What's On Air?

Observations on FM Radio Airwaves in the Philippines

I was driving to the grocery yesterday, doing random chores, currently stuck at home (follow me on Twitter and maybe find out why).

harry santos driving

All I had was my 7-track Okinawa Lifestyle's Underwater Album, no other CD, and nothing to connect to the USB port. I've been listening to the album for quite a long time now and of course, because of the law of diminishing marginal utility, I haven't been so fond of it.

And so I switch to FM radio. And of course because of the benefits of technology, I was disappointed with the array of choices presented to me.

In the internet, social media has changed the music industry completely. Individuals have choices and opportunities, there is little or no power distance, people are free (at least for now but slowly we might see that deteriorating as well).

In radio, with the limited slots in the airwaves, I figured the logical choice for entrepreneurs is to satisfy the demand of the majority, the masses. This means more of what's currently trending, "chart music" as I would call it (from way back during shorty got low low low to p-p-p-poker face and many others). It's the irony of the world persecuting Rebecca Black.

I don't see anything wrong with that at all. To each his own, yeah? Why would I want to impose my own values or preferences on others?—the act itself that I find most immoral and unjust. People have choices and I have no right to take that away from them.

I just feel like a minority. In a world where internet does not exist, the dissemination of information would be somewhat monopolized, a very imperfect competition, and I would have less choices and freedom. My car would be my Skinner Box where I press buttons and eat whatever they feed me. I'd be in Plato's cave watching shadow puppets of bureaucrats and cronies. A dead fish swimming with the current.

And as I browsed through, I got reminded that NU107 is gone, and worse, replaced by really disturbing content and music (again, personal opinion). NU didn't always play songs I like but it was definitely reliable and many times excellently satisfying.

There's also Boys Night Out, really funny and entertaining guys, great talk show, but then I'm not always able to turn on the radio during their time slot. What else is there when they're not on?

This brings me to another question: how is property of airwave frequencies obtained or acquired? It is both limited and intangible but is basically everywhere in spite of its seeming scarcity. The issue, I guess is distance of how powerful one's transceiver is and how it can interfere with the transceivers of others.

In our laws, RA 3846, it states that the state has monopoly on granting license or franchise to those who want to broadcast. Of course this is disguised as "the state being the referee of the market" when really it becomes a monopoly, a bureaucracy that invents requirements and regulations to expand their power and spending, pulls out arbitrary values for prices and fees (government has no price mechanism), and becomes a breeding ground for corruption and cronyism.

Pirate Radio Official Trailer

The movie Pirate Radio (2009) (supposedly based on a true story!) is a good take on the issues and concerns I've been raising. I mean, just imagine if the government owned the internet, right? Seems so fictional and unrealistic but that's how it is is China and sadly many other countries in the world.

Now that I'm back in front of my laptop as I awake from my lovely slumber, I feel blessed as I am reminded of how wonderful the internet is. I can listen to any music from almost anywhere in the world from famous musicians to just random strangers messing around with a camcorder. I can create my own TV or radio station, no need to ask permission from the government, no need to pay fees. In fact, here's a song I made yesterday that almost anyone from anywhere in the world can access:

K├╝bler-Ross by Harry Santos

I appreciate so much that I can take a sip from my cup of coffee while listening to some really chill songs, and change the music as my mood and preference changes. What a lovely way to start a day: good coffee and good music (haha after lunch is usually my mornings but the still semi-cloudy remnants of the storm makes it even better).


If you liked this post then you might also like:
1. Why the Internet is Slow in the Philippines
2. Why We Should Keep Governments Out of the Internet
3. Rock Stars From Alabang

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