Writing about my local radio options, around tax time when I always feel guilty about not giving enough money away last year, led to an expensive tour past the web cash registers of several public radio stations. My conscience is salved, but I’m still nettled by the system I have to deal with.
First, as pledge time arrives, there’s the lameness whereby the rain of pleading and wheedling raineth both upon the the just who have pledged or paid and on the unjust, and of course all the free riding by the latter. (KQED apparently has a scheme this year where you can listen online without pledge cadging if you pay your dues, but it doesn’t work in your car.)
But the larger problem is that having bought membership in a few local radio stations, I will still listen to only one station’s worth of content. With streaming, especially now that my phone is a pocket computer with web access and pretty good earphones, to many I didn’t give anything to. This is surely one of the glories of the web; instead of being stuck with the providers near me, broadcasting through the air in that old-fashioned way, I can listen to radio stations all over the world. TV too; my cable system doesn’t offer Al Jazeera English but my computer does. What I don’t have is a way to pay, reasonably proportionally, for content when I’m getting it from hither and yon and when I don’t know in advance what I will want to hear next year. I guess I could pledge nickels and dimes at dozens of sites, but that would look insulting to the stations and unless we all do it (and waste absurd amounts of time clicking and typing sixteen digit numbers) it’s quixotic and ineffective.
Broken; not “needs improvement” or “could be updated for current conditions”, broken is what this economic model and its trading rules are. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to pay once and for all, conveniently and quickly, for a year’s worth of content no matter where I choose to get it, and be assured the providers will not only get money with which to make more and pay for their kid’s braces, but also get a price signal about how many of us stayed tuned in to this and didn’t care to hear or see that. Why is the technology so far ahead of the institutional and political machinery it demands?