radio by other means

I’ve been a big fan of having an f.m. chip inside my phone so that I can listen to the radio without running up data charges, but I think I’m switching sides.

This article goes along with what I’ve experienced – even though I have the chip I don’t use it very often. There’s a certain “why bother” quality to it. True, f.m. sounds better than a lot of digital under ideal circumstances, but being out for a walk isn’t one of them.The headphone wires are your antenna and they slosh around, causing interference. I’ll trade the slightly better fidelity of f.m. for a lack of noise.

Here’s the other part: I don’t think a good radio station has anything to fear from being mostly a digital, streaming channel, even though it’s only one of thousands of such channels available. I am a huge fan of our local public radio station; it does old-fashioned “full service” radio with a combination of smart news and well-picked music and enough, though not too much, NPR programming. And whether I’m listening in my car, over my phone, on my computer or streamed to my family room stereo, I seek it out. The station is in no danger of getting lost in the shuffle because it offers me a mix of elements I can’t get anywhere else. Amazing how simple the formula is, yet how ignored it is by the vast bulk of commercial radio, where the race is always to be the least distinguished.

And while I’m sure the phone companies are trying to reverse course, right now data prices are dropping, making streaming a somewhat better option. So, I still like having an f.m. chip in my phone in some vague, general way, but I don’t really care about it, at least not like I thought I would.

But what about listening in cars? There’s another post at the same site about the decreased presence of a.m./f.m.radio on the dashboard. I’m not ready to give up over-the-air in the car yet, because the technology continues to work well, and I think people who worry about losing broadcasting’s “one to many” reach during a crisis have a point. I suppose the question becomes – how long can you afford to keep the transmitter turned on?

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