There is Enough Content: How the Public Will Pay for an Overhaul of South Florida Radio

Categories: Local Music
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Photo by Stephanie Rae Berzon
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 and how they relate to our region. This week, public financing for the radio system.

In part one and part two of this series, I laid out a basic framework for a popular takeover of radio: a two-part elected spectrum found at the bottom of part two. In this part, I am going to discuss the financing plan for the system and the yet to be solved problem of digital commerce being forced into a market framework.

This shift from private to public will essentially be financed by everyone -- and that means a direct tax. Think of it like the fire department. Even if you do not ever use the services of the fire department -- you still pay. You pay for somebody else's fire to be put out. And likewise, under the model I'm proposing, even if you do not listen to the radio, you still contribute to the development of the art and culture of the society by paying for it through taxes.

I understand that in the current political climate, I probably am tripping off elitist anti-democracy activist and tea-bagging alarms across the board, but I do this fairly often these days, and 95 percent of the time I have little problem defusing the alarm. A "tax" that is direct is no different than an indirect "tax." What matters is which people are carrying the burdens. If you cut government spending on wage boosting programs like direct employment, it may reduce the direct taxation (a small degree) on the population, but it places a greater burden on the wage earners -- and there are many more wage earners than there are members of the investor class. Hours go up, pay goes down, more work is required to survive. Return on investment increases for the investor class, quality of life declines for the working class.

This is the aristocratic and authoritarian way of redistributing power upwards: Through the state in practice -- "free market" in rhetoric. Or if you cut spending on roads and services, it registers as a tax reduction, but if more potholes cause a 20 percent increase in damage to cars and those cars require repairs, the economy "grows" because of the increase in private sector spending. But that just tells us that "growth" is a loaded word. And of course none of this shows up on the books as a "tax" for the same reason that underemployed people don't show up on the unemployment rate: Economics as a discipline is a political ideology.  So there is no free lunch.

Society pays one way or another, the question is simply which people are going pay, how much they pay, and what are the kinds of social obligations will be involved in the social roles that the economy produces.  So, with all of that in mind, the public, in my opinion, supports the arts, especially in theory, and for once, in theory here is more important than in practice.  What will come will be commercial free content, that will take the responsibility to finance artists, and deliver steady but innovative content to the audience.  Pay will be spread out amongst many more artists nationally.  This will mean instead of a market for music, we accept digital networks for their market incompatibility.  

-- Evan Rowe


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