These are the news headlines as read on the Sept. 23 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Community Media Activists Speak Out Against Legislation; Roundup Bringing Western LPFMs Together; CT Cops Run Racist Pirate Radio Station; CPB Says It Doesn’t Have To Be Open; Radio Station for Katrina Evacuees Shuts Down.
Community Media Activists Speak Out Against Legislation
Community media groups are speaking out against three pieces of pending legislation, The Senate Â“Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice ActÂ” and House and Senate Â“Video Choice Act of 2005,Â” because the bills threaten funding for the creation of community television programming.
The so-called Video Choice Acts intend to nationalize video franchising, and place broadband-based video services that might be provided by telephone companies, under some of the same rules now applied to cable.
But by nationalizing video franchising, these bills would strip local governments of their ability to negotiate the fees that cable companies pay for access to the public right-of-way. Such fees are often used to pay for what are called PEG channels, for Public, educational and government. These are the channels that often broadcast city council meetings, educational programs from local schools and colleges, and public access programming.
The Alliance for Community argues that the Video Choice Act Â“launches a race to the lowest common denominator of public service, abandons long-standing commitments to localism, and transfers effective local enforcement to the federal bureaucracy or the courts.Â”
The SenateÂ’s Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act similarly places new restrictions on franchise fees. The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, a professional association for local government workers in telecommunications polices and services, says that the bill would limit franchise fees so that they only cover the costs of managing the public right-of-way. According to the NATOA, the bill also would place a limit of four PEG channels per municipality, and eliminate all funding for those channels as provided by cable or video service providers.
More information is available from the Alliance for Community Media website, at http://www.alliancecm.org
Roundup Bringing Western LPFMs Together
Representatives and volunteers from Low Power Radio stations from the Western US will be gathering in Davis CA on Oct 8 and 9 for an event called The Low Power Radio Roundup. According to organizing station, KDRT in Davis, the Roundup is a hands-on conference, where attendees can expect great information provided by real-life LPFM practioners and experienced media advocates.
The Roundup includes sessions on topics like production, outreach and management. The second day of the Roundup will focus on building a news department on a shoestring, and will be lead by reporters and producers from Free Speech Radio News, National Radio Project and community stations like KPFA and KDVS.
More information and registration is available on-line at kdrt.org
CT Cops Run Racist Pirate Radio Station
If you thought that only anarchists and civil libertarians were into pirate radio, think again. At a press conference held on Sept. 16, CT State Rep. Roger Michele, and NAACP attorney Dawne Westbrook accused Sgt. Richard Valentine, a 25-year Bristol CT police veteran, with making middle-of-the-night, racist broadcasts from a radio studio in the basement of his Bristol home. The unlicensed broadcasts were billed as WNFR – “Nigger-Free Radio” – the complaint said.
Bristol Police Capt. Daniel Britt, commander of the patrol and detective divisions, was also named in the complaint. Although his role was not made public, Mr. Michele said he was told the captain spoke on at least one of the broadcasts.
According to the cityÂ’s mayor, Sgt. Valentine has apologized for the broadcasts and resigned his post. Capt. Britt has been placed on paid leave.
The public airing of the Bristol copsÂ’ racist pirate radio station have come up at the same time that the NAACP has brought forward allegations of racial profiling by Bristol police in that cityÂ’s West End.
Bristol is a city of 60 thousand and is home to the central studios of ESPN. According to the 2000 census the city is 91.6% white, and African-Americans only make up 2.68% of the population.
Interestingly, even though the copsÂ’ station was unlicensed, thereÂ’s been no mention of the FCC, nor any acknowledgement by city officials or the local that the cops were doing something that is considered illegal by the federal government.
CPB Says It Doesn’t Have To Be Open
As I reported last week, controversial Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson will be stepping down at the board meeting Sept. 26. The corporation is coming under pressure from media groups to make its operations and programming decision making process more transparent. Free Press, Common Cause and Center for Digital Democracy started an ad campaign this week to draw attention to CPB board meetings being “largely off limits to the press and the public” and calling for more “transparency and accountability.”
But, CPB Acting Gen. Counsel Robert Winteringham tells Communications Daily that, Â“As a private, nonprofit corporation, the CPB isn’t subject to disclosure requirements that apply to govt. agencies such as the Freedom of Information Act.Â” Rejecting the groupsÂ’ request that CPB make public its directors’ assets and sources of income, he said CPB’s policy has been to “follow the spirit” of FOIA on a “case-by-case basis” as long as information sought isn’t “confidential, proprietary, the subject of an investigation or relates to internal matters.”
Steve Bass, pres. of Nashville Public TV and former chmn. of the Assn. of Public TV Stations says that as a public body, the CPB needs to be open and transparent. He said local stations are required by law to open meetings and “one would presume that our national organizations would operate in a similar manner.”
Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy says that group will urge Congress to end CPB’s direct role in programming.
Radio Station for Katrina Evacuees Shuts Down
Finally, KAMP, the low-power radio station that was set up in the parking lot of HoustonÂ’s Astrodome, went off the air on Saturday, Sept. 20, after just five days of broadcasting to hurricane Katrina evacuees. The decision to take down the station was made by station volunteers as a result of a request by Reliant Park officials to move into a different parking lot near a smaller arena housing the remaining evacuees.
In a post to Houston Indymedia, station volunteer Lorie Kramer explained that
Â“volunteer resources had been stretched pretty thin, things are really emptying out as far as area evacuee population, our few remaining listeners were leaving, so [we] made the decision to break it down instead of moving and setting up again for possibly only another day or two.Â”
The station had initially intended to broadcast from inside the Astrodome, and hoped to go on the air as early as Sept. 7. But KAMP was blocked from setting up inside the dome by local officials, forcing the station to get an amended license from the FCC to broadcast from the parking lot, where the station was on air from Sept. 15 through the 20th.