Archive | January, 2004

pirates at clear channel hq

FCC Localism Task Force Meets in Clear Channel’s Back Yard

pirates at clear channel hq

TheFCC’s Localism Task Force held a public hearing in San Antonio, TX, home to everyone’s favorite radio goliath, Clear Channel, which also happens to be the arch nemesis of localism.

As one would expect, media activists used the hearing as an opportunity to point out and bash industry consolidation and it’s decimation of local accountability and service. Clear Channel used it as an opportunity to show piece of video propaganda to demonstrate how much of a good media citizen the company has been in San Antonio — but not necessarily in the hundreds of other cities where it has stations.

You can get a rundown gloss of some of the affair from a Reuters story, but otherwise the national press didn’t pay much attention to this, the second Localism Task Force hearing.

The San Antonio area press paid more attention to the event, which drew about 500 people. The Express-News reported that about a quarter of the attendees stood in line to participate in the public comment period. Even though they don’t say it outright, every indication is that the comments from just about everyone who wasn’t in the broadcast industry were critical of broadcast localism, since the only positive comments mentioned were from representatives of local broadcasters. You gotta figure that if some average Jane had something glowing to say, that would’ve been news, and given plenty of space in the story — especially since the Express-News’ website is a joint venture with KENS TV-5.

As John at points out, there was a 10-watt pirate station broadcasting at a small protest held outside Clear Channel’s headquaters. As you can see in pictures posted to Houston IMC, the protestors indeed were dressed as pirates — maybe that was so they would blend in with the bigger, more theiving pirates inside the HQ.

Clear Channels WOAI-TV tried to spin the protest as if San Antonio was about to become downtown Seattle in 1999:

” Protesters from around the country, some of them veterans of anti globalization demonstrations in Seattle, Miami, and elsewhere, are descending on San Antonio to demonstrate their displeasure with media consolidation at a Federal Communications Commission hearing on localism set for tomorrow evening.”

As the pictures and all the other press coverage show, that’s all a bit of wishful thinking on Cheap Channel’s part. While there were certainly folks from outside Texas at the hearing, it appears most of the comments were dominated by San Antonio residents and other Texans. Even greater wishful thinking was the story’s claim that the pirate station “was shut down by officials late Tuesday afternoon.” A claim that John also dispels based on reports from people who were there.

Clear Channel, all the news that fits our ideology.

Unlike the first Localism Task Force hearing held last October in Charlotte, NC I didn’t hear any talk of the FCC trying to keep speakers from mentioning the ownership issue, pushing the ludicrous stance that localism and ownership are separate issues. I reckon the FCC’s organizers figured they’d only get bad press and a 500 pissed off attendees if they tried to shut them up on this hot button issue.

Of course, the FCC’s new ownership rules, which pound another nail in the coffin of localism, may still yet take effect. Although they’ve been held up by the courts, they haven’t been overturned, and Congress still hasn’t done anything substantive, except blow a kiss to national TV cartel.

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Comments Turned Off Due to Spam

Unfortunately, for the moment I’ve had to turn off comments here on mediageek due to getting deluged with hundreds of spam comments in the last week. These spam comment have links to all sorts of spam sites — casinos, online drugs, penis enlargers — in the hope of duping google into raising the ranking of their sites based upon having so many links to them.

I will fix the situation by upgrading the newest version of Moveable Type, my blog software, and using some free blog spam killing software. But I don’t have time to do that right this moment. So for now the spammers ruin it for everyone.

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Newsflash: More Media Consolidation On the Way… In a Sneaky Way

That’s the essential proclamation of a short story at in the wake of Bush signing into law the ominbus budget bill containing the “compromise” 39% TV ownership cap (that neatly lets CBS and FOX slip by with their previously-illegal number of stations). Well, sort of…. without the ‘sneaky part.’

But the story does reveal one little fact about the omniubs bill that so far I hadn’t seen covered elsewhere:

“[CBS and FOX] also will be protected under a safe harbor provision if they make an acquisition that leads them to exceed the 39% cap. The new rules give companies two years, rather than one, to divest stations to comply with the ownership limit. In addition, News Corp. and Viacom could receive an FCC waiver giving them an additional year to sell assets.”

Now, that’s a bit more than just raising the ownership cap, but a little less obvious. This little maneuver gives FOX and CBS (and the other networks) some breathing room to acquire more stations and strategize their next move — like lobbying Congress to raise the limit again in a year or so when the media ownership debate has blown over. It also allows them to buy up stations in larger and more valuable markets and then sell off less profitable ones in smaller markets to make up the difference, bumping over and under the 39% mark like a commuter negotiating the speed limit.

Thus, beyond letting CBS and FOX keep the stations they acquired mostly illegally, the new rule gives them and the other networks much more room to swap stations like baseball cards. More sales and purchases leads to more consolidation, and also leads to a quick decline in things like news quality as jobs get slashed at every turn to eek out a dollar more profit in the trade, or pay the freight for the inflated market prices that are likely to happen in a feverish trading frenzy.

So there’s yet another reason why the 39% compromise wasn’t a compromise at all. Congress might as well have let the FCC keep the new 45% limit it wanted, since the media monopolists can hit that limit and stay there for two years anyway… which is like an eternity in today’s media market full of perpetual mergers, acquisitions and spin offs.

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Don’t Let That $3 Burn a Hole in your Pocket — Low Hug #10 is out

Aj Michel, appearing many times on the mediageek radioshow as the resident ‘zine queen, has finished issue #10 of her pop-culture perzine, Low Hug. It’s the Technology issue, and it looks like it’s all killer, no filler:

“Human Factors : The Technological is Personal – contributions from Davida Gypsy Breier (Xerography Debt), Delaine Derry Green (My Small Diary), Russ Forster (8-Track Mind), L. Rob Hubbard (Mimezine), Eric Lyden (Fish with Legs), Sean and Malinda (Thoughtworm), Vincent Romano (Off-Line), Jack Persico, Dan Taylor (Hungover Gourmet) and Jeffrey Yamaguchi (Working for the Man) discussing their personal memories of computers, cable television, CB radio and more! …”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every issue of Low Hug, and I will let you know that I read my first issue (the radio issue) before I really even knew Aj at all. Each issue gets sharper, and the theme for #10 is dear to my geekly little heart, so I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Spend yer $3 on something that came from a human editor and contributors, not a focus grouped marketing plan.

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