Archive | February, 2004

In today’s Salon, reporter Eric Bohlert further deconstructs Clear Channel’s recent born-again decency:

“But the pattern seems clear: Clear Channel turns a deaf ear to continuous complaints about its rampant consolidation and hardball business practices, but when Capitol Hill shows interest, the company springs into action.

‘They don’t want to be before Congress and they don’t want to be an issue in Washington because it’s bad for business,’ says Robert Unmacht, former publisher of the radio publication M Street Journal. ‘I have a tough time giving them credit for this indecency initiative because I think it’s all a reaction to Congress.”‘”

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Hello New Mediageek Readers

As it happens every so often, traffic to the site today is nearly triple the average, mostly due to people doing websearches regarding Bubba the Love Sponge’s firing and Clear Channel yanking Howard Stern off six whole stations.

To those of you encountering mediageek for the first time: welcome. If you came here thirsty for information about Bubba, Clear Channel, and poor ol’ Howie, I suggest you check out some of the archives, especially the media ownership archives. I think you’ll find it enlightening (or at least bothersome).

To the regular mediageek readers: thanks for tuning in, and I won’t let traffice go to my mediageekhead, because this time next week, it’ll just be you and me again.

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Somebody Gets It — Howard Stern Wasn’t Censored by Clear Channel, It’s a Power Play

Costa Tsiokos, who writes the blog The Critical ‘I’, nails what’s really behind Clear Channel’s removal of the Howard Stern show from 6 stations (out of 1200!):

– Stern’s show is produced in partnership with Viacom, which owns Infinity Broadcasting, which is the second-largest radio network, behind–hello!–Clear Channel.

The same reaction to the Bubba firing applies here: I find it hard to believe that Clear Channel only now determined that a show like Howard Stern’s could be construed as objectionable. The motivation lies elsewhere, beyond a corporate impulse to conform to decency standards.

Clear Channel is orchestrating the current climate to put pressure on its chief rival, Viacom/Infinity. Much like the firing of Bubba was designed to appease the FCC and lead to a reduction in the levied fines, the Stern action is designed to give the appearance of “cracking down”, when it’s really an opportunistic power play.

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Real Broadcast Decency

With all this talk about broadcast indecency, such as the news that Clear Channel dropped Howard Stern from six stations today while instituting on-air decency standards, it gets me thinking about what’s really indecent, and what actually would be decent.

You know what would represent real decency on the part of the big radio giants, like Clear Channel?

It would be truly decent of them to sell off, say, half of their radio holdings. I think it would be truly decent of Clear Channel to look at every market where they have a stranglehold, owning 4, 6 or 8 stations, and decided that it was too much, and then gave away even just a few of those stations to the local community.

Deciding that near-monopoly power to homogenize the airwaves isn’t such a great thing would be really decent of them.

Bare breasts, dick jokes, and discussion about Paris Hilton’s sex life are really minor indecencies in comparison to the wholesale gutting of any creativity or public service in the radio industry that has happened since 1996.

Oh, yeah… and it would be really decent of Clear Channel to syndicate the mediageek radio show, too. Morning drive time would be fine with me.

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FCC’s LPFM Report to Congress Says More Room for Stations

Last year the FCC finally released the Congressionally mandated Mitre report that examined the reality behind the National Association of Broadcaster‘s claims that low-power FM station would interfere with full-power stations. The Commission released the report only under duress–a FOIA request and lawsuit threat.

Now the FCC has officially released the report to Congress along with its recommendation to do away with the third-channel adjacent restrictions that Congress put into law at the end of 2000 in order to placate the NAB’s desire to strictly limit the number of new LPFM stations. The third-channel spacing restriction keeps LPFM stations from being squeezed into spots on the dial that are not suitable for high-power stations (100 – 100,000 watts) because they would create interference with surrounding stations. But, as the Mitre report demonstrates, these spots are unproblematic for LPFM stations, which operate at 10 – 100 watts.

Thus, in essence, the third-channel adjacent restriction greatly limits the number of frequencies available for LPFM stations, and pretty much keeps them out of the largest radio markets.

According to the Prometheus Radio Project, the removal of this restriction would free up spaces for hundreds or even thousands of new non-commercial low-power FM stations.

Unfortunately, unlike most issues of regulatory nuance, this one requires action from Congress, since it was Congress that intervened to put in place a restriction that otherwise is the sole domain of the FCC. And so far only Sen. John McCain has said anything publicly about the report. But he’s a good one to hear from, since he chairs the Senate Commerce Committee and has promised to introduce legislation to take up the FCC’s recommendation.

Of course, the NAB claims the Mitre report is “flawed,” without giving any rationale or explanation of any kind to support this claim. They don’t seem to want to recognize that the report wasn’t even written by the FCC, since Congress mandated that it be an independent report. Its author, the Mitre Corporation, is a respected and established Washington engineering firm and defense contractor — hardly an expected voice for democratizing the airwaves. Even the staid radio journal, Radio World, characterized the Mitre report as “the Seventh Wonder of Broadcast Engineering – the data analysis is deep and exhaustive.”

Prometheus Radio Project’s Pete Tridish is scheduled to on this Friday’s mediageek radioshow to talk about the FCC’s report to Congress. You can read Prometheus’ press release on the report, or read the FCC report yourself (in .pdf format). You can also listen to the Amherst Alliance’s Don Schellhardt talk about the initial public release of the Mitre report last year, on the July 25, 2003 edition of the radioshow.

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