There Is No Cat

A huge orangupoid, which no man can conquer

Monday, December 2, 2002

CBC Radio 3 has issues

What do you call a radio station that isn't a radio station? CBC, the Canadian public broadcaster, has started something they call CBC Radio 3 (their first two stations are Radio 1 and Radio 2, and actually broadcast radio programs, many of them excellent, over the air). But this isn't something you'll be toting to the beach, at least not until free Wi-Fi for all is established in the Constitution. It feels more like an Internet-based magazine with a soundtrack. And in being that, it takes an interesting approach to net-based radio that I haven't seen anywhere else. One of my big complaints about net-based radio is that I'm usually using my computer for something else rather than as a radio. So it doesn't occur to me to tune something in, particularly when I have so many real radios within reach of my computer that I can turn on and hear something interesting. As a result, I very rarely listen to net-based radio. I often listen to the radio while I'm surfing the net. CBC Radio 3 is the first "radio station" I've seen that deliberately makes radio a background experience for while you're looking at something else, then provides the something else to look at. For the most part, the music plays continuously while you visit and read articles. There are a few exceptions; the music is paused when you go to an article that includes an audio component, such as this week's profile of Amon Tobin, an ambient musician, or the article about a new book called The Original Canadian City Dwellers Almanac, which contains a traditionally radio-styled audio report that's loosely coupled to the visual content.

There are a few problems, as is to be expected with something that's apparently only been running for a couple of weeks. First, I don't see any archives, so if you missed the first week as I did, it appears to be gone forever. Second, the site requires Flash, and apparently a pretty recent version, based on comments I see on Metafilter, where I found the link to the site in the first place. Choosing Flash imposes some constraints, such as a lack of bookmarkability (note how I wasn't able to provide links to the individual stories within the magazine in the previous paragraph), no back button, that sort of thing. (Interestingly, at least with Flash MX, these constraints aren't actually necessary; you can access named frames within a presentation by using the #name convention within a URL, for example.) But the site designers acknowledge the existence of the problems in their "Page One" intro, or as they put it, "We have issues." They also promise that they're working on them. I don't see that they'll work around the problems inherent with using Flash as the only interface to their content, but given the hip audience they're aiming at, it may be an appropriate compromise.

CBC Radio 2 has long had some interesting programs on in the wee hours of the morning aimed at a hipster audience, such as the great Brave New Waves. On occasions when I've been close enough to the border, I've been known to stay up way late to listen in. Radio 3 seems aimed at much the same audience. (Radio 2 also has some great programming when normal people can listen, too, like the wonderful roots music program Roots & Wings.)

All in all, I'm very impressed. It ain't radio, and it ain't a magazine, but whatever odd hybrid of the two it is, it sure is an interesting attempt to drag radio into the Internet age.

Posted at 1:12 AM

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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