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Don Burleson Blog 









Are Podcasting and RSS considered Broadcasting?

Insights by Donald Burleson

The term "Broadcasting" originated in early 20th Century America in an effort to give a meaningful name to the process of radio transmission.  In the early days of the 1900's most Americans were farmers and very familiar with "broadcasting", the processing of spreading seeds by slinging them in a concentric circle.

In the legal arena, judges have struggled to see if existing laws apply to the internet, and one of the major reasons cited for the difference between traditional broadcasting and the web was the "passive" nature of web pages, where you must actively find them via hyperlink or a search engine.

With RSS, you can subscribe to an RSS feed, just like subscribing to a TIVO channel, and the content is broadcast directly to you newsreader.

The future of the on-demand web

It's very clear that bloggers and traditional broadcasters may soon move onto the internet and a few key future developments will foster this issue:

  • The delivery of a satellite that provides wireless across all of the USA

  • The incorporation of TV and Radio to feed from the wireless satellite

Once traditional radio and television switches to the internet-based format (much the same as "Vonage" and the voice-over-IP telephone technologies), we are going to see a movement to legislate on-demand web broadcasting under the auspices of the FCC.

I've perfected a video-based blog that allows people anywhere to view me in a professional video format using RSS newsreaders:


I'm currently working on new technology incorporating automatic speech recognition to provide a text-based supplement for the hearing impaired:

I'm planning to make my blogs and technical presentations as classy as CNN, and once they start getting broadcast over the internet, I may find myself subject to the nasty regulations governing other broadcasters.

Are RSS feed authors to be considered a publisher or a distributor?

The American judicial system is struggling with this central issue of whether on-demand broadcasting of web content constitutes broadcasting, and most important, if this broadcasting falls within the purview of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), sometimes known as "Uncle Charley" by those in the broadcasting industry. 

This is a very important question, especially in cases of civil law such as cyberlibel.  Here is a case where the FCC is attempting to interfere with the new Broadcast Flag technology.

Are bloggers broadcasters?

Because blogs may be considered a form of broadcast media, all blog operators have to be careful not to violate the strict FCC guidelines for obscenity.  This link has great examples of obscenity rules for broadcasters:

Material is offensive if it offends the "average" broadcast viewer or listener. Commission staff, and ultimately the Commissioners themselves, decide what the average person finds offensive. Examples of the Commission's findings include:

  • popular songs which contain repeated references to sex or sexual organs (e.g., "I Want To Be A Homosexual," "Penis Envy," "Walk With An Erection," "Erotic City," "Jet Boy Jet Girl," "Makin' Bacon");

  • DJ banter concerning tabloid sex scandals (e.g., Vanessa Williams' photographs in Penthouse and a honeymooner whose testicle was caught in a hot tub drain);

  • discussions between DJs and callers concerning intimate sexual questions (e.g., "What makes your hiney parts tingle?"; "What's the grossest thing you ever put in your mouth?");

  • dirty jokes or puns ("Liberace was great on the piano but sucked on the organ");

  • non-clinical references to gay or lesbian sex, masturbation, penis or breast size, sodomy, erections, orgasms, etc; description or simulation of various sexual acts;

  • and the seven dirty words (sh*t, f**k, p*ss, c*nt, c**ksucker, motherf**ker, t*ts).

In sum, the passive nature of the web is changing, and the advent of subscription-based web broadcasting may open Pandora's box, with U.S. government regulators and bureaucrats coming after millions of tiny web-based broadcasters.



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