Archive | July, 2004

Liberal TV Network (not owned by Al Gore)?

Wired News reports on a group of “progressive media activists” who are joining forces to create a new TV network, supposedly bolstered by the success of Michael Moore’s Farenheit 911.

I don’t know too much about the participants, except for author and journalist Greg Palast. One thing that looks good is that the group seems generally more “progressive” than “liberal.” That may just be me splitting rhetorical hairs, but I tend to associate liberal with centrist Democratic party politics, and “progressive” with a less party-centric approach, that has humanistic values and embraces true expressions of speech and protest.

Aside from Palast the other participants are mostly web-based videographers and journalists. As an independent media maker myself, I struggle with the tension between maintaining independence and the drive to grow and find a bigger audience. I agree with Palast, who told Wired:

Progressive media outlets on the Internet should be united in some way, he said. “Do we want to create all of these ghettos?”

I also agree with the observation that getting a new channel onto actual cable systems is the real challenge. However, I would point to Free Speech TV which is carried by Dish Network as a public service channel, and has much of its programming rebroadcast by local public access channels.

Now, Dish Network is more limited in distribution than cable systems, and as a non-profit channel it doesn’t represent a profit center for Dish or any other cable provider. But, then, it doesn’t have to play in the commercial arena, where the profit motive–or just the simple need to pay bills–interferes with doing good independent journalism.

It is a real question and struggle to find that balance between reaching a broad audience and staying true to principle. It’s an indication of the corruption of our media system that this is even a question in the first place.

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On Today’s Mediageek Radio Show: Report Back from DNC

Two Urbana-Champaign IMC volunteers traveled to Boston this week to report on the protest activity surrounding the Democratic National Convention, and the overwhelming police repression of that activity. The U-C IMC’s radical zine librarian Adam Davis just arrived back in town and will join us in the studio live. Sarah Lazare is still on the road and will join us by phone.

The radio show airs at 5:30 PM today, Friday, and every Friday, on community radio WEFT 90.1 FM, Champaign, IL. If you can’t hear it live, it will be archived here on the radio show page.

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Bringing the National to the Local

I’m really pleased that my local community radio station, WEFT, had decided to run alternative Democratic National Convetion coverage from Pacifica. But what pleases me more is that WEFT’s Programming Committee [PC] decided to add a local call-in show to the mix.

Rather than just have listeners call and talk to hosts, Kimberlie Kranich, the PC’s chair, did an excellent job of lining up representatives from the local Democratic, Republican and Green parties for the call-in each night, Monday – Friday. I hosted Monday’s show, which only went OK. Not much had happened, since the convention didn’t really kick off until the evening, and two of my guests–the Republican and the Democrat–were not particularly interested in taking specific stands on issues like the protestor pen; they mostly made platitudes about the need for discourse, but also the need for security.

Also, the call-in program only runs a half-hour, which doesn’t seem to be long enough, since it takes 10 – 15 minutes to get everyone warmed up. The folks we’re interviewing are not necessarily accustomed to being interviewed, and it seems to take listeners about that long to decide to call in.

Producing this type of programming is not easy, and Kimberlie at WEFT has done a good job. WEFT already plans to do similar programming during the RNC, perhaps with a longer call-in segment. Since our local IMC will probably send journalists to cover the RNC and the surrounding protests, I’m hoping we can integrate reports from them into WEFT’s RNC programming.

It may seem obvious that a community radio station should be doing this sort of programming, but at smaller stations like WEFT, most jobs are done by volunteers, requiring an extra dose of dedication and effort to pull these things off. Station size and revenue is largely a function of the community’s size, since stations primarily rely on listener pledge drive revenue. So stations in bigger communities often can afford to pay a part or full-time news director whose job it is to produce this kind of programming.

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LPFM Bill Passes Senate Commerce Committee

Early reports say that the Senate Commerce Committe passed the bill to restore low-power FM by voice vote this morning.

Strangely, the Committee also passed an amendment excepting the state of New Jersey, submitted by Sen. Lautenberg, apparently because the Senator believes Jersey is more susceptible to interference problems because it is the most densely populated state in the country. As a former Jersey-boy, let me tell you that there are many little towns and isolated exurbs around the state that could use a true non-profit community station squeezed in between the mammoth commercial blowtorches blasting in from New York City and Philadelphia. Thus, I doubt the need for such an exception, and the validity of Lautenberg’s interference fears. Seems to me that the NJ broadcasters were probably leaning on him for some protectionism, especially since they suffer from competing with the bigger NYC and Philly stations.

Now the bill is off to the Senate floor for further deliberation and vote. A passage in the Senate seems more likely than a vote and passage in the House, the leadership of which has been much more hostile to any sort of media reform effort.

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Senate Commerce Committe To Vote on Restoring LPFM

Tomorrow is a big day for the future of low-power FM, when the Senate Commerce Committee votes on Chairman Sen. McCain’s bill to restore spacing requirements to the original level set by the FCC back in 2000, when the Commission originally approved low-power FM. If ultimately passed by Congress and signed into law, the bill would open up hundreds to thousands of frequencies for new low-power FM stations around the country, especially in major metro areas with congested dials that currently have room for no new stations.

According to e-mail sent around by the Prometheus Radio Project, the vote looks close and the NAB has been lobbying Commerce Committee members hard. So Prometheus is urging folks living in states with senators on the committee to call them and urge them to vote in favor of the LPFM bill. I’m including a list of these Senators at the end of this post. Prometheus also has a page of information on the bill.

The Commerce Committee meeting will be webcast from their website, and there’s a good chance that will be picked up by CSPAN2, but there’s no particular note of it on the schedule. Depending on my ability to get audio of the meeting, I may air highlights on Friday’s radioshow.

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