Archive for radio

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 *************************************************
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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A Clear Message on the Media

Hannah Sassaman was on Democracy Now! a couple of days ago and it’s a must read/watch/listen for anyone hoping to make changes to the nation’s media system. It’s far too rare to hear anyone articulate such a clear and comprehensive explanation of what we should be fighting for in DC: community-defined media.

In Immokalee, Florida, they have Radio Consciencia. It’s a farm worker-led radio station, where communities can get on the air, talk about indentured servitude in the fields of Southwest Florida and fight to get their labor rights enforced. That is the appropriate communications technology for Immokalee. MNN is appropriate for Manhattan. And we have all of these options that we have determined are important.

By putting all of these different provisions by the telecom companies and the broadcast industry fighting for all of these provisions to be on one bill, they’re trying to divide us. But we have proven that we can clearly articulate to our senators that we want to fight for low-power FM on Senate Bill 2686 and we want to fight for meaningful net neutrality provisions on the bill, as well as locally determined, municipally controlled public access television. We’re a sophisticated group of folks across the United States, who understand why media consolidation affects us.

She was speaking specifically about the LPFM ammendment to the Stevens bill in the Senate, which wound up passing 14-7. But she did it in a way that unified the various messages, rather than diffuse them. The problem with the bill is that it does not protect the open internet and it guts public access.

I’m speaking on a panel with Hannah at the Alliance for Community conference next weekend and I hope she says exactly the same thing because, along with Mike Weisman, we’re talking about community radio and municipal wireless in relation to PEG.

Hannah was great on the “We can do better: moving from policy to action in the media movement [mp3]” panel at the AMC this past weekend. She was also excellent at the bowling alley. Check the post on her blog about the AMC.

On top of everything, Hannah’s band, Kiss Kiss Kill is playing with my friends from Michigan, the Pussy Pirates, tomorrow night at Lava Space! (I’ll be checking out the Pussy Pirates at Club Midway tonight in NYC.)

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AMC on the Radio

We've been on the radio across the country talking about the Allied Media Conference. Here are links to the mp3s:

Thanks for the shine, folks! Please let me know of any blogs or other outlets covering the AMC so I can add it to the AMC wiki.

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A Progressive Framework for Fighting Indecency

For the past two weeks, I've been writing about Clear Channel and its use of racist hate speech as a business model. The hook has been the on-air comments of Star, the former morning host on several Clear Channel stations, including in Philadelphia and New York.

I worked with a team of other media activists to formulate a response: Hate: The Clear Channel Game. See the press release we distributed. We've received over 200 comments from the site and they're still coming in.

Some of our colleagues have been resistant to the idea of pushing on this issue, raising objections that merit close consideration. This is a major question of strategy: Can we have a progressive framework for fighting indecency?

It's an important time to consider this. The Senate just passed a bill multiplying tenfold the fines the FCC can levy on indecent broadcasters – raising the cap from $32,500 to $325,000. With the blessing of the Parents Television Council, the Senate version seems destined to become law. (The House version was harsher.)

The fear among community broadcasters is that so-called indecency fines of any size are only meaningful to locally-owned stations. As I explained in an earlier post, the government would have to fine Clear Channel about 100 times under the new limits just to recoup the money it sent to the company in the form of a tax refund. For a community station, $300k is the whole ball game.

So that's a real fear. But the passage of the bill – by unanimous consent in the Senate – shows that it's not a question of "can" we have such a framework. We must. We cannot ignore this issue away. Congress was going to pass that bill whether our little group sent out a press release or not. Doing nothing, especially in the face of such egregious on-air statements, hands a valid issue and a willing constituency over to the right, which sees remedies in "corporate responsibility," "protecting children," and censorship. Why cede all of that ground?

One concern with our action on this issue was that, if the government could restrict content, "our kind" (presumably meaning political speech) of content would be the first to be regulated. That is wrong on the one hand, and misses the point on the other.

Empirically, "indecency" is already the first kind of content the government would restrict; in the alliance between capitalists and fundamentalists that control the government, content is much more of an issue for the latter. Second, "our kind" is already regulated off the airwaves by the ownership and licensing process. There is definitely a price to pay for seditious speech, but the penalties are not likely to come in the form of fines from the FCC.

So we attempted to frame the issue as one of ownership, with license redistribution as a solution. (Please remember the phrase license redistribution and use it when talking about a remedy for Clear Channel and concentrated broadcast licensing.) This analysis meets the criteria of (a) being accurate: Clear Channel and its corporate competitors really do use hate, sexism, and sensationalism to make money; and (b) supporting our goal of community-defined media.

Another criticism of our effort was the belief that someone should be allowed to be an idiot, even in public. I hope no one thinks we would be doing this if we thought Star was just some doofus punk. Or if he was on a community radio station. This is Clear Channel's fault and we felt obligated to call them on it.

We do not support censorship or fines as a remedy. We support community-defined media and license redistribution. This is not an issue of free speech and it is certainly beyond the bounds of humor. Power99/105 is not a public forum – it is an unaccountable corporate outlet in a (false) zero sum game of spectrum allocation overseen by a flawed agency.

I understand the liberal urge to let everyone have their say, but we cannot let Clear Channel abuse our airwaves in this manner without any protest.

Out of a fear that this might get twisted back on us, some advocate that we take no action whatsoever. That's called doing your enemy's bidding. We have to assume that we will be able to defend ourselves if this gets twisted back on us. Otherwise, we commit to a life on the defensive and seal our ultimate defeat.
Someone suggested that it would have been better to organize a protest. That would have taken a lot more energy in the short term, reached only a geographically-limited group of people, and left less of an infrastructure for action in the long term. It also would have been much harder to connect such an action to the issue of ownership.

Plus, what would have been the remedy such a protest would have called for? A contribution to a foundation? (Actually, we should have immediately put out a list of foundations for Clear Channel to donate to, if only because we knew they were going to have to greenwash this at some point – not that they have, yet.)

Our move, though it took a concerted effort by a number of volunteers working through the weekend, was still a low-input/high-output effort. Many people were legitimately pissed off about what had been broadcast on their airwaves. We were able to provide them with a productive outlet that connected their immediate reaction to the root cause: concentrated licensing.

Now we have 200 more people ready to support challenges to Clear Channel's licenses and reforms to spectrum policy and broadcast licensing that will bring more community voices to the fore. On those ultimate goals, everyone seems to agree. Let's keep trying on our tactics.

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May 24: Day of Out(R)age Against the Phone Companies

Originally planned to protest the closing of the internet, Wednesday's National Day of Out(R)age against Verizon and AT&T has taken on special significance in the wake of the revelation that these companies have illegally aided the NSA's illegal domestic spying program.

While Philadelphia doesn't have any specific plans (that I know of) to join in the protests, I thought I could at least offer my trusted Ed Whitacre impersonation and my brand new Ivan Seidenberg impersonation to the cause.

In the spirit of the AMC audio PSAs, here are PSAs for the Out(R)age protests:

Ed Whitacre
Ed Whitacre

Ivan Seidenberg
Ivan Seidenberg

Kat has added the critically important straightforward pieces, so you can add on the details for:

Mix and match the corporate target with the right city. The files are all easy to download, radio safe, and ready to air.

(Devil ceo photos courtesy Common Cause, "Hands Off My Internet.")

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Star Audio Clips Released, File Comments with the FCC

A coalition of media activists (including me) have launched a campaign to file complaints with the FCC following the offensive (yet distressingly typical) comments made on air by a Clear Channel DJ from May 3 to May 8, 2006.

You can read partial transcripts of the comments here. Mp3s of the audio clips can be downloaded here: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

I'm surprised these haven't hit the Internet already, but I'm glad since in the wrong context they could clearly do more harm than good. To help keep them from being used out of context, we stamped the audio files with a reminder of who is responsible and what you can do about it.

What you can do is visit Hate: The Clear Channel Game and fill out the simple form to send a comment to the FCC. Comments can do two things: they can provoke an investigation that could lead to a fine and they can serve as fuel for a license challenge when the broadcaster's license comes up for renewal. (In the case of the Power105 license, it's up in 2007.)

It is really important to keep in mind that this is not a singular act by a lone DJ. This is a pattern of hate radio – hate as a business model. Groups like Youth Media Council in the Bay Area, the Social Action Committee in Philadelphia, the citizen coalition led by Bill Huston in Binghamton, and the REACHip Hop coalition in New York City have been challenging Clear Channel for quite some time.

There will be a press release on this tomorrow, but you are encouraged to scoop any news outlet that waits around for such things.

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Making Clear Channel Pay

You will remember that New York City Council Member John Liu was the one who brought attention to Clear Channel DJ Star's outrageous threats of sexual violence on a 4 year old. Star has since been fired, but the Councilman, like me, is not satisfied.

According to the Daily News, he wants Clear Channel to pay $5 million to the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation, which was established in memory of Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl slain by a sex-offender neighbor. He was on Wakeup Call this morning emphasizing Clear Channel's culpability (mp3).

Mr. Liu is heading in the right direction by seeking to hold Clear Channel accountable, but he's off base if he thinks that this incident shows that the danger to children comes from pedophiliacs. The danger to children comes from corporate media that use sensationalist trash talk and a warped version of hip hop to capture them as listeners.

I don't for a second think that Troi Torain was actually going to sexually assault the 4-year-old daughter of Gia Casey and DJ Envy. But I do think that children, like the rest of us, are under increasing assault from a hyper-commercialized and violent corporate media.

Kat's got the right idea when she says that, like money from the tobacco lawsuits going to help young people resist cigarrettes, money from FCC indecency fines should go to support media justice (or at least media literacy).

In other words, there are two ways to go up the ladder looking to hold someone responsible. You can blame the owner, Clear Channel, which would lead you to demand a fine or restitution. Or you can blame consolidation of ownership, in which case this would only add to your conviction that we need to support license redistribution.

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