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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

It is harder to start up a new radio station in Britain than it is to open a Zionist Gay Bar in Riyadh
– David Carr

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • GCooper

    On the other hand, starting a gay Islamist radio station in the UK would be a doddle…. They’d be falling over themselves to give you a licence.

  • Sorry but I’ve just got to steal that

  • Ian Grey

    Well, Community Radio licenses can now be applied for from OcCom but you do have to demonstrate buckets of social engineering- oops I meant social gain as part of the process.

  • A_t

    I have long felt this; the whole idea that you must identify a ‘community’ of listeners & demonstrate what social benefit your station will bring them is bloody ridiculous. The sole criteria should be “is there space on the airwaves’ and ‘will you adhere to the rules of decency etc. which govern commercial broadcasting’. Whether the station serves any ‘purpose’ would easily be tested by putting it on air & seeing how it does. If there isn’t a sufficient ‘community’ of listeners, revenues won’t be sufficient & bye bye radio station.

    The current system just encourages the ghettoisation of people into groups bounded by ethnicity, income, occupation or place of residence, all of which are boundaries which affiliations cross at least as often as they stay within them.

    The idea that some beaurocrat knows better than the general public what might be enjoyed by the people at large is just loony. I’ve worked with a few people who could have set up stations, were it not for the fact that ‘people who like x style of music’ don’t count as a ‘community’ unless they have some other uniting factor (being mostly empoverished or mostly having a skin colour different from the majority often helps with the right-on radio4-listening regulators). The whole system is totally at odds with the way much of British society works; many interests & concerns cutting across lines of race, age or social class.

  • GCooper

    For once I wholeheartedly agree with A_t: the licensing system in the UK is a farce, to a large degree, exacerbating the problems of perceived social division that it seeks to resolve.

    Of course, in London (and, no doubt other cities, but I know London best) the problem is largely circumvented by pirate radio stations. I know these are supposed to be regulated but a quick scan of the FM band suggests the pirates are operating more or less freely.

  • I am glad I had just swallowed when I clicked I arrived at Samizdata today. It was a spewage moment for sure.

    And oh so true, TotalRock has been trying for licence for quite a while. But the powers-that-be don’t seem to think there is “a need” for it, despite the fact that magazines like Kerrang!, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer sell quite well. You see if they need as mostly white people they aren’t interested. It is truly racism and social engineering gone nuts.

    Of course, if you want to start another gangsta rap station its fine.

    Good thing that thanks to cable, satillite and the internet broadcast radio is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    A_T is right, if there is no market for a station it will go under (or change formats)…something which happens all the time in the US.

  • ian

    I can understand rationing of a physically limited asset but I’ve never understood why government feels it has the right to decide on content. I recall reading in New Scientist recently about a concept which would vastly increase broadcast capacity anyway, although I can’t remember the full details. In any case it seems likely that the internet will render both TV and radio obsolete.

  • A_t

    “Of course, if you want to start another gangsta rap station its fine.”

    noohooohooo it’s not. You can start say, a station serving the ‘afro-caribbean community’, which might get away with a show or two playing rap, but try setting up a whole station devoted to that… what’s it’s purpose? How does it help the unemployed? the disenfranchised? Why don’t community (read ‘church’ or nimby youth club type organisations) leaders have shows? etc. etc.

    Thank god for pirate radio, eh? (even if it does interfere with radio3 sometimes, dammit!)

    Saw some pathetic police statement attempt to link pirate radio stations to drug violence the other day; see, the radio stations make their money advertising raves, people go to raves & often buy drugs when they’re there, so of course the pirate stations must be funded by drug dealers as part of a huge trick to get people to buy their intoxicants… yes yes, that sounds sensible.

  • Tim Sturm

    I can understand rationing of a physically limited asset …

    Rationing limited assets is what markets do.

  • llamas

    The UK establishment has repeatedly shown itself, in the past, to be gloriously incompetent in gauging the public’s demand when it comes to broadcasting. Who recalls the wonderful years in the 60’s and 70’s when any popular-music radio worth listening to in the UK was being broadcast from a succession of rustbuckets moored just outside the 3-mile limit of territorial waters? Now that was a free market at work, and the ‘legal’ broadcast media were so awesomely bad at competing that you would sometimes tune them in just to marvel at their incompetence – like watching a car crash.

    With modern technology, the story about limited space in the radio frequency spectrum is nonsense. With spectrum separations of 100 kHz or less now perfectly feasible, there’s easily 150 separate spots or more available on existing FM dials. With some technically-sound practice in the matter of broadcast power, there’s no reason what anyone who wants to set up a broadcast radio station, shouldn’t be able to do so, and social-engineering and subjective-morality constraints be damned.

    The government should divide the spectrum, and assign slots to anyone and everyone who asks for one, with preference given to established stations whether commercial or not. When slots are all taken, so sorry, no more available. The market will sort that out. People should be able to deal in broadcast slots like any other item of property. The only other government function might be to ensure that assigned slots are actually being used, and a mechanism to make them re-available if they are not.

    But vetting radio stations for suitable content and social value – spare me. The one sure way to get radio stations with lousy content and no redeeming social value is to leave it up to the government – they have a long and convincing track record in that regard.



  • Antoine Clarke

    Two thoughts:
    First, who needs a radio licence? Set up online. The kit is actually cheaper than for an airwave transmitter system. I’ve been looking into this for some time and the problems are bandwith, a studio and two desktop PCs, and getting the material for shows. My guess is 2k dollars startup and a soundproof room is enough to get going.

    Second, ironically France is much freer in this respect. There are several FM band radio stations, some left-wing, one anarchist, one right-wing and the others are various music. Better still, there is none of the regulation about news content that commercial radio has to endure in the UK.

    I never listen to radio except over the Internet.

  • A_t

    I prefer FM for the sound quality; I like to hear an accurate representation of the music i’m listening to, & few streaming stations come anywhere close to the quality of a good FM transmission (& annoyingly nor does ‘cd quality’ digital radio).

    The French situation was very much in the forefront of my mind, as a demonstration of just how many stations you can cram onto the dial for a start; I spent much of my youth on the border between France & Switzerland, & the entire FM spectrum was full of a great variety of stations. I was astounded when I moved to Britain, which I thought of as freer & more musically diverse, to discover a great paucity of stations; a few crappy local ones & the main beeb radio stations if you’re outside London.

  • Tim Sturm


    New Zealand has had a tradable property rights system in broadcast spectrum since 1989. Only NZ stuffed up by limiting rights to 20 years instead of making them permanent.

    A couple of very minor quibbles with what you propose:

    – you can’t really assign slots to “whoever wants them”, because demand will exceed supply at zero cost. That might not have been the case around 150 years ago, but the opportunity to allocate rights via “homesteading” principles has long gone. Auctioning or lotteries are the only fair remaining possibilities.

    – You have to be careful with “use-it-or-lose-it” clauses because speculation on property is a valid use that you don’t want to deny, especially if the initial property right has been allocated by auction.

    Otherwise, concerning regulation of content, I completely agree with you.

  • craggy_steve

    Today’s quote misses out the essential adjective ‘leal’. It is a doddle to start up a new radio station in the UK, as long as one is prepared to operate outside the law.

  • craggy_steve

    Today’s quote misses out the essential adjective ‘legal’. It is a doddle to start up a new radio station in the UK, as long as one is prepared to operate outside the law.

  • It has always bothered me that, much though I adore the UK, radio here (music especially) has always been rather rubbish.

    Incidentally, on the subject of radio, Bureaucrash has set an i-net station and asked me to do a show for them. It is called Radio Free Bureaucrash and its set to go live this coming weekend.

  • US airwave rationing also includes “public service” requirements, but they are ongoing rather than pre-license. They are typically met by providing news and weather coverage (traffic reporting is a value-added service) and free advertising for community events. Stations with full power clear channel licenses used to be required to provide a certain amount of rural content. This was met by a brief farm show around sunrise with commodity prices and ads for herbicides. The requirement has apparently lapsed, and the farm show has evolved, on at least one station, to “Animal Stories” more likely to cover alligators in the sewer.

    Altho FCC licensing is subject to public input, I have not heard of one being revoked or a license transfer being refused.

  • Peter

    Spread spectrum broadcasting may in the future solve much of the problems associated with having to control the radio spectrum.

    See also Open Spectrum

  • fridge magnet

    That’s a silly quote, implying as it does that it is literally impossible – indeed, more than impossible – to start a radio station in Britain, which is manifestly untrue. Unfunny juvenile humor, not worthy of David Carr.

  • David Stanton

    not nearly as unfunny as your suck ass pseudonym, mr. faggot magnet