Archive | October, 2004

On Friday’s Radioshow: Anti-Sinclair Protest, Media Reform News on the Radio

About 70 – 100 people attended a protest against Champaign, IL Sinclair station WICD on Saturday, Oct. 23. Amongst the protestors’ complaints were Sinclair’s threat of running a one-sided anti-Kerry documentary in prime time and the company’s “The Point” right-wing commentary that is appended to the local news without an opportunity for an opposing viewpoint. Drew and I were there with minidisc recorder and microphone so we can bring you a report on the radioshow this Friday.

We’ll also talk to my pal John Anderson about his new project, Media Minutes, a 5-minute weekly audio newscast about media reform and policy issues.

Listen live Friday at 5:30 PM on community radio WEFT 90.1 in Champaign, IL, tape-delayed on Radio Free Moscow, ID, KRFP 92.5 FM on Tuesday at 11 AM.

If you’re not near one of these fine stations, listen on-line here — the show is posted by 5 PM CST on Mondays.

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Stern v. Powell Transcript

For those who prefer to read than listen, or want to engage in more deep literary analysis, BuzzMachine has posted a transcript of the Howard Stern vs. Michael Powell battle.

Here’s the passage where Stern tries to blame Powell for the fact that Viacom seems not to want to sue the FCC for Stern’s indecency fines:

STERN: Fine after fine came and we tried to go to court with you to find out about obscenity and what your line was and whether our show was indecent, which I don’t think it is. And you do something really sneaky behind the scenes. You continue to block Viacom from buying new stations until we pay those fines.

You are afraid to go court. You are afraid to get a ruling time and time again. …
POWELL: First of all, that’s flatly false.

STERN: It’s not false. It’s true.

POWELL: I’m afraid it is. There’s no reason why Viacom or any other company who feels that they have been wrongly fined can’t sue us in court. We have no basis whatsoever to prevent them from going to court.

STERN: Stern: You’re lying. I’ve lived through your fines, Michael. And Mel Karmazin came to me one day and said, Howard, we’re gonna have to pay up some sort of cockamame (sp?) bunch of fines that we don’t we’re wrong because we can’t get our paperwork done. We are finding it increasingly difficult to buy radio stations. …

I hate to admit it, but Powell is right. Maybe Stern doesn’t want to face it, but apparently Mel Karamazin, head of Viacom, would rather pay the fines and get on with business than stand up for ol’ Howie and have to put a hold on the business of amassing even more radio stations.

Yes, at Viacom, it’s profit over Howard’s fight for free speech. Like bribes to gov’t officials in corrupt regimes, indecency fines are just the cost of doing business when you rely on a potty mouth cash-cow like Stern to rake in the radio ad dollars.

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Battle of the Spoiled Brats: Howard Stern v. Mikey Powell

This morning FCC Chair Michael Powell was the guest on San Francisco radio station KGO’s morning program when Howard Stern made a surprise call-in to grill Powell over his many indecency fines.

I listened to the call, and while Stern took Powell to task for likely being appointed chair due to nepotism, I think his bleating over the indecency issue missed the mark by and large.

Powell is notorious for avoiding dealing directly with the public or any kind of critical questioning. Apparently he was reticent to even let KGO have him take phone calls, so it’s only fitting that Stern managed to get through and have his digs.

However, Stern was too personal in singling out Powell on indecency, and Powell rightly responded that the whole commission votes on indecency and that the FCC Democrats are probably more insistent on the indecency issue.

Stern claimed that the FCC is keeping his parent company, Viacom, from challenging the fines in court, which Powell denied outright, and which I also have trouble believing. The FCC has no role in the judicial process and has to appear in court when challenged, no matter who brings the suit. Now, whether the suit goes forward is the decision of a federal judge, but that first hearing in court is all but guaranteed.

Although he didn’t explain himself well, Stern accused the FCC of keeping Viacom from buying more stations unless it pays its fines. I believe that, since outstanding fines can certainly get in the way of business, whether at the FCC or the DMV. Stern tried to make that out to be some kind of blackmail, but, honestly, regulation would be competely ineffective altogether if the FCC couldn’t hold up the business of tardy fine payers.

It seems to me that the decision not to go to court over Stern’s fines is Viacom’s, not Powell’s. I’m guessing that the Viacom bosses don’t see challenging Stern’s fines as a sufficiently sure case to be worth holding up the acquisition of more stations. It’s a strategic choice on the part of Viacom, not some sort of FCC racket.

That said, it’s nice to hear the FCC chair challenged by anyone willing not to pull punches, and it’s fitting that it came from someone who so continuously draws regulatory punishment. Of course, I find it hard to cry for multi-millionaire Stern, and even more difficult to pity Viacom being forced to pay fines in order to move forward in buying even more stations.

It’s funny that Stern would choose to highlight the FCC threatening to block Viacom station purchases as such a great infraction. Of all people. Powell would be more than glad to hand over stations to Viacom on a silver platter if he could.

For all the bluster and hot air, the argument between Stern and Powell didn’t really amount to much. It wasn’t a debate about principle. Rather, it was petty bickering about Powell’s credentials for the job of FCC Chair and Stern’s FCC fines.

As anyone who reads this blog should know, I’m no fan of the FCC, and even moreso, I’m not a fan of Michael Powell. Back when I lived in New Jersey in the 1980s, I was a pretty frequent Howard Stern listener. But, no matter how entertaining Stern can be at times, at other times he’s just a panderer diplaying some ugly misogynistic tendencies.

One thing Stern is not is a valiant warrior for civil liberties and free speech. His battles are purely for his own narrow self-interest, and he’d just as easily take the other side if he thought it would make him some money.

Frankly, if Stern is so damn certain that his indecency fines are unfounded, or that indecency regulations are fundamentally flawed, then he should take a few million of his own stash to pursue the FCC in courst himself, rather than expecting Viacom to do his bidding. When Stern puts his own money up to fight for civil liberties and free speech, then maybe I’ll cut him a little more slack.

Until then, Stern’s more like a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum. But, at least Powell is an equally spoiled brat who needs a good spanking now and then.

You can listen to the show with these links to streams from the KGO website:

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mediageek radioshow affiliates

I’m happy to announce that the mediageek radioshow can now be heard on the airwaves outside of Champaign-Urbana, IL. The program has recently been picked up by two new legal LPFM stations: Radio Free Moscow KRFP, 92.5 FM, Moscow ID and KQRP 106.1 FM, Salida, CA. mediageek airs Tuesdays at 11 AM on KRFP, and I don’t know the time it airs on KQRP.

Both of these stations are pretty freshly on the the air, and I really appreciate the opportunity to reach some new listeners who might not otherwise hear of the program in the first place.

Leigh Robartes at KRFP really got the ball rolling on this, contacting me a couple of months before the station went on the air. He thought the show didn’t really need to change, in that the Champaign-Urbana specific information would still be of some interest to listeners in Moscow.

I agree, but have chosen to give the Champaign-Urbana local stuff a bit more context, so that the issues are more generalizable and seem less parochial. I’ve also edited out our pledge drive pitches, since that’s really not particular interesting to anyone listening to another station.

Also, I’m trying to learn more about the media scenes in Moscow and Salida, since I think that’s important information for those cities, and it’s important for Champaign-Urbana listeners to get some perspective on how issues of ownership play out in other cities that aren’t attached to a metroplex.

Leigh has also agreed to come on mediageek in the near future to talk about Moscow and KRFP. I hope that perhaps we can integrate something like a “scene report” every so often from the cities where the show airs.

It would be great to get mediageek onto other radio stations, especially community stations (be they full-power, low-power or micropower/pirate) that don’t already run any programming that addresses independent media issues. If you think your local station should consider playing mediageek, or your affiliated with a station, please let me know. It’s free for non-commercial stations — just download and play.

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