That’s the title that came to mind while I read Nolan’s piece about re-mapping the US around city-states. It’s a great thought experiment. (Even though putting Santa Barbara in the City-State of Bakersfield I’m sure would seem kinda strange to both cities, divided as they are by culture and a mountain range that’s higher and wider than the Appalachians.)
Anyway, here’s a question toward another thought experiment: What happens when TV stations go away? Which they will. So will radio stations.
TVs have already evolved from actual receivers to computer display screens with a coaxial (antenna or cable) input that almost nobody uses. Video sources today are mostly subscription services. Cable’s and satellite’s shares of those services are decreasing as well.
Meanwhile, radio is gradually being replaced by streams and podcasts, heard over mobile devices or smart speakers. If over-the-air (OTA) radio wasn’t still built into the dashboards of cars, over-the-air it would quickly finish morphing into a digital replicant. Item: you’ll find more radios for sale in thrift shops than in stores. Better ones, too.
Still the fossil footprints of over-the-air broadcasting persist in areas we used to call “coverage.” You can see them in the map of Nielsen’s media markets, which Arbitron (the radio ratings agency Nielsen bought a few years ago) correctly called ADIs: Areas of Dominant Influence. Basically, these are regions dominated by cities with TV stations that residents and their cable companies pointed antennas at, and still watch on cable and satellite (thanks to what the FCC calls “must carry” rules, which say a cable company must carry stations whose signals used to be there).
So what happens when we drift out of the antenna and cable ages, and into the pure Internet age, where the norm is absent distance and gravity (because there’s no there there)?
I think it’s an open question we’ve hardly begun to answer.