The Cultural Broadcasting Archive (CBA) has been operational for more than 10 year. Over that time, it’s been continuously enhanced and upgraded. What is it for you today?
TD: It performs various functions, which are important not only for everyday operations of indie radio stations. The home page on CBA’s website welcomes its users to a “sharing platform, archive, podcast provider and chronicle of the times.” Thus, it’s a totally pragmatic filesharing site for everyday use by indie radio stations, and an archive that makes data available for use in research. Plus, it’s a podcast provider, whereby this function is designed to reach additional listeners via the internet. And ultimately, it’s a form of documentation that has constantly developed over the last 14 years.
The internet now offers countless ways for people to make their own content available free of charge. In this context, what makes the CBA still relevant?
TD: First of all, the archive is a collection of similar content. The people who upload files to the CBA are also the archive’s heaviest users. Thus, there’s also a community aspect. On the other hand, we most definitely are not interested in any sort of commercial exploitation. Files remain 100% under the user’s control. This is very important to some people, and precisely this issue has been getting a lot of public exposure lately. More and more people are asking themselves: “Do I really want to make my data available to Google free of charge so they can exploit them?”
IL: Plus, the CBA is staunchly opposed to advertising and an advocate of independent infrastructure, which is supplied by the Association of Indie Radio Stations.
TD: Servus.at, which has been our partner for many years, operates the infrastructure. Furthermore, we use free software exclusively in CBA’s operations.
So, on one hand, you’d like to make the CBA more of a community platform; on the other hand, your open source project also represents an attempt to build up the operator segment of the community. What’s your campaign all about?
IL: In this sector at present, there are very few open source solutions. We want to publish the source code, and to do so it must first be documented so it can be subsequently expanded, enhanced and upgraded. Then, others can download the code, work on it, modify it to their own standards and adapt it for their own purposes. Thus, newcomers will be able to get involved in the project. If somebody develops an additional module and adds features, then everybody else can benefit from this. Thus, our aim is to propagate the project. We want more private archives to come onto the Web. There’s a lot of data out there that’s in a state of limbo, material that is of great public interest but cannot yet be made publically available, in some cases for technical reasons.
At the ARCHIVIA conference being held in conjunction with this year’s Ars Electronica Festival, participants will discuss a few of the problems besetting digital archives such as the CBA.
TD: Basically speaking, things tend to get difficult when the rights of third parties are affected. In the traditional media sector such as VHF radio, this is clearly regulated: as a frequency licensee, you have the right to broadcast and the rights distributors are obliged to grant you a license for which you must pay a fee. But this right “to broadcast”—that is, to make available content such as a radio program—doesn’t exist in the online domain. Accordingly, a small-time archive operator like us is, of course, in a very difficult negotiating position.
IL: Furthermore, you’re at the mercy of the owner of the copyright as to whether a license even exists.
TD: When you consider the fact that even major corporations like Google and Amazon are involved in enormous lawsuits with rights distributors, copyright owners and labels, and it takes years to reach an agreement, then it’s clear that it’s even more difficult for a small operator to consummate agreements. This is why we’re convinced that a political solution is what’s needed. We simply can’t afford individual agreements. This means: what indie radio stations successfully fought for in the ‘80s and ‘90s has to be fought for once again: the right to broadcast, but this time on the internet.
IL: We want to explicitly mention that this is a matter of a non-commercial archive that has free access to information related to the subject of its broadcasts. The content we’re talking about here was, in any case, financed by public funding. We believe that it has to be possible to place this content at the disposal of the community once again. Another aim of the political campaign is to get us linked up to other organizations and to attract broad-based attention to this issue in the political forum. Such archives haven’t had lobbyists fighting for their interests until now.
So, is that the key question that has to be answered in order to assure the archive’s future on the internet?
IL: Exactly. It’s also important to present a united front to political decision-makers. At the moment, the copyright owners are being played off against the “bad” consumers and the rights distribution industry that substantially determines this relationship isn’t being discussed at all. For that matter, there are many groups whose advocacy of their legitimate rights in the public interest isn’t even being heard from in this debate. It’s important that these points of view and other perspectives on the issues be taken into consideration. After all, this is a matter of access to information for all.
Are people within the CBA community cognizant of the democratic-political significance of the archive?
TD: It’s already apparent that a paradigm shift with respect to usage is taking place. There are program producers who upload their programs to the CBA and then send their radio stations the link to it with the request to broadcast the file in this way. This means that the CBA is increasingly becoming a first broadcaster. I believe that this is only the beginning of the debate about the future of indie radio. How can we develop further in order to adapt to new technical facts & circumstances and to actively take advantage of them? I believe we’ll still have to invest a lot more energy here.
Once we’ve succeeded in securing the CBA’s legal basis—that’s also the objective of our campaign—this will open up a horizon of possibilities to rethink radio. What will an indie radio station look like in five to 10 years? This is what interests me most.
How do you picture this in 10 years?
TD: I believe that in 10 years we’ll have to be totally restructured in order to be viable. What the platform will look like in five years, I have no idea. I hope that, until then, we stay strong enough to remain on the leading edge of development.
IL: I hope and believe that, over the next few years, awareness of the political aspect of this archive greatly increases and that the way things look on the platform will change, which means within our own community as well … I also believe that distribution offerings like the respective websites of the individual indie radio stations will increasingly merge with the platform.
TD: The consciousness shift in the community is also a question of the imminent changing of the generational guard. In many indie radio stations, there are no digital natives in management positions or on the board of directors … If that were the case, the discussion about the future of indie radio would proceed differently! I really hope that a change of course will happen soon. Otherwise, young people will be jumping ship.
IL: The changed media behavior is already noticeable. The study [The Third Media Sector in Upper Austria] showed, among other things, that indie radio tends to appeal to older listeners. Therefore, what we lack is access to younger people who approach this in a totally different way. What this is all about is indie radio transferring its mission into the so-called netsphere, where it’s no longer a matter of access to the terrestrial broadcast spectrum but rather of establishing important new areas of emphasis.
TD: At this point, I’d like to bring in that wonderful Peter Kruse quote: “And if you’re not willing, then I need to be patient.”
IL: Yes, precisely. “Constant dripping wears away stone” is my strategy too in this case.
- Cultural Broadcasting Archive
- Archivia – Website
- Archivia – Ars Electronica 2012
- Honorary Mention CBA at Prix Ars Electronica 2010 – Digital Communities
An unabridged version of this interview is available at thomaskreiseder.com (German only).
CC license for this article: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0