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Satelite radio vs. terrestrial radio - Essay Example

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Millions of dollars are spent every year to amuse ourselves, but very rarely does the average person really stop and think about the effects of new forms of…
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Satelite radio vs. terrestrial radio
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Difference and Similarities Between Satellite and Terrestrial Radio Technology has come a long way, especially in the entertainment industry, where it is at its most profitable. Millions of dollars are spent every year to amuse ourselves, but very rarely does the average person really stop and think about the effects of new forms of entertainment upon society.
Take for example, the history of the film-making industry. Initially modeling itself after theaters for plays, the movie-going experience attempted to remain as glamorous; the buildings themselves were just as ornate and beautiful, and people would often dress up before attending. These things grew a bit lax as time went on, and after the invention of the video cassette recorder, nothing was ever the same. Before, choices in films were very limited. Whatever was on the marquee was the entertainment for the evening. Now, not only do we enjoy greater selection, but also have the freedom to watch certain parts of a film over and over again, making sure we miss nothing.
How does this compare to the differences between satellite and terrestrial radio? Although presently, satellite radio is too new to really look upon with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we do have the freedom to speculate about the future. In his book, James Wood says that “Every new medium of information has made advances on the previous generation of technology and in so doing has established new values, created an awareness of increased potential, and thereby stimulated a greater demand. …we will take a look at exactly how the radio evolution has effected our society both now, and make projections about its effects upon the future.” (James Wood, Satellite Communications and DBS Systems.)
There is more to “terrestrial” radio than how it is broadcast. Terrestrial radio’s disadvantages are many: it is lower in both availability (some areas which are mountainous are the most challenging) as well as sound quality, its programming provides much less variety; because it is free, it necessitates more commercials, and because it is available to the public, it is subject to much more government regulation and censorship. (Wikipedia, under “satellite radio.”)
But do these disadvantages necessarily outweigh its arguable superiority to satellite radio in terms of its cultural value? Are some of them truly disadvantages? True, terrestrial radio offers less in the way of variety, but this fact may be a plus. Terrestrial radio is LOCAL radio, something that satellite radio never will be. Yes, the choices in music are less diverse, but they are potentially richer and provide more identity to a geographical region than satellite ever will. The geniuses running the program via satellite have no clue what is historically and culturally valuable to the people living in Salt Rock, West Virginia, or what will reflect their tastes, and some poor traveler making his or her way through the hills of that area will not, unless through the aid of terrestrial radio, be able to turn the dial and realize that these people have some of the best and oldest collections of Carter Family music available for everyone’s listening pleasure. True, these special Carter Family records are not available to anyone 200 miles away, but isn’t that how indentity evolves? Must we really have so many choices that we no longer evolve regional personality? Look at television for example. Fifty years ago, someone from Boston traveling to Georgia would have no clue what the local folk were saying, but because of television, we have slowly learned how to all speak with the same flat, default, Midwestern accent. Moreover, this glut of choices creates unfair competition not only within the realm of entertainment, but within the realm of everyday news, as well. Awareness of the rest of the world is important, but how backwards and unfitting is it to be a whiz at world or nationwide news, yet know almost nothing about your local goings-on? “The constant flow of news that fills our screens 24 hours a day can never, by its very nature, be fully grasped in any sytematic way. The news is now increasingly diverse, so much so that even to use the definite article is inaccurate.” (Brent MacGregor, Live, Direct and Biased?) As implied by its title, could the recent advent of satellite radio, with its news sources that are available to all also stifle a diversity of opinions by individual citizens? Also, a quick glimpse at Sirius Radio’s website proudly boasts the following: “SIRIUS offers over 125 channels of satellite radio: 67 devoted to commercial-free music, in almost every genre imaginable, plus over 60 channels of sports, news, talk, entertainment, traffic, weather and data.” (, under “About Us.”) Ouch. Does anyone else find so many choices dizzying?
Further, terrestrial radio is virtually free. Anyone who can beg, steal or borrow a radio (whose price these days is virtually negligible) can listen to the radio. It is a source of information and entertainment available to rich and poor alike; unfortunately, as with most things, there needed to be some sort of demarcation between radio for the “haves” and radio for the “have nots,” thus another very telling reason for the recent existence of satellite radio. Premium pocketbooks require premium listening pleasure.
Not least of all, we must count terrestrial radio broadcasting as something that has the potential to be a form of expression. “I feel sad for most of today’s radio (dare I call them) personalities, because they can’t relate to [the] passion. It’s the rare radio station that employs a full lineup of personalities who are paid to entertain. Radio with depth, energy and style has faded from the airwaves, replaced by formula products that are safe, boring, and detached from their listeners.” (McCoy, A Guide to Creative Radio Programming.) It is difficult to challenge the notion that satellite radio has greatly aided the generic, impersonal tone that this author claims listeners have been bombarded with as of the past few decades.
To wrap it all up, satellite radio has its charms. Being offered the ability to select an extremely narrowed type of music, (the 80s channel, anyone?) is a seductive thought, indeed. Upon closer inspection, though, does this cheapen that very genre? Think about it. Those who are choosing what qualifies as “blues,” probably don’t hail Memphis, Tennessee, or Chicago, Illinois. We who are paying for such a channel may be missing out on some rare musical gems without even knowing it. As argued above, terrestrial radio, with its inconveniences (commercials, limited availability) still has much more potential to be an instrument of expression than satellite radio, both in terms of entertainment and information.
Works Cited
MacGregor, Brent. Live, Direct and Biased? : Making Television News in the Satellite Age. 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 1997.
McCoy, Quincy. No Static: A Guide to Creative Radio Programming. 600 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107: Backbeat Books, 1999.
Sirius Radio. April 6, 2006. Sirius Radio. April 6, 2006. <
Wikipedia. April 6, 2006. Wikipedia. April 6, 2006 .
Wood, James. Satellite Communications and Dbs Systems. Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK: Focal Press, 1992. Read More
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