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9:53 am
Fri January 29, 2010

Dave Conant: Defining Radio Today


In the 1950s heyday of network television - some call it TV's "Golden Age"- there were many people prepared to write radio's obituary. Everyone from Ozzie and Harriet to The Lone Ranger had migrated to the living room screens. Yet radio survived, and thrived.

Now, through the first decade of the 21st century, radio is still with us, and in many ways, more flexible, more valuable, and as ubiquitous as ever. Read More...

Radio is still an over-the-air medium, still providing news, information, and music. In fact, radio is the primary method of delivering classical music and jazz to audiences. But all these services are now available in ways never imagined less than a generation ago.

With the advent of HD technology, radio stations can now digitize their signal, compressing it to such a degree they can provide more information within their assigned frequencies: in some cases three to four times as much. Most FM stations have chosen to offer two separate services. With an HD receiver, for instance, one can now receive, in addition to WRTI's primary service, its classical music at night and its jazz service during the day. Receivers are now priced as low as $100, with a portable-pocket version selling for under $50. There are also "Internet radio" receivers that pick up only Internet "streamed signals."

New technology has made it possible to hear radio without even using a radio receiver or being concerned about geographic limitations. And there are several ways to access WRTI's signal. With an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download a free public radio player, which will allow you to hear WRTI anywhere you travel. Just one more use for your phone.

Of course, anyone with a computer connection to the Internet can listen to our 24-hour classical and jazz streams, regardless of their location. Podcasts insure you can listen to some of your favorite shows even if you missed the broadcast. In fact, some interviews have extended versions online that have never been aired.

The term "user friendly" is used often these days, but radio has a right to the designation. Radio has never been more accessible - its content available in more ways, in more places. The first mass-entertainment medium continues to provide entertainment and information, without confining the listener to a living room chair, or taking up a major piece of living room real estate.