JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Pros and Cons of Internet Broadcasting

Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau

JACKSONVILLE -- May 1, 2001 -- Many radio stations are turning to the Internet, in addition to their regular FM and AM stations, to more widely broadcast their signals. Stations on the Internet can be heard from around the world.

"That is the major advantage of Internet radio," says Mike Stedham, director of student media at Jacksonville State University. "Listeners have access to a wide range of material."

Oldies, Country, Rock and almost any other kind of music can be found and listened to on the Internet. Internet radio gives listeners access to stations across the globe.

"We have JSU alumni who tune in for our Internet broadcast of JSU ball games," comments Stedham. "Our Latin broadcast also receives emailed messages from listeners in Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries."

However, Stedham says that sound quality is a major disadvantage of Internet radio. "Most computer speakers are small. It's like listening to a cheap AM radio."

This is due to the compression of files. When these files are sent to listeners' computers, programs are used to shrink them. They are then decompressed in the listeners' computer. All this compression and decompression distorts the sound quality once it reaches the listener.

There are also other factors that concern Internet radio broadcasters. A tremendous controversy over copyrights and licensing has affected many Internet radio stations.

Because of the court ruling against MP3.com and Napster.com, producers in the music industry have gained confidence in winning copyright suits against online music broadcasters.

"Every year WLJS (JSU's radio station) pays a licensing fee," says Stedham. "Now music producers want to charge us an extra fee for broadcasting their songs over the Internet."

This would cost non-profit stations more money than they can afford, and this is forcing many college stations to drop their Internet broadcasts. Many commercial stations who rely on advertising are also finding it hard to make money and even afford their Internet stations. A lot of these commercial stations are also dropping their Internet broadcasts.

Is there any hope for Internet radio?

"With all this technology, we still have to look at the fundamental system of supply and demand," says Stedham. "If there is a great enough demand for Internet radio, it will survive."

Stedham also sees the convergence of the Internet and television. This would provide sound and video. Satellite broadcasts are also in the works. This system would also work like your satellite or cable television service. Each home would have a reception box and would pay a monthly subscription fee.

With this technology, Stedham says listeners could be exposed to broadcasts from anywhere in the world.


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