BROOKE GLADSTONE: The BBC may have opened its doors to internet innovators, but the U.S. radio giant Infinity Broadcasting has let them take over the store, or at least one money-losing AM station in San Francisco. Renamed KYOU, its programming consists entirely of podcasts, downloadable, often do it yourself radio shows, solicited and selected by the KYOU staff. Though the station is advertiser-supported, these podcaster/broadcasters aren't paid in cash, but with the opportunity, as the station's website says, to give voice to their vision. On Thursday, that meant shows riffing on time travel, Israeli rap and the lives of some guys named Jason and Gary, among others. KYOU calls it open source radio. Open Source is also the name of Christopher Lydon's new radio show, but the former host of public radio's The Connection says he's trying something different. Chris, welcome to the show.
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: Brooke, thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's start with KYOU. Here's a clip of that. [KYOU CLIP PLAYS]
MAN: My own ideal woman is a rocket scientist. This is what I strive for. And not just someone with a firm grasp on the basics of propulsion, either, but quite literally, a rocket scientist. It's not like being a poet. Any fool can write a poem. I'm looking for someone who knows a little something about solid rocket boosters.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Okay. Chris, what's going on here?
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: What I hear there is that corporate media has figured it out, as we all have, that in this day and age with the internet, every man, woman and child can be a broadcaster, so it's worth a try. But theirs sounds to me like a kind of bulletin board of miscellany. Ours is quite different, actually. We want to say here's what we think is interesting or important this hour; help us figure it out. We will ask people to send us MP3 files, as Infinity is going to do. We'll ask them for voicemails, we'll ask them for emails, but we'll ask them in any fashion to join in building the show.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It seems that you were always responsive to your listeners, that you were taking ideas from here, there and everywhere when you were the host of The Connection.
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: Yeah, we did.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And so now you've got a program, and the way that you describe it, with the addition of perhaps a more active website, it doesn't seem to be a radical departure.
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: Well, think about it. For one thing, there's the international aspect. One of my complaints, in a way, about the American discourse at the moment is it's become very bunkered, very isolated. You don't hear West African or Eastern European or Chinese, Indian voices in our public conversation. I'd like to bring them in both as listeners and as talkers, as you can't do in talk radio. You can do it very, very easily in the internet. You can make a global conversation.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But you'll be contacting them through the internet; you'll be asking for their MP3's through the internet? Exactly how will you be getting them on the air?
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: I think the typical thing will be we will post it on our blog that we're talking about, say, Jeffrey Sachs has written this big book on the end of poverty; he writes a lot about Kenya. I want to hear Kenyans on Jeff Sach's remedy for Kenya. So, first you write to the Kenyan bloggers, and you talk to Kenyan media, and you search around for people who have read the book or who care about development, and you invite them on to the website, and then on to the radio show.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So basically you're just opening up your phone lines much broader through the internet.
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: But it's not a multiple of two. It's a multiple of thousands in the sense of voiceover internet protocol phone calls are getting cheap. The communication is instant. The world is very small in that internet.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay. So this is sort of like the public journalism that advocate Dan Gilmore refers to when he says my readers are smarter than I am. Are your listeners smarter than you are?
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: Amen. Amen. Absolutely. So are yours, Brooke. I mean I keep thinking the five million readers of the New York Times know more about everything than the thousand great editors and reporters who put out the paper, and we now have the mechanism in the internet to feed that wisdom, that energy, that experience back into the content.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, the station affiliates who'll be running your show will be paying for it, but you're also making the program available to be re-used by a Creative Commons license.
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: Yes.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What is that?
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: The principle of Creative Commons licensing is some rights are reserved. You can't go out and take what we're doing and sell it, but you can pass it on, and you can re-use it, sort of in the manner of re-mixing music, if you give credit to us.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And you're affiliates aren't concerned about having that material that they pay for available for free?
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: I'm not really sure, Brooke. I hope they're not. [LAUGHTER] It's part of the re-definition of who owns the conversation. I don't think the local stations need to feel they own everything they broadcast. We don't feel we own everything we broadcast.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: All right. Christopher Lydon, thank you very much.
CHRISTOPHER LYDON: Brooke Gladstone, thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Christopher Lydon's new public radio show called Open Source debuted last Monday. [THEME MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Megan Ryan, Tony Field, Jami York and Mike Vuolo, and edited-- by Brooke. Dylan Keefe is our technical director and Jennifer Munson our engineer. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katya Rogers is our senior producer and John Keefe our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. You can listen to the program and find free transcripts, MP3 downloads and our podcasts at onthemedia.org, and email us at email@example.com. This is On the Media, from WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. [THEME MUSIC TAG]