when the network can do the hard work for them completely free?

"We need a tool which makes publishing content into this media stream no more difficult than selecting a audiovisual file.

We need a tool which makes finding the programming you're looking for as easy and straightforward as Google.

And we need all of this to be one single tool, so that we can forever erase the false distinction between producer and audience, between professional and amateur which has kept most voices silenced as a few have used their positions as professional producers to push a pack of lies down our throats.

When we get that, it's game over. The networks will no longer matter, they will no longer determine our diet of pre-digested truths.

The truth will return to its natural state: crazy, anarchic, contradictory, subjective and as wildly mercurial as a manic depressive who's gone off his meds.

In place of a few well-controlled voices, we'll have hundreds, then thousands, then millions of competing points of view, and our job will be to figure out how to find some signal in the midst of all that noise."

And while you may feel surprised that someone may ever want to get back to this apparent state of information noise, this is really the only way out of the artificially crated propaganda-news world most of us are subject to.

If you can somehow come to terms with the fact that mainstream media is not reporting news and facts in a way that may allow individuals to make informed decisions, then you will maybe see that in having everyone realize that truth and understanding has to come from within and not from the outside, will start making some sense to you.

This should actually be second-nature to us, intelligent human beings. Understanding comes from exploration. Not just from listening to news coming off your tube. Informers and news sources have to be carefully selected according to your social networks, worldview and life goals. We need, each one of us, to critically evaluate and question information as to truly learn and come to understand why and how things are the way they are.

And yes, having an ocean of information in which to freely and openly select what may count as valuable truth for you is definitely a much greater achievement than having 500 TV channels owned by four commercial corporations which have only one word engraved in their mission: make money.

"In the United States we have seven media megacorps which control access to the global mediasphere.

They are Disney, Viacom, Sony, General Electric, Clear Channel, TimeWarner and News Corp.

There are others, but these are the titans which set the rules by which all others play.

The last three of these have particular influence over the body politic through their broadcast outlets."

Understanding the world, learning, making good decisions in life, cannot be paralleled to the business models required to sell products to people.

If we want to have information, news and knowledge that is useful to us, we need then to treat also the system that creates and distributes this information on the premises that it must seek something else and beyond the pure money-making activity.

"The worldwide consolidation of media industries has led to a consequent closure of the public airwaves with respect to matters of public interest.

As control of this public resource becomes more centralized, the messages transmitted by global media purveyors become progressively less relevant, less diverse, and less reflective of ground truth.

At present, individuals and organizations work to break the stranglehold of these anti-market-media-mega-corporations through the application of the courts and the law. However, because of the inherent monopoly that anti-market media maintain on the public mindset, legislators have been understandably reluctant to make moves toward media diversification.

We are thus confronted with a situation where many people have interesting things to say, but there are progressively fewer outlets where these views can be shared.

The public airwaves, because they are a limited resource, are managed by public bodies for the public interest. While honorable, the net effect of this philosophy of resource management has been negative: a public resource has become the equivalent of a beachfront property, its sale generating enormous license revenues, but its transfer to the private domain denying the community access to the sea of ideas.

If a well-informed public is the necessary prerequisite to the democratic process, then we must frankly admit that any private ownership of public airwaves represents a potential threat to the free exchange of ideas.

Now that private property has mostly collectivized the electromagnetic spectrum, and with little hope that this will soon change, we must look elsewhere to find a common ground for the public discourse."

The way is up and the podcasting, Tivoing, newsmastering and RSS syndication trends may well be early signs of a truly emerging distributed communication network in which big media and its abuses will rapidly become a dream of the past.

Wake me up.

Original article: F*ck Big Media: Rolling Your Own Network

Readers' Comments    
2005-08-12 15:03:41

Gerald Christoffel

Come on train.

posted by Robin Good on Friday, October 15 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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