The word "stream" has traditionally brought to mind the image of a brook babbling through the countryside. But, these days, there are also electronic streams of audio information which course through the Internet. In recent weeks, a provocative advertising campaign has called attention to the way these streams are changing the world of broadcasting. 90.3's David C. Barnett reports the way you listen to radio may never be the same again.
David C. Barnett- Columbus broadcaster Mike Stone was visiting Cleveland on a research mission, recently -- investigating local listening habits.
Mike Stone- When I started talking to some people, I asked them what they thought of Cleveland radio, and they said, "It sucks!"
DCB- Mike Stone took that information back home to Columbus, where he is Internet Operations Manager for WWCD, also known as CD101. And for the past several weeks, the station has been placing newspaper ads in Cleveland that encourage north coast music fans to tune to CD101's website for a change of pace.
In recent decades, commercial radio has become a creature of consultants who develop formulas for successful broadcast formats. Critics argue that these hired guns tend to drain local flavor out of radio in favor of tried and true programming and jingles that have about as much originality as a fast-food franchise.
In addition, the Communications Act of 1996 removed many restrictions on radio station ownership. Local broadcaster Ed Rush says "Do the math."
Ed Rush- When you have one company owning 50% of the market, another owning 35%, and another owning the other couple of stations that are left, you've really reduced the competition and you've really reduced the incentive for people to provide better entertainment to compete against the others.
DCB- With a background in sales, Ed Rush and his partner, engineer Cornelius Gould, created their own alternative for Cleveland radio listeners. But, unlike CD101, their station -- called "The City Radio" -- can ONLY be heard on the Internet.
Jackie Khoenle is a big fan of "The City Radio."
Jackie Khoenle- To tell you honestly, if I had that hooked into my stereo, I'd never listen to regular radio again.
DCB- Khoenle says a web-surfing co-worker discovered this radio site one day and suggested she take a listen.
JK- They'll play Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Lennie Kravitz, Led Zeppelin, everything... they have a really good range.
DCB- That range of music is coming from the Cleveland Heights apartment of Cornelius Gould, who's been a radio engineer for the past 12 years. He's also worked at Telos Systems -- an international digital broadcast equipment firm based in Cleveland.
Cornelius Gould- Basically, you want to have some decent speakers on your computer -- a good subwoofer can make all the difference in the world.
Right now, we're listening to the 28.8 speed...
ER- So this is the "least" sound quality you would get, which still sounds pretty good.
DCB- This do-it-yourself rebel broadcasting station of Ed Rush and Cornelius Gould sounds pretty good - until you consider the fact that they aren't making money off of it - yet. Former Clevelander Chris Scherer, who now edits the engineering trade publication BE Radio, says there's a big difference between a hobby and a job.
Chris Scherer- When you get into it and have to create radio programming 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, it doesn't take long before the hobby aspect seems to wear off and it becomes a true labor.
Kevin Metheny- Lots of different textures is... is a really neat thing. It has historically proven not to be commercially sustainable in the long-run.
DCB- Kevin Metheny is Director of Programming Operations for the Cleveland office of Clear Channel Communications, which owns six local stations, and a thousand nationwide. Though he doubts the long-term prospects for small-time, personalized internet streamers, he doesn't discount what they're doing.
KM- This sounds like a contrived corporate wonk answer, but it isn't. I think that most career broadcasters welcome anything that provokes us to improve our game.
DCB- Every Friday night, from 11:00 to 2:00 a.m., the second-floor bedroom of Ed Rush's home is filled with the sounds of debate.
It's a raucous, yet often thoughtful talk program that can be heard on another part of the City Radio web site, called "Hit City". In the noble tradition of the college "bull session", Ed, Cornelius, Brian, Marvin, Don, and Jeff trade arguments over issues in the news. And, they invite listeners to e-mail or call-in their two-cent's-worth.
Jeff- We do have a comment from our listening audience -- they write, "No one is out to promote an understanding of their beliefs, they just run about waving their ideas in the world without explanation," and then the second quote is "Part of the problem is in the presentation of ideas to the masses."
DCB- A sentiment that can apply to the new ways that ideas are streaming through the internet, flowing against the powerful current of commercial radio. In Cleveland, David C. Barnett, 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.