It Is Not The Changes That Might Take Place, But The Changes That Are Already Occurring And How To Make The Most Out Of It

More than talking about changes that can be expected in the media landscape because of the developments and the influence of on-line streaming media, it is more consequent and important to consider (and act up on) the influence that these facilities already have in this particular area and the way in which information and communications as a whole have changed and will continue to change because on-line streaming media.

Like with many other areas where digital communication technology is involved, at first it is impossible to detect changes because situations are generally reviewed from the stand point of the sharply defined changes characteristic in "industrialist communications" and not as an organic transformation that is hardly noticeable but that is there changing rules and protocols permanently. In practical terms, on-line streaming data supplies more in depth information that can be permanently refreshed and a lot faster than with any other communication tool ever before; these are big assets for publishers and broadcasters alike and because of this on-line streaming data is pushing communications to change and to change fast because they also are developing a new different language that is becoming part of the standard vocabulary used to communicate in the world of converging media. It is, to a great deal, because of digital communications technology (and on-line streaming media) that it is hardly possible today to talk about "traditional broadcasting" any longer, this is simply because at present there are many sorts of "traditional broadcasting": National Broadcasting in the shape of "American Network (national) television:" ABC, CBS, NBC; Public and Private Commercial National Stations all over Europe and the rest of the world; Regional and Local Stations that have become part of main stream, traditional broadcasting and the Transnational Stations that telecast for the entire world: CNN (Cable News Network) Sky Channel, BBC World, National Geographic, Discovery, etc. As far as television is concerned, it is important to remember that the image on the screen has radically changed since the introduction of digital, automated, on-line data displays: Weather, Financial Information, Breaking News, etc. are other permanent sources that form part of the image on the screen. Live, full motion, television is only one of the many sources that form part of the package received by the viewer at home.

An other common denominator in terms of digital on-line media is that broadcasting companies, as well as news papers and magazines can no longer exist without e-mail and web pages; these features have since long passed the point of been "audio visual aids" for public relations and marketing proposes and have become an integral part of the operation. Readers listeners and viewers alike visit and consult more and more such sites for cross references, background information, etc. The webcasting of real audio and real video is an integral part of radio and television programming and while networks "publish" information on the net, newspapers and magazines generate radio and television through the webcasting of real audio and real video. There is a merge between these two particular disciplines and Time Wagner is probably one of the best examples that can be used to illustrate the situation. It is not important whether real video is full motion or not because, in the first place, that is only a temporal, it won't be long before real video becomes full motion but what is more interesting is the challenge that real video presents to "communicators" by not been full motion; What some consider a limitation can be turned into an advantage, a distinctive trade mark af the medium.

Globalization is probably one of the most radical elements incorporated by on-line streaming media in publishing and broadcasting; it places those in charge in front a "no limit option" in geographical terms as well as in terms of time and space, because in the net there are not such limitations characteristic of conventional media. On-line streaming media, globalizes both publishing and programming everybody can be global and everybody has no choice but to be global and this is one of the main challenges: redefining goals and priorities according to the available options, and the consequences of such decisions might have in terms of local, regional and even national scenarios.

E-mail has also a great influence in newspapers and magazine publishing as well as in radio and television programming. This simple facility has forced the information establishment to become interactive. Publishers, editors and producers alike receive more and more comments from readers, viewers, listeners and users; their views have to be taken into account and they have more and more influence in editorial policies. The communications establishment understands the implications of such developments and now days they have no choice but to encourage citizen, editorial participation, not only in the ways in which information is disseminated, but also what the information is about. As far live radio and t.v. are concerned e-mail, IRC and moderated news groups have become an integral part of every day programming.

Information and communications have obviously been radically changed by digital technology, so it is not a question about the way in which "main stream communications" will be changing because of the influence of streaming media, it is more a question of how to deal and profit from these changes.

Instead of considering the ways what citizens can do to influence the information and communications industries it is more important to think about what communications can do for them. Instead of wasting time and energy trying to find ways in which readers, listeners viewers and users can use to penetrate networks and publishing empires, it is more logical to concentrate in what citizens can achieve by themselves with on-line distribution of information. Broadcasters, publishers and ordinary citizens operate with the same basic tools office equipment and electric appliances: a computer, a scanner, a camera, a microphone and a telephone line, so it is no longer necessary for citizens to aim for editorial power within industrialist communications, the same results, or even better than those achieved by the conventional media, can be achieved by ordinary citizens with a a simple web page, e-mail and moderated news groups and this is what many describe as the emancipatory role of Citizen Communications. Direct involvement and users participation in on-line streaming media opens the doors to the user direct participation in the development of the hardware and the technology that is required to continue in the future. By not accepting these changes that are already taking place and instead thinking of what to do about what might occur in the media landscape because of steaming on-line media "one might miss the bus" that is already taking us into the new information era.

It is up to the user, the citizen, to decide the way in which information and communications will go in the years to come.

Amsterdam, February 1999