Perceptions of Reality on the Eve of Disaster

Three days from now the FCC is expected in a series of 3-2 votes to approve changes to media ownership rules allowing further consolidation. Where radio saw its near-destruction as a useful information source following the Telecom Act’s passage and the consolidation that followed, we have not learned from this mistake, and now much of the same damage will be done to other media outlets.
If you’re inclined to watch the mess as it unfolds, the FCC streams video of its meetings online. I hope to have choice cuts of each Commissioner’s comments available for download in MP3 format later in the day on Monday.
As we stand on the eve of what is likely to be a big step backward in the fight for media democracy, it’s important not to give up hope, especially when the evidence continues to mount that this fight was long rigged in favor of corporate interests. It was heartening to see some evidence this week – from the corporate media itself – that paints a brighter view of the future. Continue reading “Perceptions of Reality on the Eve of Disaster”

NRA Fusillade Felt at FCC; May Amendment One Online

The National Rifle Association’s “urgent bulletin” to its membership on the FCC’s upcoming media ownership rules revision unleashed a flood of petitions and complaints to the agency, at last count topping 100,000 – five or six times the number of public comments filed during the course of the rulemaking itself. The NRA’s bulletin is now online if you’d like to read the full pitch.
Don Schellhardt’s latest installment of Amendment One is also up, adding his voice to the still-growing chorus calling for Congressional involvement to stop Mikey Powell’s grand designs. Continue reading “NRA Fusillade Felt at FCC; May Amendment One Online”

Bump in the Road to Digital Radio

Guess what? The sound quality of the new “HD Radio” system sucks! That’s the verdict of none other than the National Radio Systems Committee, the industry-sponsored group that develops radio broadcast standards in the U.S.
In an internal memo dated May 14 (.pdf, 94K), Milford Smith, chairman of the NRSC subcommittee on digital radio, announced it is “temporarily suspending its IBOC-DAB standards-setting process.” This is due in part to the results of recent on-air tests and a private demonstration held at the Washington, D.C. studios of National Public Radio. The evidence mostly involves the AM side of the iBiquity-engineered digital radio system. Continue reading “Bump in the Road to Digital Radio”

Preach On, Brother Bob

We are at the two-week point from the FCC’s further decimation of American media. Last week a communiqué of sorts came in from media scholar and author Bob McChesney: “Please spread this article around on the Internet. Thanks.”
While that one is good, if you had to pick only one article on media ownership to forward around in a last-minute flurry of activist email, I’d pick McChesney’s “The FCC’s Big Grab,” which is the most succinct yet complete synopsis available on the FCC’s pending action and its disastrous implications for media democracy.

Super Bowl Pirates Fined $12,000

Most pirates in the United States operate on sporadic schedules. The 24/7 in-your-face operations may be the best-known and most-heralded, but the vast majority of unlicensed broadcasting is done on the sly in the hopes of staying under the FCC’s radar.
The rules are different, however, if the broadcast piracy involves professional sports. A nebulous outfit called Global Radio, Inc. operated pirate stations on multiple frequencies during this year’s Super Bowl and got away with it with a slap on the wrist compared to what most busted microradio stations receive.
Global Radio reportedly specializes in “event broadcast services” and applied to the FCC for six “experimental” FM licenses for use inside San Diego, CA’s Qualcomm Stadium. These temporary stations would give fans in the stands their choice of play-by-play announcer teams to listen to. Game details would be broadcast to the surrounding parking lot and little radios were even set up in the stadium’s bathrooms, so fans wouldn’t have to miss a second of the action on the field. Continue reading “Super Bowl Pirates Fined $12,000”

Dutch Pirate Police Launch Major Crackdown; FCC Enforcement Stats Skew Toward Thuggery

The Netherlands is a small country: about 13,000 square miles, not quite twice the size of the state of New Jersey. But within its borders the Netherlands boasts one of the most vibrant pirate radio scenes in Europe, behind Italy and the United Kingdom. Literally hundreds of Dutch FM pirates are on the air, some running power levels measured in the kilowatts. There is also a thriving shortwave scene.
Until recently the Dutch government’s radiocommunications enforcement agency, Agentschap Telecom (AT), played lots of cat-and-mouse with pirate broadcasters. Most only got pressure to shut down if they were causing interference, although sporadic enforcement offensives have occurred over the last few years.
This has all changed with “Project Etherflits,” AT’s year-long pirate-hunting spree that kicked off in March. So far nearly 80 stations have been nabbed, including one simultaneous raid on 10 stations last month. Project Etherflits has led to the confiscation of gear galore and fines to station operators ranging between $1,200-$2,600 apiece. The pirates are reportedly organizing public protests in hopes of convincing lawmakers to rein in the hounds. Continue reading “Dutch Pirate Police Launch Major Crackdown; FCC Enforcement Stats Skew Toward Thuggery”

National Rifle Association Mobilizes for Media Democracy?

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. The NRA has sent out a “Urgent Bulletin” to its members on a “Media Monopoly” in the making:
“…the nation’s most powerful media companies are trying to force the FCC to do away with these rules and pave the way for a tiny handful of corporations to gain total control over the news and information that Americans are allowed to read, see, and hear. If that happens, your NRA would face a disastrous situation where – in a political crisis – a small group of media executives could literally silence your NRA and prevent us from communicating with your fellow Americans by refusing to sell us television, radio, or newspaper advertising at any price.”
In this case, I’ll leave the myth of the liberal media well enough alone, as the NRA’s clout could be handy in the eventual Congressional fight to reform the Telecom Act.

Translator Crusades Update

The final total on the number of FM translator station applications filed in March is 13,345. Of those, nearly one-third were tendered by just two groups – Radio Assist Ministry and Edgewater Broadcasting, Inc. – who filed more than 4,200 translator applications between them.
Other known abusers of the translator service are also in on this, like the Educational Media Foundation (875) and the Calvary Chapel syndicate, who applied for 385 stations under at least two names (Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls and CSN International). Continue reading “Translator Crusades Update”