The governing paradigm in contemporary U.S. communications policy is genuflection to principles that invoke the “free market,” especially post-1980 when economics captured the policymaking process. As such, all Federal Communications Commissioners, regardless of party, will couch their positions and rationales in this language, though nearly all also make the effort to connect their rationales to something akin to “the public interest,” which has been the principal ideal as mandated by the agency’s own authorizing statute.
But the FCC’s also been a safe space for the occasional ideologue who worships capitalism as the human condition most worthy of emulation. It is not a radical notion to believe that an economic theory may not be an appropriate paradigm by which to organize all of the workings of an entire society. Folks who do believe that are market-fundamentalists; and whether it comes in economic, political, or religious flavors, fundamentalism is an extreme that the act of being civilized tends to temper. Continue reading “The FCC's Trumpian Shift is On”
The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology had members of the FCC in for three hours of grilling a couple of weeks ago under the rubric of “continued oversight,” which is a fancy way of saying “giving members a chance to grandstand on pet issues.”
Subjects like the FCC’s plans to repurpose DTV spectrum for wireless broadband, reform communications subsidy programs, and the protection of net neutrality got the most attention, but questions of the FCC’s enforcement capabilities and how pirate radio fits into the mix did arise. Continue reading “Future Enforcement: Questions of Money and Will”
Going to try to ease back into the swing of things, though there’s still a lot of non-site work in my life right now still going on. But just a few notes to let you know I’m still alive:
1. Good friend and collagist extraordinaire rx has released an eight-minute trailer of his latest magnum opus – a remix-documentary of the 2008 presidential election. rx isn’t a big fan of deadlines (especially those self-imposed), but he tells me the full doc should be ready for public viewing hopefully by the end of this year or early next. Continue reading “Catch-Up Notes of Miscellany”
What a difference a weekend makes.
Last week, Congress passed a bill retroactively legalizing and expanding the surveillance of the communications of U.S. citizens. This bill may have unintended and negative effects on the campaign to re-instill the principle of network neutrality as a point of law.
Shortly after Congress’ action, two developments took place: both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits against the FISA Amendments Act, challenging its constitutionality on a number of levels. Notably, none of the principals of the media-reform movement have signed onto these legal efforts as of yet. Continue reading “"Glimmer" Downgraded to "Mirage"”
Although Congress may have just inadvertently given telecommunication companies a huge legal boost to engage in network management via the pretext of “terrorism-related” surveillance, it is a long shot from being a done deal. For starters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched the first in what is expected to be a multi-lateral legal attack on the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act; the starting point is a claim that the law violates the separation of powers clause of the Constitution, in that Congress’ action unconstitutionally empowered the Executive branch while emasculating any judicial oversight or reprimand of abuses conducted under the permission of the legislature.
Should the entire FISA Amendments Act be declared unconstitutional – and not just the provision granting telecom companies retroactive immunity for spying on us without proper legal justification – the diminishment of network neutrality under the auspices of national security would be undermined, perhaps fatally. That would be a very good thing. EFF’s legal experts don’t expect action on their lawsuit to really begin to gain traction until later this year – right around (or shortly after) the November elections. The case itself won’t likely be resolved until sometime next year at the earliest. Continue reading “Glimmers of Hope for Network Neutrality”
My work online here will significantly slow down over the next couple of months, as I enter the most critical phase of my graduate studies to-date. Once I hopefully become ABD (“all but dissertation”) in early May, some of the pressure ease. But then I’m immediately leaving the country for an exploratory workshop hosted by the European Science Foundation on the impact of digitalization with regard to community media. As one a handful of non-EU “experts” invited to the event, I expect my role will primarily be to warn other countries in the midst of formulating, adopting, or modifying digital radio standards to stay as far away from iBiquity’s HD protocol as they possibly can.
Expect “regular” content-generation to resume sometime in late May or so. I made updates to the Schnazz, Truthful Translations, and Enforcement Action Database over the weekend, so those are up to date, at least in the near term.
In the meantime, keep an eye on these stories: Continue reading “Hiatus Ahoy: Notes While Away”
Sometimes politicians couch the truth in humor. This typically happens when they converge for one of their pat-on-the-back dinners, where they’re surrounded by like-minded friends. Events like the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner come to mind.
In the world of communications policymaking, the hubris-fest happens during the annual dinner of the Federal Communications Bar Association – the cadre of specialized lawyers who grease the Federal Communications Commission’s wheels to keep their clients happy. Headlining this year’s dinner was FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who, by all reports, was quite a crowd-pleaser.
Check some of his jokes, as reported by Broadcasting & Cable: Continue reading “Kevin Martin, Unfunnyman”
As if last week’s bombshell did not do enough to tarnish the legitimacy of the FCC, now comes word that a second media ownership study did not see the light of day back during the agency’s last go-round on the subject.
The funny thing is, this newly-unearthed report – “Review of the Radio Industry” – doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know, which is how consolidation has decimated radio since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. When regulators find themselves threatened to the point where they go out of their way to cover up the obvious, you know things are f*cked up to an insane degree. Continue reading “FCC Report-Spiking Redux”
During the FCC’s mostly-failed media ownership revision-quest of 2003, the agency cooked up a bunch of “research” to justify trying to let big media grow even bigger. However, one report with real integrity never made it out the door.
The agency’s Media Bureau studied local television news coverage, and tallied up the amount of actual local news stations produced, and correlated that to station ownership. It turns out that locally-owned stations produce as much as 33 hours more local news per year than stations owned by chains or networks. The study also concluded that cross-ownership – the ownership of a TV station and/or newspaper and/or radio by one company in a single market – did nothing to enhance a TV station’s local news coverage. In fact, cross-owned properties more often than not produce less local news. Continue reading “Mikey Powell, Document-Shredder”
Sometimes enough well-documented bitching does produce results. A month and a half after the Center for Media and Democracy released their study of stealth PR on local TV newscasts, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin ordered the Enforcement Bureau onto the case.
Fines for violations (of which CMD documented several dozen) start at $32,500 and can be multiplied by up to a factor of ten. So far, the excuses offered up by those stations caught passing off video news releases as some sort of “journalism” have been quite underwhelming. Perhaps this will make the radio/TV station license renewal process more meaningful. One can always dream.