Whither Radio^
^including some of its progeny and other audio media:
PODcasts/MP3s, Internet streams, FM/SCA, Satellite, and audio CDs
Last worked on: May 30th, 2020
fast-find> Why, Radio of the future, Reviews, Recording programs, Great downloads!, General criticisms,
you're at: https://57296.neocities.org/radio.htm
contact: craig er oochi  a t  outlook dotty com

* Today's smart phones, i-Phone/pads/things have FM tuners, or the capability. You might have to download an application to access this feature. Of course, there are also streaming versions of most current broadcasts that you can get via WiFi. However, the emphasis on this page will be on the downloading of MP3 PODcast files (music or talk radio programs, perhaps via an automatic "Ap" if you're using a smart phone) --the content of which can be woven into your life --as time and life's interruptions permit.

Simple through sophisticated MP3 players were cheap and plentiful just a few years ago.  They're still available, some with excellent touch screen displays, but they now cost between $30 and $140 in the brick-n-mortar stores I shop at. The most recent MP3 player we owned (a Phillips brand "GoGear") had an FM tuner as well. Affordable MP3 players are still available on-line through Amazon.com (last I checked). (Downloading PODcast MP3s makes infinitely more sense than listening, tuning, or streaming "live", of course --if the downloads are freely available.)

* It's my understanding that including an AM tuner in a compact device is not only difficult, due to the need of a bulky "loop stick antenna", but that the loop stick's directional pickup, plus an AM radio's inherent vulnerability to internal/external noise and hum, are simply unacceptable in a mobile device. (Car radios use a large, external, non-directional antenna, perhaps built into the windshield.)

* My experience (here in coastal Oregon) has been that "talk radio" is seldom to be found on the FM band, including from our available NPR stations, except during limited morning and evening news hours (and except for self-indugent junk like "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me"). We have to suffer along with boomy, garbled and commercial interrupted voices on the AM band. I find women's voices particularly difficult to understand due to the limited audio spectrum of AM radio, which must fit within a clipped five kilocycle band width (which is hard on syllibants). Late at night it seems that every talk radio station in the USA rebroadcasts George Noori's "Coast to Coast" --with tedious home spun accounts of encounters with such as "Big Foot".


Audio Media Reviews
(Well: more like just my comments)

* IMHO, plying the waters of free PODcasts is difficult. The unwary traveler is beset by snares which attempt to funnel your search and access through commercial popping middle-man operations which offer to organize and list what's available by categories, artists/hosts and genres. They tend to hide direct links and offers of simple downloads (direct or indirect) --in favor of subscribing to and using their automated downloads.

That's fine, and it's probably more compatible with today's hand-held mobile device lifestyles (than the methods I use). Just be aware that you can often Google up the source, bookmark it and make your own arrangements for access and downloading.

* Another factor to consider: sometimes there's an arrangement with the source, such that the middle-man sends the content provider a payment, depending upon how many listeners the show brings in. That's supported by the commercials, of course, but you as a listener are helping to support the source show simply by "clicking" on and  listening to it.

By way of example, I offer https://podsearch.com/, through which you might discover: https://podsearch.com/listing/hourly-news-summary.html, which freely originates at NPR, but at which site we seem limited to streaming their PODcasts. (My wife and I don't have the on-line/public WiFi time to listen that way. We need to take our PODcasts home.)

* Should you want to avoid the commercials and entanglements/subscriptions with middle-man services, I offer some direct links below.

#1: Peter B. Collins --at:

> https://www.peterbcollins.com/

--is an excellent, progressive, independent minded talk show option. I find him the easiest listening of everyone on this list --but one does have to listen. Peter B's commentary is information dense, although complete enough to bring an otherwise casual news follower up to speed. Peter hosts guests on occassion and he respects the value of your time, by trying to keep his show under an hour. He doesn't waste our time and attention with ding-dong call-ins^. Much of Peter B's current content is free to download (all of it after 2 weeks) and we're encouraged to bootleg the free portion out to others. Be sure to catch his:

https://www.peterbcollins.com/2016/09/09/interview-special-911-fifteen-years-on/

--which is one of the (was) 2-weak embargo'd "extended interviews" and also his 18th year update.

Peter B has a PO Box for letters and donations by check:

The Peter B. Collins Show
PO Box 150660
San Rafael, CA  94915

--and he reads his mail. Peter B is given to taking vacations (nearly  2 weeks over the holidays, 3 weeks in June of 2019) and there are no fill-ins for him, but you'll otherwise find his Monday-through-Friday shows posted late in the afternoon (PST/PDT) --until sometime in November of 2020 --when he plans to retire. Hopefully, all of his past installments will remain posted. I've urged him to consider posting a few MP3s after November --at least when he's so moved.

Thom Hartmann, at: https://www.thomhartmann.com/hartmann-report-podcast --(5/22/2020) At long last we can get a free, hour-long chunk of his weekday shows. I listened to yesterday's (5/21) and it was all call-in back-and-forth. Unlike the very weak AM radio station access I use to have here, the voices of Hartmann, his guests and callers are now crisp, clear and doesn't fade/buzz out as I walk around doing my chores. Moreover: his business model for this PODcast is simple: just include some commercials (as I've long suggested below). If the advertiser's minute is interesting and relevant to my life: I listen. If it's stupid and annoying: I just fast-forward. (Hopefully, such practice will eventually lead to fewer mind-numbingly idiotic, repetitive commercials --both broadcasted and PODcasted.)

* Hartmann sample: "The coronavirus is now in the United States --- Which means lots of people need to get tested --. Here's the problem. The average deductible for Obamacare insurance programs is $4000, which means if a person has these symptoms and takes a half a day off work to go get tested, they could end up with a bill of several thousand dollars. --- Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, the guy who made his fortune doubling the price of insulin --- just said that he couldn't guarantee that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to the average person." Listen here for that and more. (Yes: there was a person who got billed about $3000 for his coronavirus and follow-on screening.)

* Here-to-fore (2/12/2020), my best understanding was that, short of taking out a paid subscription, we could only get the "tease" (that was Hartmann's term for it), although an hour-long version coud be accessed after a week-long embargo.  I believe it's still the case that you need a subscription in order to hear the whole show or to lodge a comment (I've searched, but have found no USPS or email contacts), but who can afford a daily 3 hour chunk out of her/his life?

* Another problem: Hartmann can distance himself from --the obvious, concerning the events of 9/11. Be my guess that not crossing that particular "red line" is about not getting himself banned from his many mainstream and military media outlets --which I can accept (in his case).

* A good thing: you can rely on Hartmann finding a replacement host when he's on vacation or if he has obligations elsewhere.

* Like Brad Friedman and most PODcast hosts I've listened to, Hartmann repeatedly hammers points and and old themes of his which become quite familiar. That works for me during (interrupted by life) casual listening, wearas I have to turn off other noises/activities and really pay attention to Peter B (see above).

* Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman --at:

> https://www.democracynow.org/shows/

Thom Hartmann has compared Ms. Goodman to Walter Cronkite. With the exception of not coming to grips with the events of 9/11/2001, she's certainly been a solid, reliable witness to our troubles. I found her wo-maning her PODcasting post, whilst the Bradcast and Peter B. Collins shows had fallen silent over the holidays (--and I'd grown mighty hungry for some real news and commentary). Democracy Now is widely available as regular broadcasts, YouTube, and through PODcast services --but also directly. Go to the hot linked URL, click on the "Daily Shows" --per:


(To enlarge these images, click on them.)

--click on the show you want to download, click on "Media Options", then right click on "Download audio" and "Save link as" --to your POD playing device or some directory in your computer or other device. (This procedure might seem to be obvious, but it's surprisingly easy to go wrong.)

Ms. Goodman's shows are long, with extended interviews (sometimes mercilessly long). Her voice comes across crisp and clear. Democracy Now is exceptional in that (like Peter B. Collins) a Postal mailing address is provided for those of us who (perhaps without secure/private Internet access) prefer to donate by sending a check.

Democracy Now!
Attn: Development
207 W. 25th Street - 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001

* Bradblog.com --at:

> http://bradblog.com/

--By Brad Friedman and Desi Doyen, has long been my first stick-it-in-your-ear choice. At the end of each installment's web page synopsis is a "download MP3" link (right click, "save link as").  Content is good, we get the whole of current and past shows for free (though donations are requested and deserved), we have email and PO Box access for feedback, and Brad finds a replacement host when he's away. They hammer points and familiar themes (fine by me).

* The Majority Report with Sam Seder --at:

> https://majorityreportradio.com

--is animatedly conversational and sometimes hard to follow (when they talk over each other). Right click the play arrow on their episodes for a downloadable MP3. Much of their PODcast is behind a pay wall.

* Ring of Fire --again with Sam Seder (and sometimes Mike Papantonio?) --offers a free 1 hour chapter of their 3 hour show at:

https://ringoffire.fans.fm/

Right click the go arrow, then "save as" where you want the MP3 to go. The free hour has real substance (and who has more than a free hour of time?). If you've been missing a lot of alternative (to the mainstream/corporate media) news and commentary over the years, their freely available Thanksgiving PODcast at "The Best of Ring of Fire" is very worth your while. (You might want to archive it.) So is the May 29 (2020) free hour.

* The Humanist Report --at:

> https://player.fm/series/the-humanist-report

( I don't see an MP3 download link on the HR home page, so right click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice of drive.) Production values could be better and the host rather "leans into" the microphone. (We do need a popular spiritual humanist movement.)

* The Young Turks --at:

> https://player.fm/series/series-2163996

( I don't see a direct MP3 download link on TYT's home page, so simply right click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice of drive.) Lively, humorously sarcastic, but some of the segments are behind a membership pay wall. (Again: I like to think PODcasters would do a lot better putting the whole show on line and asking us to show our appreciation with modest donations (as does the Bradcast). Alternatively, they could run commercials --which everyone who's interested will listen to at least once, then simply fast forward as repeats come up.)

* You'd think that listening to a socialist talking about economics would require propping your eyelids open with toothpicks. Uh-uh: this guy can talk! Try on Prof. Richard D. Wolff's "Economic Update" for size, fit and a few laughs at:

> http://www.democracyatwork.info/

Again: my page here is oriented toward clean and simple downloads of MP3s. If you can afford a home or office ISP connection ($55/month here), then those of you with plenty of time to stream at or away from home will have no problem watching Wolff's videos. I, however, have to snag the spoken word via fast public WiFi around town.

* Download MP3 files from D@W by following these simple steps:
            ~ Take the headline/topic that appeals to you.
            ~ If you see "read more", click on it.
            ~ If you then see "Direct download", right click to save the MP3 version --to where you want it to go (usually, the default folder/directory). (Left clicking on "Direct Download" started my Chromebook streaming the topic.)

Elsewise, I've seen (apparently older) lectures/shows with a little download symbol: , and that works too.

* You'll want to follow and archive many of the interviews offered at "To the Best Of Our Knowledge" at:

> http://www.ttbook.org/

* It would be nice if you're able to send at least a token donation to the above sources, should you enjoy and want to help support their offerings. Some have USPS mailing addresses (not Hartmann) for sending a small check or money order. (One must never do donations or purchases when using public WiFi --right?)

* Amazon.com and your public library might have audio CD versions of books written (and well read) by the author: Simon Winchester. Title suggestions:
    ~ The Professor and the Madman
    ~ A Crack in the Edge of the World
    ~ The Map That Changed the World

^ * My jaw dropped when this amazingly well read, traveled and experienced man took a call from a staunch anti-capitalist --and it turned out that Hartmann had not a clue that in 1918 the United States invaded Russia. (It didn't strike me that Hartmann was feigning ignorance.)

This invasion was allegedly in an attempt to protect a huge cache of WW-1 military material and to escort a 50,000 man Czechoslovak Legion into battle against Germany. Unofficially, however, the American contigent was there to keep an eye on the Japanese contingent (from 7000 to 70,000 strong, depending on the source, but probably about 12,000). Our military ended up clearly in support of the "White" (old Tsarist and Kerenski counter-revolutionary) factions, but not in direct conflict. This intervention further prejudiced average Russians against both the USA and the Whites --and started the cold war. Graves, our general in charge, came off as a moderating factor who lamented this early example of a poorly defined military mission. About 12,000 U.S. troops were involved, in poor co-ordination with Japanese, British and French forces. The U.S. forces left in 1920. Japan was forced out in 1922.

* When a caller brought up the Georgia Guidestones (4/10/2020), that (but more understandably) also seemed to be quite outside his acquantence. (During the break his producer found a link.) Still, after many years of both the Guidestones and Hartmann, it's discouraging that the Stones came as news to Hartmann's show.

David Chandler maintains an extensive list of alternative news and commentary sources with direct links.


General criticisms:

^ * I'd much rather listen to the opinions of a show's host and her/his prepared, qualified guests --than to (often) clueless, tongue-tied, "I just wanna say--" call-ins. The Clark Howard show (a weak, AM band radio broadcast here) has the handling of call-ins figured out. Howard's screener takes the calls off-air, writes down the good, coherent, relevant ones, then reads them on-air to Clark Howard. So much better!

* Talk show guests are often brought to the discussion via telephone, Skype or some other remote connection, and the sound quality falls short. Often the guest sounds like s/he's in a bathroom, an echo chamber, talking into a metal trash can or even through a hum-a-zoo. The higher pitch of a woman's voice is more difficult since her syllibants (spell?) are less distinct. I suppose there isn't much to do about it: maybe advise the guest to not go into a hard surfaced room (like a bathroom). A walk-in closet full of clothes or a linen closet should work well if isolation is needed.

* It's my perception --as a years-long talk/news listener --that most of the available, over the Internet shows are "streaming" and often live --meaning that unless you sign up (and often pay) to get the PODcasts, you have to listen and be "on line" at the scheduled time via the showcast's web site.

A "PODcast", however, refers to "program on demand", meaning you can select and access an archived program (if only the current/last one). Preferably, you can download any of a number of past programs as well, such that you can play and listen to them at your convenience (say: whilst commuting or mowing the lawn) --without having to be "on line" (WiFi) or using up smart phone data minutes.

Again: many people use smart phone applications which automatically download, store and organize their favorite PODcasts, perhaps even allowing 15 second jump-aheads for bypassing unwanted segments.

** Since I've never succumbed to smart phones (I just have a hello-goodbye, $10/month, flip Tracfone), here's a link to more informed, accurate, modern times information:

> https://www.wired.com/story/podcasts-beginners-guide/

Up-date: A good e-friend mailed me a soon-to-expire (due to the end of 3G service) "Galaxy" Android smart phone --so I might have a better idea what these mobile devices are all about. Despite his 2 pages of instructions, I still needed counseling to get to square #1 --in my attempts to download an astronomical sky program (planets, Moon, stars stuff). Today I spent another half hour with it on WiFi, trying to establish my observing location --arghhhh!-- how frustrating. I can't imagine doing something creative with it (like these web pages, or carrying on a good email conversation with links and image attachments). Gimme a mouse, a keyboard and a decent size monitor screen.

* We have precious resources in today's audio media: in the opportunities they afford us to stay on top of current events,  commentary/editorials, political and other cultural developments, literature (old and new) as "audio books", music and poetry. When I'm doing such scut work as manually surfacing an optical component, cutting the grass (while wearing -38dB muffs plus ear plugs) and scraping paint --I can absorb a wide array of wisdom, opinion and information --mostly as downloaded MP3 PODcasts, via my cheap little MP3 player.

* Keep an eye on library book sales as they bail out of audio cassettes. You'll find plenty of fiction and you might find a still current, college level, literature or other course for a dollar or two --one which might cost hundred$ to buy new on CDs. (And: you can get a deluxe cassette player at the Goodwill store for just a few dollars more.)

** The main problem is finding enough appropriate time for listening to it all. If I'm doing anything which requires alertness and/or thought, there's no point in listening to a spoken word PODcast. A secondary problem lies in getting at a particular audio program or piece of music that you're interested in, perhaps due to download pay walls. Day-to-day, live, radio news broadcasts and live talk shows might require you to endure mind numbing, insultingly stupid, repetitive commercials --should you decline pay walls around their commercial-free PODcast versions --the sharing of which is in turn restricted by claims of copyright. (There are exceptions.)

* The available personal tools of change are mainly the pressure of our collective patronage in the marketplace, and becoming more aware of what alternative choices are already available to the listener/consumer. These tools might make little difference to the world of media, but they can make an effective and immediate difference for the aware individual. ("With it" young readers of this page are more aware of smart-phone, notebook/i-pad/i-tunes and Spotify type options than I am and can run circles around barriers to and burdens upon cultural content.)

Smart phones, i-Pads and such: With an Apple product, we had to get onto area WiFi, select Google search services, and carefully select (or ask for, if voice command is optioned) --the desired PODcast. Access was the same but seemed easier with an Android operated phone. (I believe "i-Tunes" carries a fixed subscription charge, but I'm not aware if there are extra access charges. Again: I only pack a $10/month hello-goodbye TracFone.)

XM Satellite Radio: * I do appreciate that it avoids the vexing problem of stations fading as one drives, but I otherwise don't understand why XM/satellite radio is much of an alternative option. From reading commentaries about XM, I gather that you pay maybe $10, $15, (whatever the package) per month, but the music channels still have blabbering "DJs", the talk/cultural stations are locked into broadcast type commercial blocks of time, and maybe you end up listening to even worse commercial/break material to fill in between those blocks. (It was over 17 years ago that I last used a (pioneering, hackable) XM radio device, so my experience is way out of date.)

Recording broadcasts:

* There's a straight-forward product to buy from Sharper Image:
> http://www.sharperimage.com
--a programmable AM, FM, Short-wave radio/recorder for $59.99 (which sounds like a good value).

* Recording, capturing or copying digital content --as digital media, as is often facilitated by an available MP3 download (a PODcast) --to your computer, smartphone, or other MP3 player device. There are a ton of software options for doing that, including automatic download applications for smart phones, i-PODs, and advanced MP3 players. After learning to reflexively operate the controls and fast forwarding, such a digital device becomes practical.

I manually download what interests me (using a Chromebook), then transfer it to and play it on a simple (think I paid $15, years ago) MP3 device, which holds a caboodle of files and remembers where I last left off. (My MP3 player's fast forward sucks, however, so be sure to check that feature before you buy a player. A small "graphic user interface" helps.)

  ~ For downloading (say) a 50 megabytes of audio over public WiFi, you want a strong, near-by signal so your download doesn't get interrupted/delayed.

* Fortunately, full featured PODcast applications have "fast forward" --maybe even a 15 second jump feature.
 

For live listening:

* Were it necessary to simply silence those blocks as quiet time, they might be spent thinking (oh my!) or talking to a friend about the program content you were listening to. "Muzak" type background music vendors long ago realized how much more pleasing and effective their content was if rather long pauses were periodically included. Those long blabbering commercial breaks might be just the ticket for an ideal program break --if they could be easily and methodically silenced.

However: my problem with simply turning off the radio during commercials is that I quickly get into some other interest and usually forget to turn it back on again. A simple "back on" timer function is exactly what's needed.

So how about that: a semi-automatic, radio commercial termination and restart system --?

** I think the radio broadcast industry has long passed up on a precious opportunity by not promoting what I call a "magazine format" for commercial content. Think about it: although newspapers and magazines charge plenty to carry ads, the reader does not have to read them (choice: an A-mazing concept!) --unless s/he is interested. Radio stations and programs would be far more popular (particularly with upscale demographics) if repeat, stupefying commercials could be easily silenced.

The Radio of the Future --how it might work: * All standard radios would be equipped with a blab-blare silence button and/or such a button on a remote control.

* Each single commercial block of time would end with a "back on" tweet signal, such that no radio receiver timer is needed --nor any additional listener attention/distraction (so important while driving).

* Be my guess that TV/cable programming would soon get on board with something similar, probably affecting the sound but letting the video roll.

Questions and comments:

PODcasts: * There are progressive talk shows I'd love to be downloading, but they demand paying them $5 to $7.95 per month --each-- to do so (except for a few like Peter B Collins' and Brad Friedman's shows, which are free. (Free-will donations and subscriptions are requested.)

* I think a popular willingness to send in a modest, one-time (at a time) token of support for alternative media PODcasts is very likely. Be my guess that vastly more money would be coming in to progressive shows by setting their suggested support levels at (say) $10 per year --and without placing "premium" content behind a "members only" pay wall.

* And: of what value is pay walled content? Should it be some really good and relevant stuff --that you can't post/email a link for it to friends? Neither can you ethically/legally send a copy to a friend --and especially not to some authority or public office holder. ---How self defeating.

Why not instead: simply do PODcasts for free, but using commercials?

* Quality commercials would sure be nice, but since a PODcast lets us easily vote "no" via fast forward (manually or via a player applications feature), the quality, repetition and/or stupidity of each commercial would matter a lot less. Simply leave that up to the advertiser's discretion. An ordinary MP3 player with fast forward 15 second jumps would do the job.

Let's hear it for FM radio! * While our car's AM radio works pretty good, our AM pocket radios are horrible, as well as being horribly directional. One has to stand just so (radio in pocket, "hold that pose!") to get the station loud and the hum/buzz down to a low level of annoyance. Add to that the din of repeat repeat idiot commercials and AM radio is simply a non-starter for many of us.

Meanwhile, our FM reception is excellent and non-directional (if a wee bit "zoney"). While there's been little by way of progressive talk (out here in small town America where I live) --just a few milquetoast NPR type shows, those tireless Bible thumpers, and music-music-music, --a few local low power FM stations are beginning to make better use of the FM wasteland.

* Surely: there's a dim future for commercial AM radio (since, be my guess, most AM stations would rather die than change), and a bright one for commercial PODcasting.