Archive | May, 2005

Gearing Up for the Media Reform Orgy

This week there is a one-day pre-conference of sorts to the National Conference for Media Reform: Can Freedom of the Press Survive Media Consolidation? Several big-name speakers will be here, like Seymour Hersh–giving the Tuesday evening keynote–and Danny Goldberg, the new president of Air America. Also in attendance will be several left media luminaries who will also be at the Media Reform shin-dig this weekend, such as Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman –who will be broadcasting the show live from the studios of our local public TV station–and Naomi Klein.

I’ll be attending the Media Consolidation conference, which is being put on by the Illinois Initiative for Media Policy Research, headed up by Robert McChesney, professor at the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, which is also my academic department. I intend to record it all. Some of it will air on the radioshow this Friday. I will probably post raw audio of everything for those who can’t be there.

Jack Brighton, who heads up internet operations for local public station WILL, plans to videotape everything and put it on-line in streaming video.

Then Thursday I’ll be off to St. Louis for the big one, to record, interview and see where this media reform thing is taking off to.

Drew and I will do part of Friday’s radioshow live from St. Louis by phone, while fellow WEFTie Jeff Nicholson-Owens sits in for us.

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Appeals Court Smacks Down Broadcast Flag

Rather unexpectedly, today the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s Broadcast Flag, which would have required all digital TV receivers to implement copyright protections invokeable by content producers and broadcasters. In a unanimous decision, the three judge panel simply said the FCC has no authority issue such a regulation:

The broadcast flag regulations exceed the agency’s delegated authority under the statute. …

The FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the imminent death of the broadcast flag — it remains in suspended animation while the MPAA lobbyists sprint to the Capitol to shower our Congresscritters with promises and campaign cash in exchange for reanimating it.

But, for the moment, we will be able to record, store and fairly copy broadcasted programs (provided you have the technical means) and buy equipment that will do this.

The tech lobby was against the Flag, too, so it could be an interesting fight in Congress if it decides to oppose the Entertainment Cartel on this issue.

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On the Next Mediageek Radioshow: Shawn Ewald of the A-Infos Radio Project

I just finished an interview about an hour ago with Shawn Ewald, the programmer and one of the volunteers behind the A-Infos Radio Project, which has been archiving and serving up radically independent radio content for an amazing nine years.

Shawn just opened up the source code for the software behind the Project, which I hope will lead to more indy programmers adding their talents to it.

The interview will air on this Friday’s radioshow, 5:30 PM on Community Radio WEFT 90.1 FM, archived here (and probably here and there) thereafter.

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Cassette Geek

The always informative WFMU’s Beware of the Blog led me to Project C-90, a Russian on-line museum of blank audiocassettes. FMU’s Kenzo says:

I didn’t THINK this would get me so excited, until I stumbled onto images like the one at the right, sending me back to forgotten early childhood memories of making little home radio shows on my portable tape recorder, taking apart and unravelling the cassettes, and marvelling over how quickly the audio quality deteriorated in such a distinct way.

Oh, yes, the same for me.

I still have a closet full of cassettes that I’ve winnowed down from an even larger stash. The pared down collection contains lots of stuff that’s hard to replace (like live shows, mix tapes, gift tapes, bootlegs and airchecks) and original pre-recorded cassettes of material that either isn’t easily obtainable in other formats or I don’t care to try and replace because the tape is good enough for me.

The 3M brand tape at right brings back memories because it’s the brand of tape we used at the university A/V facility where I’ve worked for the last 11 years. Until about 2000 when I took over the audio production area, our language lab only used analog equipment and distributed all programs on these 3M cassette tapes.

Every semester or so we would cycle through the tapes used in the old-school language lab and bulk-erase them. The old woman who had run the lab for the last twenty-plus years then just stashed them away, but eventually ran out of room. So I kindly offered to take them off her hands.

Then I became the tape-fairy with hundreds of used blank cassette tapes to bestow unto friends and colleagues. I used to dump 50 or so at a time at our community radio station’s production room for anyone to take or use and they would all disappear within a week’s time.

I made many a mix tape or tape for the car with the trusty old 3Ms. Many a lucky pal got albums taped onto them.

Unlike the Walgreen’s 3-for-a-dollar tapes these 3M wonders were built to last with reasonable fidelity, provided you weren’t expecting top-of-the-line TDK metal-tape performance.

I never recorded anything too critical on them, but often used them to record random audio bits for background and insertion into my late-night radio show. Those are the specimens that still remain in my archives.

Like many folks around my vintage, the lowly cassette retains some charm in the face of obsolescence and degradation. I do dust them off every so often and maintain several working cassette decks so that I can still listen. I even chose my most recently purchased mini-system, located in the kitchen, because it has a pretty decent cassette deck for this type of stereo.

Now that I’ve seen Project C-90, I’m kind of surprised that I’ve never seen a cassette gallery on the ‘net before. Deadhead tape collectors could be fanatical about tape types and brands, and debates about cassette quality and fidelity filled countless threads on Usenet.

Minidisc is a much newer and less profligate technology, and there are numerous galleries of blank MD media to be found.

Ah, but the MD-heads are children of the internet. How many of the diehard cassette enthusiasts do you reckon still refuse to let the internet infect and destroy their lives?

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