17 years ago(!), I left a budding career in radio journalism out of disgust with the trajectory the industry was taking. The break-point came when the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio teamed up in Congress to conduct a disinformation campaign designed to eviscerate the FCC’s then-newly proposed LPFM radio service.
However, A few months before I actually quit my job, I acquired all the components necessary to start an unlicensed microbroadcast station. “System P” was a 40-watt frequency-agile FM rig that used a portable military surplus antenna mast to conduct tactical broadcasts from a wide variety of locations. You could often hear the station in Madison, Wisconsin, primarily on evenings and weekends; but since the station was mobile much fun was had taking it to peoples’ homes and public events around the country to give the public a more substantive appreciation of the ease by which it could make “the public airwaves” very real.
Another key element of System P was to provide a last-mile node for what was then quite an experiemental webcast-activism scene (today commonly known as “livestreaming”). These often manifested in Independent Media Centers during times of protest, most notably against corporate global trade deals. Activists would converge on a city to fill the streets in order to disrupt the negotiation of these agreements, and the media coverage would invariably skew toward painting the activists as violent thugs and police/other security forces as the guardians of order. But when activists gained the ability to counteract this narrative – oftentimes by live reports from the streets directly – the discursive dynamic around these events changed. Continue reading “Nodes of Resistance: Sampling the Haitian Diaspora via FM+Internet”
Good news from Madison: Governor Scott Walker used his line-item veto power for good late last month and struck a provision that would have evicted the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the UW-Madison campus and prohibited journalism faculty from working with it.
Slipped into the state budget in the dead of night by an anonymous Republican lawmaker and the subject of national controversy, Walker killed the item because he didn’t feel it was appropriate to single out one particular group in such a way. Instead, he is asking the UW Board of Regents to review its policies on campus facilities-sharing with outside groups. Continue reading “Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Saved from Eviction”
The present practices of drafting a state budget in Wisconsin is like an inverse Christmas: a drunken anti-Santa stumbles through the people’s house at the dead of night and leaves flaming bags of poo for the citizenry to unhappily discover the next morning. These come in the form of non-fiscal matters attached to the budget itself; the riders typically advance some inane personal/political cause of individual lawmakers.
A recent sad example of this practice is a budget provision which would expel the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the UW-Madison campus and prohibit UW faculty and staff from working with it in a professional capacity. Continue reading “Wisconsin's Attack on Truthtelling”
Exactly six months ago, I filed a complaint with the FCC regarding Madison right-wing radio harpy Vicki McKenna’s violation of broadcast law by playing a recorded phone call without the permission of the caller. Since then, McKenna’s employer, the Clear Channel-owned WIBA-AM, pulled McKenna’s podcasts from the station web site and McKenna claimed that she and her employer were being unjustly persecuted. (Her podcasts have been restored during the last month – including the show that landed her in hot water in the first place.)
Nothing could be further from the truth: the more speech the better, but use of the public airwaves comes with some responsibilities. So I called the FCC’s consumer help-line to inquire about the status of my “case.” Continue reading “Justice Takes A While”
Not a month back in Madison, and already in the thick of it.
Next weekend, the city plays host to the inaugural Democracy Convention, designed to build on this year’s popular uprising in Wisconsin and foster collaboration among like-minded folks nationwide. (That should be just about anyone: it is hard to hate on democracy.) Continue reading “Democracy Convention is Radioactive”
A lightly-edited version of this article was re-published on the Isthmus Daily Page.
The ongoing protests in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker’s plans to corporatize the state still resonate in Madison’s media environment. Unsurprisingly, the active involvement of unions in an issue that directly affects their future relevancy has been fodder galore for right-wing media pundits.
One of those pundits is Vicki McKenna, the host of some shrill demagoguery on Clear Channel-owned WIBA-AM, Madison’s bastion of reactionary talk radio. Last week, Vicki thought she had a sure thing in hand to punk organized labor – but it turns out she’s the one more likely to get stung. Continue reading “Nailed 'Em: Station Flaunts FCC in Pursuit of Partisan Politics”
Last Thursday night, when I heard of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plans to forcibly evict those who have occupied the state Capitol building for nearly two weeks, I couldn’t not go home.
I ended up in Madison not just to add my voice to the hundreds of thousands who rallied in protest last weekend of the corporatization of Wisconsin, but to help my friend at the Isthmus, Kristian Knutsen, who has nearly-singlehandedly held down the alt-weekly’s real-time online coverage of the massively fluid events.
It felt nice to put the journalistic shoes on again. During the threat of a “forcible evacuation” of the Capitol building on Sunday afternoon, I perched my netbook on the marble railing on the building’s second floor in the Rotunda and hunkered down, with thousands of my newly-found best friends. The police, who are working people, too, made no move and the Capitol remains occupied today. Continue reading “Being the Media: Covering Wisconsin's Uprising”
I’ve tried for years to explain the seemingly inordinate amount of state pride I exude, and if you know a Wisconsinite you’ve probably come up against this at least once. Typically it’s brushed off as a superiority complex among inferior states (we’re “flyover country” and “the Rust Belt” to those on the coasts).
Now you know it’s more than that.
To learn the basics behind why Wisconsinites have occupied the state Capitol Building in Madison and return in the tens of thousands every day, visit the local media outlets who are helping to hold down the fort (the mainstream media has hopelessly painted this controversy into a frame of ignorance), or follow the Twitter feeds. Continue reading “Wisconsin's Insurrection Began in the Fourth Grade”
Over the last couple of weeks friends in Madison have been forwarding me various correspondence between folks at the University of Wisconsin, the UW-Extension, the office of state representative Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater), and the syndicated labor radio news service I helped create, the Workers Independent News Service (WIN(S)).
Rep. Nass, who is chair of the State Assembly’s Committee on Labor and also sits on various committees dealing with education issues and the UW System, apparently has a problem with WIN(S) and the fact that it reports business news from the perspective of working people. Continue reading “Liberal Media Witch-Hunting in Wisconsin”
Yesterday the Center for Media and Democracy released Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed. It tracks the use of some three dozen video news releases (VNRs) by television stations across America.
The use of VNRs is serious business. Companies and other special interests pay PR flacks (usually former journalists) to essentially produce generic television reports, which are then freely fed to TV stations nationwide.
Television reporters and news directors like VNRs because they’re easy fodder with which to fill a newscast, meaning fewer reporters to pay and less work needed from everyone involved. Companies like VNRs because they get free commercials masquerading as journalism. Continue reading “Pervasive Fake News Documented, FCC Shrugs”