Archive | October, 2003

Be the Media! Blog

The Be the Media! Blog is now up and running. It’s a group weblog of indy-minded Be the Media! conference participants. As soon as the domain name propagates DNS, it’ll be available at it’s new domain — — but as of right now, it’s not working, so use the link at the beginning of this post and you’re set.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be participating in this blog — much more so once I’m on the ground in Madtown next Thursday.

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Reform the Media and BE the Media

In just about a week, Madison, WI will become a hotspot for media reformers and media independents.

First, Madtown will host the National Conference on Media Reform, put on by Robert McChesney’s Free Press organization. That conference is loaded with luminaries of the left and other folks who’ve recently made a name for themselves battling the FCC and the Entertainment Cartel.

Second, the Be the Media Conference is sort of a more grassroots parallel conference, aimed at sharing the tools for media creation. There are workshops on such topics as creating community centers and microradio.

I’m attending both conferences and hope I’ll have time to blog some impressions and reports of the activities. I will be doing a call-in from Madison to the mediageek radio show at 5:30 PM on Nov. 7th, to give a live report of the happenings. With luck, I’ll be able to drag my pal John Anderson (of and the guy giving me a floor to crash on) into doing the report with me.

I’m also lending a hand to do a webcast of some of the proceedings of both conferecnes, both for people who can’t make it to Madison, and for community radio stations (licensed and unlicensed) to rebroadcast. I’ll post more about where to tune in when I have that information.

There’s great potential for the weekend, if for no other reason than the synergy of having all these minds gathered together for the purpose of working on media reform and grassroots approaches to media making.

The greatest hope, of course, is that the weekend helps to gel a real functional and powerful movement to reform and take over the media. The Media Reform organizers state that their focus really is action, so I hope that ends up being true, and that time isn’t wasted on trying to form platforms or forumulate statements that won’t matter anyway to anyone who wasn’t at the conference.

These days I tend to be of two minds about reformative action, since the victories tend to be small — getting rid of the FCC’s June 2nd media rules changes is great and all, but the rules weren’t too great before June 2nd, either. At the same time, the FCC and Congress aren’t going away any time soon, so whatever power and influence can be postively exerted on these institutions is both useful and necessary.

The attack has to be two pronged, and the second prong is definitely in grassroots and independent media production. I’m sure that’s what the Be The Media organizers were thinking when they decided to throw a parallel conference. The point is not to be oppositional to the reform campaign — that would be stupidly defeatest. But it’s vitally important to bolster the ability to actually produce media, whether it remains underground and oppositional to the mainstream, or if the mainstream can be somewhat reformed so that there is much greater room for the public and individuals.

If more space can be cleared for truly progressive media, it will be the likes of Free Speech TV and Indymedia that will be most ready to jump in and start production.

I have no illusions that all the luminaries in attendance at the Reform Conference necessarily support real people’s media, like IMC or unlicensed microradio. I don’t doubt that many of those with establishment ties see reform as having more PBS and NPR as a side dish to FOX and Clear Channel. But I also think minds can be changed, and perhaps some of the more centrist-establishment types can be swung a bit to the grassroots if they see the grassroots in action, rather than having the Conference cloistered away in some big city convention center.

A last word on coverage — in addition to the webcast feed, there are plans to have a group-blog written by a number of grassroots and Indymedia activists who are outside even the Reform Conference’s mainstream. I’ve been invited to participate, as has Sascha Meinrath, one of my compatriots at the Urbana IMC, and a tireless Indymedia activist. The hope for the group-blog is that the participants will bring a critical eye to all the proceedings and perhaps provide a reality check, especially since there is likely to be a strong tendency for many Reform participants to be a little breathless in their accounts (especially while being around all those left celebrities).

Should be an interesting, and, I hope, fun weekend.

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Radio Show Updates: Radio Free Brattleboro and Brent Ritzl interviews

While the poor radio show page remains neglected, the archive of mediageek radio shows keeps getting updated nonetheless. Listen in to these two interesting programs, conducted in the midst of WEFT‘s annual Fall pledge drive: 10/10/03 – Interview with Brent Ritzl, publisher of Zine Guide and Tail Spins, about indy publishing and communicating with youth […]

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Poor, poor broadcasters might have to endure complaints at FCC localism hearings… Especially when they advocate running over bicyclists

The FCC held one of its media localism hearings (about a year too late, I’ll add) in Charlotte, NC yesterday. The Raliegh News Observer ran a story in anticipation of the hearing, with the headline, “Broadcaster wary of bias at hearing.” That broadcaster, Rick Jackson, president of the N.C. Association of Broadcasters, explained his wariness is because, “They [participants] don’t go to a hearing to gush. They come to complain.”

Buried at the end of the article, I can sure see some reason for Raliegh residents to complain:

One issue likely to surface at the hearing is complaints about WDCG-FM G105, which was criticized earlier this month after Bob Dumas of the “Bob and Madison Show” said he hated seeing bicycle riders on the highway and laughed at stories about motorists running cyclists down. After cyclists protested and two sponsors withdrew ads, the station manager promised to run a “share the road” education campaign.

But apparently there’s more to the story than that.

According to the North Carolina cycling website,, the Sept. 23 morning show broadcast went more like this:

“The Bob and Madison morning show on G105 out of Raleigh was going on for awhile about how fun it is to run cyclists off of the roads, and how we don’t deserve to be there. One woman called in and said her Dad hit a cyclist on purpose on his way to church one morning (very Christian of him) when she was 12 or something. She said he just hated bikes being on the road. The intern said there is an old man that lives in her neighborhood that shoots a pellet gun at a group of 30 or so that ride by their house.she said. He tries to hit their tires to make them crash.

The host even joked of riding a motorcycle down said-proposed bike path just to piss off bike riders.”

While the News Observer makes it sound like the station quickly acted to try and make good, it seems like the truth is that the station was significantly more recalcitrant.

After the station manager made an e-mail apology to the North Carolina Bicyclying Club,

On 10/1 the Bob & Madison show aired a PSA spoof called “Men on Schwinns”. It was a spoof on the old “In Living Color” skits called ‘Men on Film”. Obviously, the station and its manager were playing the cycling community by agreeing to listen to us and air some PSA’s on cycling safety. Clearly their spoof PSA was a blatant slap in the face to the cycling community and they still think it is funny to throw stuff at cyclists.

In the end the offending morning show was cancelled for the day following the airing of the spoof PSA and the station manager aired an apology.

Which would be all fine and good, except that it seems to be part of a larger pattern of anti-bicyclist programming airing on Clear Channel stations around the country, including Houston, TX and Cleveland, OH.

So, is that what localism at Clear Channel amounts to? Making fun of bicycylists, revelling in their injuy at the hands and bumpers of motorists and egging on your listeners to take them out?

Let’s not fool ourselves, Clear Channel doesn’t give one shit about the local communities that it broadcasts in. Their stations are nothing but vaccuum cleaners for sucking out cash into their San Antonio, TX coffers.

Change the word bicyclist in those broadcasts to the name of some other minority group and I don’t think people would be letting Clear Channel off so easily. Or, better, how about we change “bicyclists” to “Christians,” especially in that passage about the caller who said her dad “her Dad hit a cyclist on purpose on his way to church one morning.” Every right-wingnut Christian group around the Country would be pouncing on that Clear Channel station faster than you toss a brick through an SUV’s windshield.

… or maybe that’s a bicycle through a Clear Channel window.

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