There Is Enough Content: Comparing Radio to the Drug Trade

Evan Rowe is a local songwriter and performer best-known as

Catalonia, a professor of political science and history at Broward

College, and a small-d democratic strategist with no party affiliation.

Each week, we surrender our space for his thoughts on the music industry

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and how they relate to our region. This week, why media space is as arbitrarily profitable as the drug trade.

Much of the power and control in society is quantified by the liquid fluid bond commonly known as money. And since I'm in the business of following political economy, the numbers in my life tend to be in the trillions and billions. Any number with only six digits at the end of it is insignificant in the grand economy in which the world operates.

The radio industry, for instance, is a roughly a $13 billion-a-year industry, but the estimates on the

global drug trade range from $300 billion to $500 billion yearly, according to the U.N. Much

of that money is laundered through U.S. banks, and one report last year

claimed that "the only liquid investment capital" available to some

banks during the 2008 financial crisis was from drug money. Radio space, being just one slice of

the total corporate media space in the U.S., is small when compared to

the space given to the drug trade, the employees of the drug trade, and

the places that money goes -- campaign contributions, for instance.

But the point here is that the entire value of the initial profitability

is arbitrary. Terrestrial FM Radio, by virtue of its narrow monopoly

over access to neurological real estate, is a declining industry from a

technological standpoint, but it still holds the lion's share of the mental real estate in comparison

to new auditory media and will perhaps continue to do so. I understand that some hipsters

perhaps avoid the radio. But radio's numbers are still strong

(admittedly this data is coming from a radio ad lobby). Furthermore,

this is not about how individuals can manage or perhaps "beat" the flaws

in the existing system -- but it is about the system itself.

Players in

any game are insignificant in comparison to those who control the rules

of the game. If you have this $13 billion space and you

democratize it as I've suggested, you end up changing the value of that

space. What is now producing a monetary value of $13 billion yearly will

collapse. Maybe this is good; maybe it's bad. If you decriminalize

the drug trade and escort business, you will collapse the enormous markup and ability to employ layers of middlemen: bad for dealers, bad for

banks, bad for nightclubs that launder the money, and bad for politicians who

protect them.

But when you collapse the value in one area, it creates

more space elsewhere -- and that is where the illicit trade and radio

overlap. The monetary value of the space is arbitrarily defined through

politics. Without state protection via the FCC, radio would never be

able to control the spectrum long enough to play ten songs, let alone

organize their content in order to sell the audience to advertisers.

And without the war on drugs (AKA the state subsidy and protection

racket to major narcotics producers), there would never be a $300 billion to $500

billion space for the producers.

This is why democratizing

radio is an easy transition in my mind. Since the space is so

arbitrarily defined in terms of values, a simple transition is simply a

better way to organize it because it will include more people in the

process and because it will shift power away from those currently

shaping the public mind under the guise of popular power -- but in reality

shaped by antidemocratic business power.

Next week, I'm going to take some time away from the political economy

and do a retrospective on my experiences as a disco infiltrator and

performance artist in the South Florida nightclub scene 2005-07.

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