Archive | April, 2004

Ted Koppel Is the New Dixie Chick — Censorship or Power Play?

Media concentration strikes again! This time it’s Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Clear Channel of TV stations, which is pulling tonight’s edition of Nightline from its ABC affiliates because the entire program will be dedicated to a tribute to fallen U.S. troops in Iraq, wherein anchor Ted Koppel will be reading aloud the names of hundreds of dead American servicemen and women as their photographs are shown.

Now Koppel gets to know what it’s like to be a Dixie Chick, as Sinclair pulls a page from the Cumulus book — that’s the company that pulled all Dixie Chicks music from its stations last year after singer Natalie Maines criticized Bush on stage in London.

Although Sinclair’s action will deprive seven cities of the program, the censorship, per se, is not the real point.

Just like the Dixie Chicks probably didn’t lose any significant sales when their records were banned by radio stations, more people will be aware of this Nightline program and possibly tune in due to all the publicity, than who would otherwise.

Sinclair’s — and the Bush administration’s — objective is not to silence critics directly so much as to send the message that there will be swift retribution for crossing them. It may be that this is a test fire from Sinclair to see what kind of reaction comes against them for pulling Nightline, so they can see how much they can get away with in the future.

It’s important to note in this tiff with ABC and Nighline that Sinclair will have 3 more ABC stations in 2005, when the company’s Springfield, IL, Champaign, IL and Dayton, OH NBC stations switch affiliations. I reckon that Sinclair is eager to see how much leverage they can exert with ABC as it becomes one of the network’s largest affiliate owners (if not the largest). …

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San Francisco Liberation Radio To Challenge the FCC in Court

This coming Friday, April 30, San Francisco Liberation Radio will meet the FCC in court to challenge the Commission’s raid on the station last October.

The foundation for SFLR’s challenge is that the station was denied due process, based upon the fact that the FCC never contacted the station or its legal counsel when it obtained a court ordered injunction against the station to halt broadcasts.

Unlike many unlicensed broadcasters, SFLR has applied for a license but they never received direct communication from the FCC, instead reading about the denial of their application two years later on the Commission’s website. So, the station also intends to challenge the constitutionality of two licensing rules that are apparently being used against the station: the rule barring the eligibility of former pirate broadcasters, and the Congressionally-mandated rule requiring low-power stations to be spaced on the dial just like full-power stations.

It’s hard to know how successful SFLR will be, since no unlicensed broadcaster has yet to win a case against the FCC, although several, like Free Radio Berkeley and Radio Free Brattleboro, have won temporary stays against being shut down. But I do think it’s a good thing that they’re keeping up the fight, keeping at least some of the FCC’s resources tied up in court while hundreds of other broadcasters continue their path of civil disobedience.

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Champaign-Urbana’s Community Wireless In the News

The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network project got a big boost this year when it won a $200,000 grant from the Open Society Institute. The project is working to build a decentralized wireless mesh network that leverages lean Unix bootable CD-ROMS that drive nodes made out of otherwise obsolete hardware, like 486 PCs.

The guys behind the project are pals of mine, and I’ve had the pleasure to watch it take shape over the last few years — it was even the topic of the first mediageek radio show in 2002.

The OSI grant has given them an opportunity to really focus on the project with fewer worries about funding. Additionally, the project is getting more attention in the community wi-fi world and the mainstream press.

Wi-Fi Networking News posted about the project and a conversation with coordinator Sascha Meinrath, with whom I’ve worked extensively at the U-C IMC.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a story on the project back at the end of March.

Mediageek radio show producer Drew Tarico interviewed the project’s co-founder Zach Miller on the Feb. 13, 2004 edition of the program.


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The State of LPFM — Just Putting It On the Air Isn’t Enough

Yesterday Wired News published a short article on the current state of low-power FM. The author attempts to compare reality with the hopes for LPFM, noting that half of the 710 LPFM licenses are for Christian stations featuring “extremely conservative” programming.

It’s relatively fine for such a short article, but the author gives the most space to one example low-power station, which is facing several unique challenges, including funding problems and having a commercial station try to compete with it. I don’t want to sweep these stories under the carpet, but it’s problematic when this is the most prominent example station cited, because it leads the casual reader to believe that this station is emblematic of systemic problems with many low-power FM stations.

However, the station’s principal employee herself admits that her expectations weren’t realisitic, saying:

“I thought the money would flow in…. I was so idealistic, and so was sure that community radio was such a wonderful thing to have in Salida. But people aren’t pouring their money into the station.”

Honestly, those are sentiments that have launched and killed thousands of small businesses, non-profits and radio stations. …

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