The FCC as News Police: Right Hand, Meet Left Hand

Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is feeling his oats. After conducting a calculated and ideologically-driven campaign against a proposed FCC study of the practices and processes of journalism, the agency capitulated, killing the idea entirely. Pai reveled in his accomplishment: "In our country, the government does not tell the people what information they need. Instead, news outlets and the American public decide that for themselves."
Yet the FCC is in fact defining what news is, and it did so just last month—before Pai went on the warpath about the FCC as "newsroom police." Continue reading “The FCC as News Police: Right Hand, Meet Left Hand”

Abusing the Bully Pulpit

It’s common for members of the Federal Communications Commission to use their positions as bully pulpits for favored causes. For example, Frieda Hennock (the agency’s first female Commissioner) pressed for an expansion of noncommercial broadcasting in the United States. Former Chairman Mark Fowler spoke loudly and often from the bully pulpit, decrying the regulation of media more broadly and precipitating the wildly neoliberal paradigm that has captured contemporary regulation.
More recently, Chairman William Kennard spoke out against media consolidation by advocating for the creation of the LPFM radio service, while Commissioner Mignon Clyburn spearheaded a drive to drastically reduce the rates for making calls from prisons, among many other initiatives during her stint as interim Chair.
But sometimes the bully pulpit provides a way to dissent from agency practices, the idea being that public scrutiny may pressure some change from within. Former Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein were famous for touring the country and holding public hearings to learn what actual Americans thought about the state of their media environment. Continue reading “Abusing the Bully Pulpit”

Free Speech Radio News Rides Again

Free Speech Radio News announced this past weekend that it will resume a semblance of operations on Tuesday, February 11th. It’s a soft launch, beginning with the provision of limited content and then working up to the resumption of regular daily broadcasts.
A pioneer of the networked newsroom, FSRN has been a stalwart of community broadcasting in the United States for more than a dozen years. Unfortunately, it fell silent last September after its major funder, Pacifica Radio, welshed on several outstanding bills. Continue reading “Free Speech Radio News Rides Again”

The Long Goodbye of Free Speech Radio News

We’re about to lose one of the most important independent voices in grassroots radio journalism. Free Speech Radio News announced late last week that it would cease production on September 27th.
In a nutshell, the problem is money, and the writing’s been on the wall for a while. Free Speech Radio News has been hurting in that department since the fall of 2010, when it first raised the spectre of going dark. Saved by a last-minute crowdfunding campaign, FSRN’s been teetering on the brink ever since, held together by creative management, another emergency fund drive, and the passion of its crowdsourced production base. That can only take you so far, it would seem. Continue reading “The Long Goodbye of Free Speech Radio News”

Hiatus Ahoy

I’ll be taking a short break from updating the site, as I prepare to move from Wisconsin to New York next week to begin life as a professor at Brooklyn College. Plans for the move itself have been fraught with difficulty – more than I had expected, but things are (finally) beginning to come together. Boxes are being packed, loose ends squared away, and I’m test-dosing the cats with tranquilizers to see how they’ll handle the 16-hour drive.
Once I’m in NYC, I’ll be hitting the ground running. I’m teaching two classes in the fall: one intro-to-TV-production class, and another called “The Broadcast News Process.” The latter should be fun, as I’ve set it up to revolve around two key questions – do you really want to work in the corporate media? If not, how can you find/make the opportunities to be a working journalist without having to turn off your brain and/or sell your soul? Continue reading “Hiatus Ahoy”

FCC May Scrutinize Milwaukee's Rabidly Right-Wing Radio

A significant broadcast complaint has been filed with the FCC by the Media Action Center. MAC is a broadcaster watchdog with a particular focus on assessing how radio and TV stations operate in the public interest. Of special concern are the hyper-partisan leanings of talk radio – which makes the basis for MAC’s most recent activity here in Wisconsin.
As you may have heard, Wisconsin is in the throes of an historic recall election which seeks to oust Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch for promulgating policies that have decimated Wisconsin’s economy as well as its systems of education and health care (these are just a few of the many beefs the electorate has with the current administration). Continue reading “FCC May Scrutinize Milwaukee's Rabidly Right-Wing Radio”

Media Minutes: 2004-2012

After seven and a half years, Free Press has discontinued the production of Media Minutes, its weekly headline radio newscast that examined issues at the intersection of media and democracy.
I developed and launched Media Minutes in 2004, as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois’ Institute of Communications Research. I’d left the broadcast industry in 2000 out of disgust at what it had done to stymie the rollout of LPFM, and had thought that my days as a radio journalist were behind me.
This was not to be. During my master’s work at the University of Wisconsin, I co-founded Workers Independent News, the first labor-centric radio news program to be launched in the U.S. in more than 50 years. My work with WIN caught the ear of Bob McChesney, then a professor at ICR, and when I was accepted into that program he e-mailed me out of the blue to ask whether I’d be interested in starting a similar program focused on issues of media policy and reform. Continue reading “Media Minutes: 2004-2012”

Radio's Digital Dilemma: The Book

Routledge has made an offer to publish Radio’s Digital Dilemma: Broadcasting in the 21st Century. It’ll be in their Research in Media and Cultural Studies series and, with luck, will be out by the end of 2013.
The publisher’s editorial description: Continue reading “Radio's Digital Dilemma: The Book”

Regulatory Innuendo as Stalking Horse?

Never before has an FCC enforcement action hit so close to home.
This week, the agency issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for $44,000 to Chicago radio station WLS-AM. The proposed penalty stems from a complaint filed by a listener regarding news programming aired by WLS that originated with the Madison-based Workers Independent News (WIN) service. The FCC accuses WLS of violating its rules by failing to disclose that it was paid for running WIN newscasts.
(Disclosure: I was one of WIN’s founding producers, helping to develop and launch the service between 2001-2004.) Continue reading “Regulatory Innuendo as Stalking Horse?”

Occupy Wall Street Makes Its Own Media

One of the biggest stories you’ve never heard of is unfolding in New York City. For nearly two weeks now hundreds of people have occupied Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan under the moniker of Occupy Wall Street. Inspired by this year’s popular uprisings in north Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, OWS hopes to spark a similar movement for democratic change in the United States.
Much of the media have dismissed or denigrated the occupation, with many professional journalists missing its point entirely. The ongoing happening, at present, is not geared toward all-out, head-to-head confrontation with corporate America or the state, but rather to provide a space for folks from all walks of life to talk, listen, and collaborate, in the hope of reaching that point in the future. Continue reading “Occupy Wall Street Makes Its Own Media”