In the last 25 year, humanity has witnessed a rapid transformation of the media due to the advent of computers, electronic games and the Internet. All these technologies belong to a new and popular word combination “new media”. At the present time, this concept implies digital means of information transfer such as the Internet, computer games, digital movies and photos, mobile telephony and the virtual world. New media take their place among other things generated by new technologies and changes in the human behavior. Experimenting with “space” and the possibilities of new media is one of their main properties, leading to a variety of their use. Producers and consumers do not know exactly how to handle the new media and, therefore, begin to experiment extensively. In this case, both producers and consumers primarily use their knowledge and skills with respect to the old media.
Satellite radio is extensively used and growing in popularity new media technology. It is used for many purposes and opens a lot of possibilities for people from all fields and positions. The main point it provides and ensures is information on the variety of topics, starting with favorite music to political and economic news. Satellite radio frequencies provide a clear signal, a variety of content and are available worldwide. However, among all the positive possibilities it gives for a common individual, one should also be aware of it exactly from the side of freedom and variety it gives. Unfortunately, due to satellite radio availability and global nature, it is a strong global information exchange tool that can be used for influence and control.
Outside the Cave
The concept of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is very close to that of new media concept. A prisoner in the cage is a reflection of the human ability to believe and know only what they can see, basing on the combined signal of their senses – vision, hearing, tactile perception, smell and taste. In other words, people believe in what they sense. Speaking metaphorically, the cave humanity was imprisoned in significantly far from Plato’s times.
Analogue technology and media, which prevailed as recently as 25 years ago, was the people imprisoned in the cave, with digital technology being only a shadow on its wall. With the invention of satellite radio and other new media technologies, the wall of the cave seems to disappear from human sight. With all the freedoms satellite radio provides, people tend to feel free of limits and borders since they invaded even space. However, in context of Plato’s allegory, people are still prisoners of their five general senses used to communicate with the environment.
On the other side, the allegory of cave can be interpreted from the viewpoint of constant human strive for something more. Satellite radio is the next step towards information exchange, being global, flexible and available worldwide. This reflects the human desire to get out of the cave and always strive for progress. In these terms, satellite radio is not the last media technology achievement since there are always such “prisoners” who want to show more to other people.
Entertainment and Pleasure
The characteristic feature of satellite radio is not only a broad geographical scope of action, but also a lot of additional services, including excellent sound quality and the absence of interference from other radio stations. One can listen to it anywhere in the world if there is a direct line of sight of the satellite and the receiver (even in the tunnels, in which repeaters are installed). The signal received by a satellite receiver is always digital, i.e. one should not be aware of interference from analogue broadcasting local radio stations. An undeniable advantage of satellite radio is the absence of advertising, but on some rare channels it is still present.
Satellite radio introduces undeniably one of the vital human necessities – entertainment and pleasure. Usually, on the essential radio stations, DJs put the music that they like, i.e. one likes qualitative pop music; the second enjoys electronic music, and the third is fond of rock music. This rarely meets the needs of the wide audience. Satellite radio allows one to enjoy the music that matches mood regardless of the time of day. Romantic evening atmosphere is perfectly complemented by the romantic radio station. The increased supply of energy and activity could be accompanied by trance or dance music. Mini disco party at home is possible with a disco music station. Humor station eliminates depression, making one walk a gloomy day; certainly some kind of joke would lift one’s mood up. It is also very convenient to include satellite radio via satellite dish since it takes not only the TV signal, but radio signal as well.
Consequently, the main entertaining tool used by satellite radio is the choice. One is free to choose what and when he/she wants to listen to. Satellite radio provides flexibility and availability. It creates a sense of belonging to the global media since a station is on air for thousands of other people all over the world. Being a part of something special and global is very important for human beings since it is a part of socialization. Therefore, satellite radio provides not only the pleasure to choose a station appropriate to someone’s tastes, but also a sense of being a part of something worldwide and global.
However, satellite radio has its drawbacks. Subscription to satellite radio is performed on a pre-paid basis, i.e. first, one has to pay for the services, register the device receiving the signal and only then enjoy streaming audio. Another important issue that relates to the users of satellite radio is the signal degradation in poor weather conditions. If one has a home or a car satellite receiver and has no backup plan for listening to music, one probably have to sit in silence until the weather becomes fine. In addition, the issue of uniqueness also creates a drawback for satellite radio use. The technology is unique in terms of “one device – one receiver”, i.e. in case there are two radios (TVs) in the apartment, there should be two receivers. Otherwise, one should reach a compromise with the family on “what to watch” matter.
The Power of Information
Most (if not all) of the existing satellite radio broadcasting systems are closed (not using a common standard) and use different codecs for encoding audio information, different modulation types, different encryption techniques and access control channels. This creates the main power of the satellite radio – thinking it is non-standard and closed, an individual considers it as impossible to interrupt, broke and, therefore, it can only be used for its direct purpose, providing information, mainly music. However, even the fact that the signal is encoded and closed becomes the main tool for information providers to dictate their viewpoints and truths.
Obviously, one of the main ad most dangerous weapons is information. Therefore, a secure channel for information exchange, such as satellite radio, is the power for authorities, organizations and other institution to influence some part of citizens. As it was said earlier, a human being believes only in what he/she senses. Hearing and, most importantly, trusting the information one hears on the satellite radio, one believes in its safety and gets under the influence. The introduction of global media, which satellite radio belongs to, is able to start a new type of war – informational one. By contrast to common radio, the scopes of this war can turn into global.
On the other side, the mentioned power of influence is simultaneously given and taken off from information providers. Satellite radio accessibility and availability gives an individual the power of choice. Picking up the best radio station and thus the information to perceive gives power to common a listener and takes the power of influence from a provider. Despite the information flow from the speaker one hears, he/she can always change the station and hear something else, i.e. believe something else. This introduces the tinge of spontaneity into the radio world. Subsequently, the main power still belongs to the audience since it is the matter of a human choice.
The power of influence and the power of choice struggle endlessly in terms of information technology development. In these terms, satellite radio is common to any other media, for example to printed newspapers or penny press. The scopes of printed and penny press use are significantly less than that of satellite radio, but the essence is the same. Press is also the tool of informational influence, with the difference that one uses vision to familiarize with proposed information instead of using hearing. Similarly, the reader can also choose what and when to read, making these two media tools have the same pattern.
New media and satellite radio, in particular, offer the potential for democratic postmodern public sphere in which citizens can participate fully in public debate with full access to information. Therefore, satellite radio cannot only be applied as an entertainment tool, but as a part of social media, reaching an individual by any possible information stream. On the other hand, side free access and availability becomes a powerful tool for authorities and organization to influence the audience with the provided information, making satellite radio a two-edged sword of new media technology.