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”
Last week the FCC promulgated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would allow for more media consolidation. Among many changes contemplated, the most significant would actively encourage the merger of print and broadcast media companies. The proposal also leaves the door open to loosening restrictions on the number of radio and television stations a single company can own in any given market.
These propositions sound awfully familiar, as they contain ideas floated by Democratic Chairman Julius Genachowski‘s two Republican predecessors, Kevin Martin and Michael Powell. Continue reading “FCC Bipartisanly Bad on Media Ownership”
What is LPFM?
LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.
While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.
Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.
LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Continue reading “The History of LPFM”
Though Clear Channel may possibly be shopping itself around, the Mays family that runs the company sits quite pretty. Should the company be sold and Lowry and his two boys be asked to leave, their golden parachutes call for tens of millions of dollars in stock and cash payments each: even the taxes on that income will be paid for by the company.
There is some evidence that Clear Channel has begun quietly selling off selected properties, specifically involving “support businesses” and clusters of radio stations in smaller markets. This would make sense as the company cleans up its books to position itself in the best light for potential suitors to either take it private or buy it up to sell off piecemeal. Continue reading “Clear Channel: For Sale (and Selling)”
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”
On June 28 the FCC voted to restart its project to revise its media ownership rules. The formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to begin this process was released last week. The agency last tried to do this in 2003, but most of its proposed changes were blocked by court order in 2004.
The last time around was a near-disaster. Then-chairman Mikey Powell tried to ram through a christmas-load of changes that would have let large media conglomerates get much larger. The FCC tried to use hopelessly biased “research” to justify industry moguls’ wet dreams. Millions of people cried foul on the scheme, and it still took the courts to stop it. Continue reading “FCC Does Media Ownership Redux”
Former FCC chairman Mikey Powell joins Reactrix Media Systems as a “senior advisor.” This is in supplement to his main gig, moving large capital in telecom investment-land.
Reactrix is deploying what it calls “reactive media network” technology – motion-sensitive electronic billboard-style advertising – in malls, theatres, chain stores and other spaces of public commerce.
Mikey sez: “This new reactive media that Reactrix has pioneered, like the Internet before it, has the long-term potential to fundamentally change the way consumers receive and exchange information.” Add another feather to his stellar legacy.
Not much surprise in the news of former FCC chieftain Mikey Powell going to work for Providence Equity Partners, which specializes in venture/vulture capitalism involving global media interests. Powell, as a “Senior Advisor,” will no doubt assist in the management of Providence’s ~$9 billion portfolio. His pinstriped suits should fit in very well there. Continue reading “Mikey Powell: Telecoms Investor”
Mikey Powell and Media Bureau chief William (“Ken”) Ferree, until this week top dogs at the FCC, have new gigs to fall into. Powell is heading to the Aspen Institute, a common transitional stop for former Chairmen. Ferree lands a phatter job: Chief Operating Officer at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Ferree, architect of the (mostly failed) media ownership review, now making critical decisions on funding for public radio and TV. Sounds like a match made in heaven!