Churn at the FCC

Mikey Powell’s giving up the ghost (don’t look back, buddy); Kathleen Abernathy may follow; and W. Kenneth Ferree, head of the FCC’s Media Bureau, is also done. Also, Michael Copps’ term expires in the summer. It’s unusual to have such turnover in a short time. Can we expect substantive change in the agency’s direction?
Probably not. The replacements will not be reformists: they’re straight from the farm team that breeds regulators. These being three primary sources: campaign contributors, congressional staffers, and those already in administrative positions. All of the (speculative) candidates for a Commissioner’s post hail from one of these places. Congressional staff are an especially fertile ground, seeing as it sometimes seems easiest for the two major parties to agree on the appointment of folks already within the family, so to speak. Continue reading “Churn at the FCC”

FCC as Sketch Troupe

Shamelessly lifted from the trade rag Radio & Records, this is not the work of beings in the reality-based community:
In a taped performance shown [Dec. 3] at the Federal Communications Bar Association FCC Chairman’s Dinner… [Mikey] Powell donned a wig that looked only slightly worse than [Donald Trump’s] actual hair and faced down Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree and Powell Chief of Staff Bryan Tramont at a large table in a spoof of the boardroom scenes from the NBC TV show The Apprentice. Dutifully filling in for real-life Trump assistants Carolyn and George were Commissioners Kathleen Abernathy and Michael Copps. Continue reading “FCC as Sketch Troupe”

Powell AWOL at South Dakota Localism Hearing

The FCC’s ongoing “Localism Task Force” tour stopped yesterday in Rapid City, South Dakota – the hometown of Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. Only the two Democrats on the Commission (Adelstein and Michael Copps) bothered to show up. Chairman Mikey Powell was supposed to be there but backed out due to a last-minute “scheduling conflict.”
Funny thing, though: Powell managed to be in South Dakota the day before for a meeting with governor Mike Rounds on issues dealing with wireless technology. But I digress. Continue reading “Powell AWOL at South Dakota Localism Hearing”

Unlikely Mikey

Unabashedly stolen from Free Radio Santa Cruz, which is fleshing out a site redesign post-move. Its online home is now being maintained by Corporate Swine.
I really liked the animated banner about “PROVING FCC INCOMPETENCE” and was sorry to see it go, but bits like this more than make up for it.

(Clicking on the pic at right takes you to the station’s donate page, which contains the larger original.)
Mad props on the Photoshop! Continue reading “Unlikely Mikey”

Mikey Powell Floats Trial Balloon on Departure

First came the rumor, then the call from a member of the “business press” – now FCC Chairman Mikey Powell himself appears to be floating the notion of stepping aside. In Sunday’s business section (naturally) of the New York Times, Powell got to bitch about his job: “I have a tired family, tired children and a tired spouse. Candidly, I once said I would be in this job for three years and then leave. That was three years ago.”
The entire article is quite long but worth a read. The basic synopsis is that he’s a nice guy who is politically ham-handed. It’s not that he’s a bad regulator; he’s just not good at greasing the political wheels of D.C. with enough finesse. It’s analogous to praising a thief for his line of work but lamenting the time he gets caught.
There are, however, a few doozies which deserve highlight: Continue reading “Mikey Powell Floats Trial Balloon on Departure”

BusinessWeek Wants Mikey Powell's Head on a Stick

As he stews in his own political juice, with Congress breathing down his neck, FCC Chairman Mikey Powell can use all the friends he can get. One would assume those friends would include the business/finance community, seeing as how Powell’s a fervent acolyte for their religion.
Think again: BusinessWeek magazine published this piece online yesterday, which is a pretty straightforward indictment of Powell, ending with,
“Powell refused to make a public case for the merits of his proposal. Then, he skewed the data to try to fool people. Plenty of other telecommunications policy experts have the political skills to handle the FCC job less contentiously than Powell. He should leave, before he’s shown the door.” Continue reading “BusinessWeek Wants Mikey Powell's Head on a Stick”

RFB Returns; FRSD Gets Grant; RFPI Gets Reprieve

When the FCC came and intimidated Radio Free Brattleboro off the air in June, the Vermont community responded with zeal. A parade float, petition drive, and countless benefits and station meetings later, the station returned to the airwaves today on 107.9 FM. That frequency is currently vacant, but there is a pending LPFM application for it. RFB has promised to vacate the frequency if and when the license is awarded and the station is ready to broadcast.
A local petition drive has drawn “way more than 2,000 signatures” in support of the station, reports RFB’s Steven Twiss: “The petition’s signatories include several area heavy-hitters including politicians, business owners and artists. One, a wonderful older woman, is on the town council. She bought a ‘Free rfb’ T-shirt and wore it to a few council meetings, which are broadcast on the local cable access channel.” There is also an online petition drive for anyone else interested in symbolically standing with them. Continue reading “RFB Returns; FRSD Gets Grant; RFPI Gets Reprieve”

"We See You, Mr. FCC Man"; Powell to Leave?

More skirmishes between the FCC and free radio – this time the good guys are on the offense. FCC agents were discovered snooping around a suspected broadcast location of KBFR last week. Nobody was home at the time, but the agents spoke with others on the premises and swore them to secrecy: “We were never here, okay?”
This particular game of hide-and-seek in Boulder has been going on for more than a year now and it sounds like the FCC’s angling for a raid over fines and/or criminal prosecution. Continue reading “"We See You, Mr. FCC Man"; Powell to Leave?”

A/V Links of Note

V-Man, Freak Radio Santa Cruz‘s indyjournalist extraordinaire, is back doing daily news programs on the station. Last month he devoted a show to¬† the state of U.S. microradio (MP3, 33:43, 7.8 MB). Guests included DJ American from Free Radio Olympia and Bob Ugly from Free Radio San Diego, who gave details on his recent up-close and personal visit from the FCC. Thinking of Bob out there interrogating FCC agents “in 50s wigs, sunglasses and a bandanna” makes the listening to the experience even more special.
On the funny tip is this Flash animation of FCC Chairman Mikey Powell as U.S. Minister of Information, courtesy of the creative generosity of Mark Fiore. I especially like the Disney/Viacom/Fox tank battalion that drives through in the background at one point. Mikey’s a guy who deserves more of this satire.

The Deed is Done: FCC Lifts Most Media Ownership Restrictions

It took only 90 minutes for the debate; calling the question took less than 15 seconds. And, as expected, the FCC voted along party lines (3-2) to significantly relax the rules restricting media ownership and consolidation, eliminating several of them completely. The agency’s news releases are full of sickening spin, but it does provide a decent overview of the new rules.
The biggest bonanzas appear to affect television ownership, where caps have been greatly relaxed, and cross-ownership of media outlets in all but a few large markets is now permitted. Mediageek’s Paul Riismandel has posted a more specific analysis of the changes to radio ownership rules.
Clear Channel might be stung by these changes but its freshly-endowed freedom to gobble up television stations and newspapers should more than compensate. The Big Ten must be having a collective orgasm over how much their empires will grow as a result of what happened today. Time to begin paying close attention to business news. Continue reading “The Deed is Done: FCC Lifts Most Media Ownership Restrictions”