Archive for Clear Channel

Want to read my writing? Check People’s Production House

In order to simplify my life and give the company that pays me the full value of my work and energy, I will now be posting to my blog on the People’s Production House website. RSS feed coming soon.

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Tonight: Public Forum on Media Ownership and Diversity

There will be a town hall forum on “the Future of Diversity in the Nation’s Media” tonight, October 19, at 6:00 pm at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse, located at East 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenue.

In attendance will be the two Democratic members of the FCC, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. M1 from Dead Prez is also scheduled to attend, thanks to the work of R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop, which is asking people to represent for hip hop at the forum by wearing red. And Betty Ellen Berlamino, vice president/general manager of WPIX-TV, New York, will be there.

(Does anyone else remember the Space Invaders-inspired contest WPIX used to host way back in the day where a lucky caller – usually a kid after school – made the spaceship fire by saying “pix” into the phone? Anyone who can tell me what the stakes of that contest were gets a one-year subscription to Clamor Magazine.)

I don’t know if there will actually be a chance for everyone to speak at the forum, but if you are looking for inspiration, you can browse the statements from the now-legendary 2004 FCC hearing in San Antonio.

Keep in mind that tonight’s event is a public forum, but it is not an official FCC hearing. That means, if you want your comment to count, you need to submit it to the FCC, regardless of whether you say it at the forum. StopBigMedia.com has helpful online tools for that and other actions.

The ownership debate comes in many forms. The focus of tonight’s discussion is the “ownership proceedings” in which the FCC will consider easing restrictions on cross-ownership of newspapers and raising the limits on how many broadcast outlets one entity can own in a single market.

More pressing, at least in terms of deadlines, is the proposed merger between AT&T and BellSouth, which the FCC is currently reviewing. The $78 billion deal would yield a communications behemoth that would control nearly half of all US telephones with 70 million phone customers. It would also own Cingular, the largest cell phone provider in the country, including the spectrum controlled by the wireless carrier. The new company would also be a close second to Comcast in the broadband market, with 9.1 million customers.

AT&T is trying to convince the FCC to approve the deal by promising things like $10 introductory rates for DSL service and free modems, which sound more like good marketing ploys than public interest concessions. Copps and Adelstein are pushing for more substantive conditions.

For a gripping and detailed explanation of the status of that merger, I refer you to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of the Media Access Project and his Tales of the Sausage Factory. He includes instructions for how to comment on that deal.

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What is a comment worth?

Comments work very differently at the FCC than they do in Congress.

Representatives can take your advice or leave it and make they’re decisions based on any whim or reason of their choosing. The FCC is supposed to base its regulations on evidence and sound reasoning so they can demonstrate that the rules are in the public interest. That was basically what the federal judge said in Prometheus Radio Project vs. FCC (2004), which halted the 2003 round of deregulation.

So it’s an especially big deal when the FCC buries, burns, or ignores reports that contain evidence that deregulation hurts consumers and local communities, aside from it being further evidence of secrecy and malfeasance in the federal government. One of the reports said consolidation in television station ownership resulted in less local news coverage; the other said deregulation of the radio industry had resulted in marked consolidation.

It seems absurd to me that the FCC could still try to weaken already meager restrictions on ownership in the wake of that scandal and in the face of that evidence, but what do I know.

Petri Dish at Prometheus Radio responded to the unearthing of the first report with a statement calling on the FCC to incorporate the testimony submitted to the “Localism Task Force” in 2003 with the current ownership proceedings.

Apparently, Michael Powell used procedural measures in defiance of logic to separate out the issue of localism from the issue of ownership, creating a “localism docket” that was separate from the “ownership proceedings.” The thousands of people testifying on such things as the importance of local news had their impact muffled.

I didn’t totally understand that, so I instant-messaged Hannah, also from Prometheus, about it. She said it would be a “retroactive victory for all of those people who commented.”

5:45:27 PM Hannah: if the localism docket is combined with the media ownership rulemaking
5:45:40 PM Hannah: each instance of a person mentioning abuse or lack of action or bias by a local outlet
5:45:46 PM Hannah: or positive action by a local outlet
5:45:53 PM Hannah: has to be researched and supported or refuted
5:45:54 PM Hannah: and/or
5:46:01 PM Hannah: can be used in a judicial review of the rulemaking
5:46:23 PM Hannah: so what was offered as a comforter to millions of angry americans who suddenly couldn’t speak on the powell ownership docket
5:46:33 PM Hannah: become building blocks for another media infrastructure in the martin docket
5:46:34 PM Hannah: there!
5:46:39 PM Hannah: I WILL PUT THAT IN A BLOG
5:46:40 PM Hannah: HOW ABOUT THAT
5:46:41 PM Hannah: hahaha
5:46:53 PM Josh: if you don’t, I will

Hannah is actually on Counterspin today. Apparently Janine Jackson wanted to talk about a slightly different idea that Hannah actually did write about on her blog.

She pointed to the example of the MITRE study, an independent study commissioned by the FCC to investigate claims from NPR and the NAB that additional LPFM stations would interfere with existing broadcasters. The study proved the claims false, but it derailed LPFM for three years and counting. But since there was this study, even Congress now seems to understand that the FCC should expand LPFM licensing.

She questions why industry claims that loosening restrictions on ownership will not interfere with the public interest should not be investigated just as thoroughly. The released reports demonstrate a quantifiable impact of deregulation. The FCC should have to commission an independent report to determine what the impact of further deregulation would be before actually implementing any changes.

Not only could this cause a significant delay in the process as the MITRE study did for LPFM, but it would help shift the argument towards facts and real-world impacts, which would tend to benefit our side, the factinistas.

The further result, as she points out, is that comments – whether submitted to the FCC or gathered through projects like Free The Flyers – become hard evidence, as the localism docket should be.

This points to another strategy for responding to the Comcast monopoly: patient documentation of the impact of that monopoly, which then becomes the basis for an antitrust case in court (as some are already trying) or a public interest case before the FCC.

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Making Radio in the Pacific Northwest

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest or care about community media, there are two events you need to put on your agenda.

The first is Prometheus Radio Project’s 10th barnraising, this one with PCUN – Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Treeplanters and Farmworkers United of the Northwest) in Woodburn, Oregon, outside of Portland.

(LPFM stations are restricted to small towns because of a piece of bad legislation pushed through Congress by the National Association of Broadcasters and NPR, which Prometheus is working to overturn.)

Check out PCUN’s awesome promotional film for the station.

I won’t be at this one since it’s on the other side of the country, but I’ve been to a couple and they are loads of fun with lots of hands-on work and great people. If you can be there next weekend, August 18-20, I highly recommend it. They just extended their pre-registration deadline.

The second major event in that region is the Northwest Community Radio Summit in Seattle, September 15-17. College and community radio stations from Oregon to Alaska will be coming together to build a regional network for collaboration and content-sharing.
I love network-building. Plus, the radio summit is being put on by some of the same folks from Reclaim The Media who put on the counter-conference to the NAB meeting in Seattle in 2002.

That was one of the most enjoyable media conferences I’ve been to: thirteen separate pirate stations set up throughout the city in what they called a “mosquito fleet.” I don’t know if any pirates will be there, probably, but I’m sure it will be a good time for all.

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On the Third National Conference for Media Reform Call for Sessions

Free Press has begun distributing a call for sessions for their upcoming conference. I just finished reading the lengthy guidelines and, to be honest, the read made me want to not submit a proposal. The tone and content are pretty negative.

I’ve talked to a number of people who didn’t have such a great time at the last conference. (Read my and others’ reportbacks.) Some are discussing how to effect change in the conference style or content, including who gets to speak.

The primary way to do that is through that proposal submission form. I plan to help draft proposals on wireless broadband, license redistribution, and something along the lines of the “Is this what democracy looks like?” discussion from the AMC, as well as a handful of powerful speakers. (Limit two proposals per person.)
A secondary way is by submitting a suggestion for a topic or speaker, which I definitely plan to do, as well.

The deadline for submitting proposals is really soon: August 15. I hope they extend it past Labor Day. I’m sure they have a difficult and lengthy review process they need to start, but August is tough and the proposal form is intimidating.

A third way to shape the conference could be through the outreach committee, or The OC. I understand Free Press plans to form one again this year.

Last year, they formed a committee of five people to assist in outreach and scholarship allotment. The five people were myself, Malkia, Lian Cheun from Center for Third World Organizing, Val Benavidez from the League of Young Voters, and Tony Riddle from Alliance for Community Media. We each received a stipend for our work, a scholarship budget of our own, and a say in distributing the balance of their scholarship funds.

I think The OC did a good job in getting people to the conference, but we and Free Press came up short in providing support to folks once they got to St. Louis. There was a lack of relevant content and friendly spaces.

I believe Free Press recognizes that, but members of this year’s outreach committee will be well placed (and funded) to advocate that FP apply the same process of affirmative action to the presenters as they do to the attendees.

That’s key because right now there are some who doubt that the conference is for them and would not want to be in a position of convincing people to attend. I think there is, in fact, some divergence in the movement, at least from what I see moving between Free Press circles and the Allied Media Conference constituency. (More on this in future posts to this blog, I expect.)

Personally, I figure if you plan to attend at all, you should submit a proposal. Because you know what they say: if you don’t vote, you don’t count.

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It’s not about you, Star

There was a spike in traffic to the most heavily-trafficked post on my blog a few days ago. Star, whose given name is Troi Torain, was back in the news: a judge more or less let him off on charges of child endangerment and weapon possession. (They’ll be dropped in six months.)

Now it looks like Star is trying to keep it personal by suing the Councilman that brought his verbal assault to light. I’d prefer he sue Clear Channel, just come out and say they hired him to do a job and he did it.

Council Member Liu, for his part, is mixing it up, calling him both a pedophile and a stooge. (See the press release below.) I hope at his press conference later today he mentions Clear Channel in some context other than “Mr. Torain was subsequently terminated by…”

The No Hate Radio comment engine is still up. Fill it out if you support license redistribution as a step towards remedying the problem of corporate content and Clear Channel’s concentration of over 1300 licenses.

*** Media Advisory *************************************************
TROI TORAIN TO FILE FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST CM LIU;
CM LIU TO AWAIT PAPERS AT CITY HALL;
CM Liu: “He’s Still a Pedophile Loser Radio Stooge”
**********************************************

CITY HALL, NY – Troi Torain, disk jockey fired from Power 105 radio, will file a lawsuit tomorrow against Council Member John Liu in United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

CM Liu will wait to be served with the lawsuit on the steps of City Hall tomorrow at 11:00 am.

CM Liu stated: “It’s great that this guy is now going after me instead of little girls. However, suing me doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a pedophile loser radio stooge. If this can help him with his self-esteem issues, then I’m happy to oblige.”

Over a five day period this May, Mr. Torain produced and broadcast comments over public airwaves expressing his desire to have sex with, ejaculate on, and urinate on a four-year-old girl. Mr. Torain also offered a large cash bounty to anyone with information about the girl’s school. Mr. Torain was subsequently terminated by Clear Channel on May 10th and then arrested by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit on May 12th.

See more of my articles on Clear Channel.

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The challenge of connecting ownership and content in an age of television on the Internet

I’ve been hearing more and more calls for a progressive framework for fighting indecency. This task will be more challenging in an era of TV on the Internet.

The government-directed, censorship-based approach moves us away from our goal of community-defined media. And it won’t work to pretend like there is no such thing as offensive content.

A recent article in The New Yorker on the spate of shootings in front of the Emmis Communications office put the blame on hip hop. There are plenty of reasons to take the writer to task, as other bloggers have done; New Yorker authors are more at home among the Pashtun than African Americans. I bring it up to say that this blame-the-individual approach is exactly what we were trying to avoid when we put out the No Hate Radio call, but it’s exactly what we’ll get if we don’t connect bad corporate content with bad corporate ownership.

On the Australian “Big Brother” show, which is broadcast 24/7 on the Internet when not airing on television, two men sexually assaulted a woman on the show. One man reportedly held the woman down while the other man rubbed his groin in her face. Though the men were booted, it seems like this is only slightly further than the show normally goes.

This strikes me as another example of the corporate media using violent sexism to gain attention. The response from the conservative government there has been to call for the show’s removal from television, even though the incident was broadcast on the Internet.

As broadcasters increasingly use it to distribute video, the Internet may become a place of greater regulation, with more restrictions on content. Without a connection between content and ownership, the burden of meeting that regulation could quash user-generated and community-based content. (Despite the knee-jerk perception that large corporations always want to de-regulate, they often favor complex regulations as a barrier to entry when faced with small-time competitors.)

That sort of regulation is in fact being proposed in Europe right now. As part of the EU’s “TV without frontiers” directive, the European Commission has suggested it would standardize regulation across all media for TV and “TV-like services.” (Check out the directive [pdf] and the accompanying press release. Read commentary with plenty of links from 463, which also tipped me off to the Aussie Big Brother brouhaha, and a summary from the free marketeers at the Progress and Freedom Foundation.)

In the US, the FCC already restricts the promotion of websites during children’s programming based on the commercial content of the sites (sales or advertising). That kind of direct connection between a broadcast TV show and web content makes sense to me, even if it’s not the kind of community accountability I would prefer.

However, it will get a lot more difficult to make that connection as the lines separating television and Internet and cell phones disappear. It’s one thing for the government to assert authority over your content if you’re using public airwaves or even rights of way; it’s another if you are just another video service provider on the Internet. (Remember, the open Internet is about having a level playing field among producers and disconnecting ownership of infrastructure from ownership of content.)

There is a wide open space on the other side of this technological revolution. That’s why we need to develop our own framework for content-regulation that meshes with our values and goals.

One approach that I know is wrong is combing air tapes for dirty words, which I recently learned the FCC has begun doing (thanks, Nan!). They’re going over sports broadcasts listening for curse words from enthusiastic fans. That’s just more random censorship.

It’s also a step towards ending live broadcasts. Interestingly, the EU directive seems to distinguish between “linear” and “non-linear” television, which could have the same effect. New regulations in Venezuela are also chilling live broadcasts. That’s not the future I want.

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