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Posts Tagged ‘FCC’

It is with great sadness that I post a link to this Op-Ed at Truthout by Peter B. Collins…

“As an independent progressive and 40-year radio veteran, I’m sorry to report that heroic efforts over the past ten years to build a national radio presence for progressives and Democrats seem to have reached a critical turning point. With the recent loss of key AM outlets in Portland, Seattle and Detroit, the progressive talk format no longer enjoys national coverage, which in turn threatens the financial viability of the syndicated programs hosted by Stephanie MillerThom HartmannEd SchultzRandi RhodesMike MalloyBill Press and Norman Goldman.”

I started this blog originally to document my work fighting for a progressive station here in greater Boston and was thrilled when we were able to pull it off in 2008 after 2 1/2 years of work. Sadly, between the political insanity and the economy, most of the funding and support for this format has dried up and only a small presence of our endeavors remains and is severely challenged to stay alive.

“Ratings range from flat to flat-lined: in 2012, Clear Channel-owned KPOJ in Portland and CBS-owned KPTK in Seattle showed audience numbers so low that they were not listed by Arbitron; Clear Channel’s WDTW in Detroit barely showed a pulse at .1 percent, and the once-powerhouse, now-struggling media conglomerate recently agreed to donate WDTW to a local community group. In his second attempt at WVKO in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Richards was forced to sign off just before Christmas 2012. Progressive talker Jeff Santos waged a valiant four-year struggle in Boston, and I was a consultant in his effort last year to add eight new markets in battleground states; we had no choice but to lease air time, and once again the Democrats who had the most to gain failed to support the effort.”

 

The so-called “left” has failed to create it’s own infrastructure and the country’s drift to the right is the outcome. Repeatedly, support for this infrastructure has fallen on deaf ears, even when shown it’s benefits. We MUST all support what remains of progressive talk radio and tv. Before it is too late. Maybe it is already, but I’d like to think we still have a small chance…

 

 

 

 

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Senator John Kerry speaking at the Third Annual Three Towns & Two Cities Breakfast, 4/12/08.

Senator John Kerry speaking at the Third Annual Three Towns & Two Cities Breakfast, 4/12/08.
Image: Nancy Weinberg.

Today, the Senate conducted a Commerce Committee hearing about the future of the Internet. It’s important for the committee to hear from us! Kerry has asked for our input. I saw my Senator at the “Third Annual Three Towns & Two Cities Breakfast” up in Newburyport a week or so ago. His challenger, Ed O’Reilly was one of the invited speakers, so he had an incentive to come out and speak with us. He spoke for about half an hour and then took another half hour of questions from the floor. Although some important issues were brought up (voting machine problems, impeachment, etc), unfortunately, Net Neutrality NEVER CAME UP and Kerry did not think to speak about it. I wish that our elected officials would do a better job of coordinating their activities to give their constituencies opportunities for input into these issues before the last minute. Kerry missed a great opportunity! (Looking at his past fundraising and actions regarding Media, it’s easy to understand his ambivalence at being too outspoken on these issues. This is one of the places where issues of money in politics overlaps media issues.) To give Kerry credit, he has recently been getting more vocal about these issues:

Kerry to FCC: We Weren’t Bluffing

Kerry Challenges Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironically, everyone is able to wait until the last minute by utilizing the Internet as the main notification tool! This is an apt example of something that might be lost in future without an open internet. The company selling you internet service might be able to (legally) censor what information comes your way. There have already been some battles over content control and censorship by Verizon, Comcast and others. (Also see Senate Committee Tackles Net Neutrality Today, from Infoworld 4/22/08)

Many of us take the openness of the internet for granted. If it were not for the internet, I’m not sure in how much worse shape this country would be (can it be worse? The economy in a meltdown, our civil liberties eroded, infrastructure crumbling…) all of the grassroots organizing, fundraising, dissemination of information, would be much more difficult. We must work to keep “Net Neutrality” – the openness and evenhandedness of the internet. As Comcast and other large corporations have demonstrated (Homeless? Comcast Will Pay to Attend FCC Hearings & John Kerry: They Took Your Seat), they want to carve up the internet more and more, controlling speed, innovation (or lack thereof), content, access and keep an iron grip so they can make even more billions $$$.

Comcast pays seat-fillers to keep public out of Feb. FCC Net-Neutrality Hearing

There was a second FCC hearing last week- April 17th- on Internet “Net Neutrality” at Stanford, which was quickly scheduled after the embarrassing fiasco of a hearing in Cambridge in February. Stanford Law Professor (and founder of the Center for Internet and Society) Lawrence Lessing spoke eloquently on the need to maintain a free and open internet. I recommend that you watch the videos of the hearing. Not surprisingly, the big telecommunication companies (Comcast, Verizon, etc) boycotted the event. The big companies are always looking for ways to charge more, for example for faster speed and extra features, and control more – not to mention the blocking that they’ve already been caught doing. This would squelch innovation and true competition. The big companies would become “gatekeepers” much as the big companies owning the rest of the media -like radio and TV- are gatekeepers blocking access for those who don’t support their agendas. Lessig also gave testimony at today’s Senate Hearing.

Besides today’s Senate hearing, a bipartisan group of five Congresspeople introduced legislation March 14, 2008 to overturn the recent December FCC ruling allowing even more cross-media consolidation, and there is a Senate Resolution of Disapproval S.J. Res. 28 as well. The ACLU has also written a letter to the Senate about the resolution.

[Update from FreePress.net: Today (4/24/08), the Senate Commerce Committee passed a “resolution of disapproval” that would veto the Federal Communications Commission’s latest attempt to dismantle longstanding media ownership limits. Last December, the FCC voted to remove the longstanding “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban that prohibits one company from owning a broadcast station and the major daily newspaper in the same market. The ruling still must pass muster in the federal court that reversed the FCC’s previous attempt to lift media ownership limits in 2003.

But the Senate is intervening right away. The resolution of disapproval (Senate Joint Resolution 28), introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) in early March, serves as a “legislative veto.” If passed by Congress and signed by the president, it would nullify the FCC’s new rules.

Today’s vote follows news that Murdoch’s News Corp. is close to completing a $580 million deal to purchase the Long Island daily Newsday from Tribune Company. News Corp. already controls the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and two TV stations in the New York market — and the new deal would violate longstanding media ownership limits.

The legislation has 25 bipartisan co-sponsors including Commerce Committee ChairmanDaniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sens. John Kerry(D-Mass.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The Senate had 60 legislative days to pass the resolution from the time Congress was notified about the rule in late February. Last month, a House version of the resolution — which is not limited by the legislative shot clock — was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

Permitting further media consolidation goes against the core values the agency was created to protect,” said Joseph Torres, government relations manager of Free Press. “The FCC did not heed the overwhelming public opposition to its decision. The Senate appears to be listening.”]

I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea that my ability to speak my mind to whoever wants to hear is a matter of corporate grace rather than constitutional right, and I suspect other Americans will feel equally uncomfortable if the FCC abandons its responsibilities and fails to act.”

 

For more information, articles, video and actions you can take, check out:

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Much to my surprise, I was interviewed about my media activities to bring back Progressive Talk Radio to Boston by Air America host Peter B Collins on his show broadcast live from the Take Back America conference on March 18th. My segment is aired between Kathleen Turner, Josh Silver and other venerable guests and starts at 33:40. And for my second time on the radio in a week, I and other members of Boston Progressive Talk were invited to be on the Samantha Clemens Show [WMFO 91.5 FM, Medford MA] to discuss our activities to restore a progressive station as well as why we are working on additional media reform issues. Several of us attended some of the recent FCC hearings in this area.  I haven’t been on the radio so much in one week since I was smitten by the radio bug with 2 shows in college in 1974-5 (back when WBRS was 91.7 FM, I co-hosted a jazz & bluegrass show and hosted a Women’s Radio Show)! 

Members of Boston Progressive Talk, L to R Alan Frankel, Marc Sacks, George Barrett & Robin Bergman (rougegorge) on the Samantha Clemens Show 3/22/08 

Members of Boston Progressive Talk, L to R: Alan Frankel, Marc Sacks, George Barrett & Robin Bergman (rougegorge) on the Samantha Clemens Show 3/22/08.

One of the issues that came up is defining the difference between Public Radio and commercial progressive radio. Ironically, I would never have believed ten years ago that I would be arguing in favor of a commercial AM station! The issue is complicated and nuanced. While I loved the non-commercial aspect of the “old” NPR, the current incarnation has the equivalent of advertising, although it is called “underwriting.” The biggest problem is that subsequent Republican administrations (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II) have torn down the firewall between the funding and governmental agency running Public Radio and the content providers and broadcasters.

During this administration, the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been loaded with Bush cronies, pushing their specific political agendas. Certain topics are no longer encouraged and funded, while otherwise there is more than subtle pressure applied to squelch various subjects, stories or opinion.  I find much of the content is no longer neutral, but instead, reflects the biases of the mainstream media. This is not surprising given the corporate emphasis on fundraising in recent years. There’s a current piece on truthout.org, NPR News: National Pentagon Radio? that illustrates this point well. For more NPR debunking, take a look at NPR Check.

Back in June, several of us made a memorable trip to the FCC hearing on Localism in Portland, Maine. For an entertaining writeup of our trek see AlanF’s  Little Miss Sunshine at the FCC Hearing. We both gave testimony – after 10:30 pm! AlanF gave off-the-cuff testimony addressing in particular, the Democratic FCC commissioners, Copps & Adelstein, rather than the original testimony he had written beforehand. The alloted 2 minutes was a very short time, and as the hours went on, worrying that my own original testimony was too long, I rewrote my remarks over again and again splitting them into two parts so that George & I could each deliver half.  My FCC testimony(thanks, again, to AlanF). As we noted at the hearing, and as we discussed over the air with Samantha, we were at a disadvantage, testifying after almost 10 hours listening to professional broadcasters pander to the FCC.  A recent article by Jonathan Obar and Amit Schejter, Inclusion or Illusion:An Analysis of the FCC’s Public Hearings on Media Ownership 2006-2007 at Penn State U corroborates our own reservations about the hearings.

I was unable to attend the most recent FCC Hearing on Net Neutrality in Cambridge, but George, Marc & Nancy from Boston Progressive Talk were able to go. In a move that served as a perfect illustration of the problem, Comcast paid people to fill up the seats at the hearing, keeping much of the public from attending.  Senator Kerry posted They Took Your Seat over at the HuffPo. If the FCC, lead by Kevin Martin, continues down the same path, the future of the net is at risk. We must stay vigilant! Large media corporations would like to carve it up to control it and to extract more money from it, as they already have with TV, Radio, Phone. There are currently bills in Congress as well as lawsuits filed to overturn the latest round of media consolidation and cross-ownership allowances. Let’s hope some of this is successful. Even if it is, we still have a long way to go to turn back the excessive consolidation since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has almost destroyed broadcast media as an arm of independent journalism as mandated and protected by our founding fathers!

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