Repeat After Me: “Podcasting is NOT Pirate Radio”

I realize that mainstream commercial broadcast radio is so horrifically homogenized, payola-ridden and unlistenable that any alternative seems underground by comparison. But, please, can we stop comparing ‘net based audio to pirate radio?

An article on podcasting from the Mercury News is being syndicated all over the place, and like so much other press covering ‘net audio, it makes a direct correlation between podcasting and pirate broadcasting:

[A particular podcast show is] among a growing number of “podcasts,” a new online outlet for amateur broadcasters to run their own pirate radio stations [emphasis added]. No government approval required.

And just because something doesn’t require “government approval” or a license, doesn’t mean it’s pirate, either. Have we gone so far down the government-corporate-totalitarian path that we now believe anything that isn’t officially sanctioned by a government or corporation must somehow be really underground and pirate?

I’m not usually a stickler for terms, definitions and semantics. I often find that arguments over terms stand in place of arguments over ideas and action. It’s easier to sit on your ass and argue about the real meaning of “micropower broadcasting” than to actually get off your ass and broadcast or do something else meaningful.

Nevertheless, language is powerful and words are one of our primary means of expression. And when a term is overused or has it’s meaning stretched too far, it ceases to have a useful meaning. But beyond mere language, that word perversion also threatens to rob the actual thing itself of its meaning.

Pirate radio is broadcasting on the public airwaves without government sanction or license, period. Although pirates differ in ideology and purpose, they nearly all agree that that the ability to broadcast should not be restricted by the government in the way it is now.

Pirate radio is a method of direct action. Pirate radio is an act of resistance. Pirate radio is conducted in direct contravention to existing laws, policies and corporate will.

Podcasting is none of these things inherently.

A particular podcast may have strong words, may contain expression that challenges the status quo and all forms of repression. But the podcast itself is not direct action–it exists in opposition to no laws or policies, it is not illegal.

Podcasts might be cool (hey, I’ve got one), but they are not pirate radio.






One response to “Repeat After Me: “Podcasting is NOT Pirate Radio””

  1. On piracy

    Paul at MediaGeek has an insightful piece about ‘podcast’-type production being characterised as analogous to pirate radio. His argument is…