Stand Up for Better Media!

On Halloween, there was something scary happening in Washington, DC.  The FCC was holding its final public hearing on localism and media consolidation, and they scheduled it only a week in advance, in the middle of the week, on a holiday.  Clearly, they hoped nobody would show up.

Fortunately, thanks to the wonderful people at Free Press, there were hundreds of committed citizens there. I was one of them.

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TX-10: Grant Calls on Opponent to Put Texas Taxpayers First, Clear Channel Last

The Federal Communications Commission is moving ahead with plans to help big media get bigger.  A rally happening right now in front of FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C., is designed to slow the rush toward even more consolidation.

My opponent should break his silence on this important issue and explain whether he is working for the Texas taxpayers who own the public airwaves or Clear Channel, his family's mega-media company.

Call McCaul at 202-225-2401 and remind him who owns the public airwaves.

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Why TV and Radio Journalists Can't Be Like Murrow Anymore

No it's not your imagination, the media does suck, and here's why. With some action you can take. - Todd

It's a fact: Media conglomerates' labor practices are harming the quality of TV and radio news.

A CBS television newswriter says: "We take a lot of stuff from 'Entertainment Tonight.' We watch it at 6:30 and decide what to use."

Most Americans still get their news from "old media" like newspapers, TV and radio. There's concern about how Rupert Murdoch will gut the Wall St. Journal when he gets his hands on it.  MSNBC Anchor Mika Brzezinski recently tried to burn a script on air in frustration over being asked to lead the day's news with a story about Paris Hilton rather than Richard Lugar's declaration that Bush's Iraq strategy is failing. Who can we trust to tell us what's really going on? Now, a new study of broadcast journalists from the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) gives an inside look at how the media conglomerates are destroying broadcast news quality with the same tactics other big companies are using against their workers. Replacing full-time newswriters with part-timers and temps, cutting staff and resources, and requiring more and more "multi-tasking" in the newsroom, equals bad news for the public. Literally.

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Community Radio Heads Up to the Hill, But Needs a Push

Yeah, I'm a weekend writer but I'm going to use my free pass to post on legislative topics during the week, because this one's important. Today is a huge day for those of us interested in community radio. Back in 2000, Congress passed the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act that put the kibosh on the issuing of new licenses for low-power FM radio stations. LPFM stations are low-watt community-based radio stations that serve local areas by providing targeted information and acting as community hubs. They're a way of injecting a bit of diversity into a local news market and can serve some of the functions that the Internet/blogs do for people that can't afford a computer or Internet access. In fact, having an LPFM station with staff who have access to one computer and high-speed broadband hook-up can greatly open up the information available in local communities that might otherwise be off the news grid.

In January of 2000, the FCC began issuing LPFM licenses for (what I believe was) the first time. The National Association of Broadcasters objected, and in response Congress called for a study that would investigate whether LPFM frequencies interfered with existing radio stations, as NAB was concerned about. The MITRE corporation did that study and found that, technically, LPFM and full-power broadcasting can live together in almost perfect harmony:

Our principal finding is that LPFM stations can safely operate three channels away from existing FPFM stations, provided that relatively modest distance separations are maintained between any LPFM station and receivers tuned to the potentially affected FPFM station. Those required separations are on the order of a few tens of meters in the best case, to slightly more than a kilometer in the worst case. The main exception to this finding involves FM translator receivers, which may require distance separations up to about 3.2 kilometers from 100-watt LPFM transmitters lying squarely in the main beams of the translators' receiving antennas. If these requirements are met, both analog and digital FPFM stations should be able to operate without significant risk of harmful third-adjacent-channel interference from LPFM.

Facts in hand, now the move is to get Congress to authorize to the FCC begin issuing LPFM licenses again. Today Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) in the House and Maria Cantwell and John McCain are introducing identical legislation that would tell the FCC to get to it. This is a simple good move that can get done in this congress, and a blessed rare case of a telecom issue that's politically fairly straightforward. No bill numbers yet, but in both House and Senate it'll be called the Local Community Radio Act of 2007. Congresspeoples need to hear from their constituents that community radio is important to them, particularly those sitting on the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce Committees.

Adelstein Steps Up on Open Access

As we build our new blog, I'm going to keep you updated on the FCC 700 auction on MyDD.  There's some seriously important news out - Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has come out for open access (last week he was pushing for business models for larger national chunks of spectrum).  Telecom wonk extraordinaire Harold Feld is feeling good.

Commissioner Adelstein publicly supported some kind of open access requirement for the 700 MHz auction licenses. Wooo Hoooo! For us policy geeks, it's kind of like the moment when the Millenium Falcon comes out of nowhere and blasts the Imperial tie fighters targeting Luke as he barrels down toward the access port. Not that I had any doubt where Adelstein's heart was, but it's always reassuring to see him commit himself.

The whole model of auctioning off public assets like spectrum is messed up, but that's where we are at this moment in politics.  We use something like 5% of our spectrum efficiently.  Still, this is a good step forward.  We're making progress.

Meanwhile, there's other news on the FCC.  AT&T agreed to offer $10 DSL as a condition of its merger agreement with Bellsouth.  According to the Consumerist, they lied, and are giving consumers the run-around on the deal they legally have to offer.  This is egregious, but it's possible to put some leverage here as Bush is renominating Commissioner Tate for the FCC.  That's a potential leverage point, since Democrats control Congress.

AT&T executives are a bunch of crooks that steal from consumers and block innovation.  Conveniently for them, they are also massive campaign donors and contribute to think tanks and charities all over the country to whitewash their behavior.

Update [2007-6-21 11:56:51 by Matt Stoller]:: Whoa. There's more on Tate here and here. She's tied into industry and wants to use her position on the FCC as a 'bully pulpit' for DRM, which is 'digital rights management', or technology that allows corporations to control how you use the digital tools you own.

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