You may be familiar with BRS Media, the small and innovative domain company that licenses the .FM and .AM extensions. I’ve written about them before – the Founder and CEO George Bundy is a smart and sharp guy. He was way out in front when he started his business, and we sometimes chuckle about the early 2000s when both he and I were already engaged with Internet radio related businesses and we thought the whole thing was about to take off. We were just a little early..
For the past year or so Bundy has been really excited about his new top level domain application with ICANN (Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers) for the .RADIO extension. He thought the prospects were looking really good and he was readying his plans for a successful launch if his application was approved. But a few months ago it was announced that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) was also applying for the .radio extension. I don’t know much about ICANN or their application approval process, but this sounded like some serious competition.
But now a new twist has arisen – one that smells a little funny. The EBU has joined ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC).
“As a Top Level Domain Registry for 15 years and a New TLD Applicant we are extremely concerned by reports that the European Broadcasting Union has been accepted to the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee. The EBU is an applicant for the contested string for the Industry specific term .RADIO,” remarked George T. Bundy, Chairman & CEO of BRS Media Inc. “No other GAC Members or Observers are a direct applicant for a generic Industry specific string like .RADIO that is contested. This will give the EBU an undue advantage, ‘where it carries commercial activities’ as noted in their other application, as well as, against all other contenders for the .RADIO string.”
BRS Media has suggested that the EBU withdraw its application for the .radio top level domain, since it has an unfair advantage by way of its new influence as a member of the advisory board for the organization that makes the selections. Although I’m admittedly a novice in knowing a thing about ICANN or top level domain assignments, it sure sounds like a reasonable request to me. But I’m guessing there’s only one reason that the EBU wanted on to that advisory board in the first place, and they may not be so willing to see it that way. In which case it’s important that ICANN, a private non-profit corporation, maintain its reputation by making sure its processes are fair and impartial.
This is so clearly impartial that I’m thinking someone just wasn’t thinking clearly about it all when it happened. Why would either ICANN or EBU want to appear so blatantly slanted? Bundy’s right – there’s no other way to make sure it’s a fair process than to take the EBU out of the running for .RADIO .
The Internet Media Device Association (IMDA) has released a standard for standalone internet radio devices which will help to align competing technologies, hasten development of more devices, create clear rules for broadcasters and benefit consumers. For manufacturers of internet radios, the certification standard aims to reduce time to market and marketing risk by removing the prospect of rival technology wars. At the same time, online broadcasters adhering to IMDA Profile 1 will be able to reach target audiences using fewer audio codecs, cutting associated costs.
Mark Hopgood, an IMDA steering committee member and Frontier Silicon’s director of marketing, commented, “audio data streaming over the internet is faced with a unique set of challenges, from codec design through to play list format, countless choices need to be made. If a universal standard isn’t specified now, when the market for internet radios is in its relative infancy, manufacturers risk entering a technology war, like the Betamax/VHS war of the ‘80s. If this happens, many early adopters will end up with obsolete products – this needs to be avoided at all costs. Technology wars create market uncertainty, which hurts manufacturers, hurts broadcasters and, most importantly, hurts the consumers.”
The newly released IMDA baseline standard stipulates devices must decode both WMA and MP3 codecs; use HTTP streaming with 301 and 302 redirection; accept play list formats M3U, ASX, PLS with new line separation for URLs in plain text; and receive stereo streams via two channels or by downloading a mix of both.
The idea is to offer certification of devices as quickly as possible – Harry Johnson, chairman of the IMDA’s steering committee and president of vTuner, concluded, “internet radios bearing the IMDA certified logo will be in the shops before Christmas.”
The IMDA was launched in 2009 to develop and promote a set of open, interoperable standards and device profiles for internet connected media devices. Its steering committee comprises many of the world’s leading players in streaming media: Awox, BBC, Deutsche Welle, the European Broadcasting Union, Frontier Silicon, Global Radio, Pure, Reciva, SWR and vTuner.