Supremes on FCC v. NextWave: Bankruptcy Law Trumps Public Interest

What happens to the spectrum “owned” by a telecommunications company when it goes belly-up?
According to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in the case of FCC v. NextWave Personal Communications, Inc., bankruptcy can now be used as a shield by companies who want to keep their valuable spectrum real estate safe from government repossession – even if they haven’t yet paid for it.
A synopsis of the case: in 1996, when the FCC auctioned off the spectrum destined to be developed for personal communications services (aka “PCS” – think wireless phones, pagers, PDAs, etc.), it restricted two of the six auctions to small companies. The idea was to encourage new entrants into a booming sector of the telecom industry: competition would drive down prices for wireless services, encouraging increased adoption of wireless technologies. Continue reading “Supremes on FCC v. NextWave: Bankruptcy Law Trumps Public Interest”

Clear Channel Bashing Made Easy

Look no further than a new addition to the company’s own web site – a thinly-veiled whitewashing of the ol’ corporate image called “Clear Channel Cares.”
According to the site, Clear Channel is launching a publicity campaign to promote just how it contributes to the communities it does business in. The campaign is running on the company’s radio stations and outdoor billboards (Clear Channel is the largest single owner of radio stations and billboards in America).
“Clear Channel Cares” is pathetic beyond description. Honest to God, I almost puked after downloading their national radio spot. The site also features “localized audio” – spots providing examples of Clear Channel’s community spirit in a whopping nine markets. For a 1,200+ station conglomerate, you think they could’ve tried a bit harder. Continue reading “Clear Channel Bashing Made Easy”

Deez Nutz Busts the Station that Snitched

There is a clever sleuth in cahoots with Deez Nutz 93.7, the unlicensed microradio station shut down by the FCC about a week and a half ago. This MP3 of a phone call to “KUBE 93” evening DJ Eric Powers (:53, 368K) seems to connect the commercial station to the enforcement action.
Here is a partial transcript of the call – note there is no mention of interference being a problem with Deez Nutz, even though the station broadcast only two channels away from KUBE: Continue reading “Deez Nutz Busts the Station that Snitched”

Sirius Sells Out to Creditors

And then there was one…well, not quite yet. Sirius Satellite Radio, the smaller of the two satellite radio service providers in the United States, is still on the air – but barely.
On Tuesday the FCC approved the transfer of Sirius’ licenses to broadcast via satellite to the company’s largest creditors. A life-or-death deal hinged on this transfer taking place. In exchange for the licenses, a consortium of investment banks and private capital investment firms will swap approximately $700 million worth of debt and $200 million cash, and will also acquire majority stock control of the company. Continue reading “Sirius Sells Out to Creditors”

Update #2 – More details on Deez Nutz' Bust; Stations-in-a-Suitcase @ Flea Markets?; AM IBOC – Listen For Yourself

A couple of additional data points to add to the first reported FCC pirate radio enforcement action of the year: Kent, WA’s Deez Nutz 93.7 received not one, but two visits from the FCC on Friday, January 9.
The person who lives where the station was housed was not home at the time of the first visit, but the FCC agents on the case contacted the landlord of the property and “instructed” them to dismantle the antenna and cut the coaxial cable feed line. Continue reading “Update #2 – More details on Deez Nutz' Bust; Stations-in-a-Suitcase @ Flea Markets?; AM IBOC – Listen For Yourself”

FCC Grilled on the Hill: Going Through the Motions

Yesterday the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing concerning competition in the telecommunications industries. All five members of the FCC were present and all were quizzed by the Senators on various issues, most of which dealt with the series of regulatory reviews curently underway at the agency.
The FCC’s review of media ownership reviews wasn’t the hottest topic of the hearing, but the subject did arise. During those brief moments some choice quotes were uttered.
The best came from FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who has clearly felt the sting from critics who decry his zeal for turning over regulatory functions to marketplace forces. In 1998, with the dot-com bubble in full bloom and radio consolidation in full swing, then-junior Commissioner Powell compared the idea of regulation in the public interest to modern art: “people see in it what they want to see. That may be a fine quality for art, but it is a bit of a problem when that quality exists in a legal standard.” Continue reading “FCC Grilled on the Hill: Going Through the Motions”

First Reported Bust of 2003

Because somebody has to go first: Deez Nutz 93.7 in Kent, WA (smack dab between Seattle and Tacoma) got a knock last Friday (Jan. 9). Details are sketchy but it sounds like the station tested the patience of the Seattle FCC field office about as far as it could.
This is the earliest start we’ve seen on the FCC’s unlicensed enforcement efforts, but that means nothing. The Enforcement Action Database will be duly updated. The good news from all this is, there’s at least two (maybe three) active microradio stations that remain on the air in the area.

Media Coverage of Media Deregulation: Too Little, Too Late

The Pacifica radio network’s flagship program, Democracy Now!, featured a segment this week on the FCC’s current media deregulation crusade. It featured several guests, including whiz-bang media scholar Robert McChesney, Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy, and FCC Media Bureau chief W. Kenneth Ferree (who’s already scoffed at encouraging more public input on this issue as “an exercise in foot-stomping”).
While these three did the majority of the talking, a couple of other guests got some important words in edgewise. One of them was Mara Einstein, assistant professor of Media Studies at Queens College (CUNY). Einstein wrote one of the 12 studies the FCC released late last year to justify its current effort: hers was “Program Diversity and the Program Selection Process on Broadcast Network Television.” Continue reading “Media Coverage of Media Deregulation: Too Little, Too Late”

At Least We Tried

When the Federal Communications Commission approved the rollout of digital radio (“HD Radio,” as it’s being branded to consumers) in October, it did so with one qualifier. Interference is a big problem with the digital radio standard that the U.S. broadcast industry has developed for itself, and the FCC admitted as much when it refused to authorize digital transmissions on the AM band during nighttime hours.
AM stations that have tested the in-band-on-channel (IBOC) digital radio technology on the air discovered it could cause heavy interference to stations on nearby frequencies, manifesting as a hash-type noise rendering the stations unlistenable. The FCC actually received complaints from radio listeners during the digital radio rulemaking proceedings about the tests and the interference, and they are on the record. The FM version of HD Radio is also susceptible to interference problems.
This did not stop the FCC from authorizing its use with great fanfare, save the one caveat on nighttime AM broadcasting. Continue reading “At Least We Tried”