Selection of what's on
regarding radio issues
NOTE:] Click on the NPR icon above to go straight to the NPR web
10/5/99 ATC, "Before the Telecom Act, the largest owner had 38 radio
stations ... now when the latest merger goes through, they will have 830
radio stations [in just one corporation].
Radio Merger -- Noah speaks with Robert Unmacht, publisher of "M"
Street Daily, a radio industry newsletter out of Nashville, Tennessee.
ATC Q: Wasn't there a fear in the old days that you could manipulate
public opinion if you owned a lot of radio stations around the country?
2min 21seconds into file)
They discuss the largest radio industry merger ever, a purchase of
Inc. by Clear Channel Communications. The combined company would
own 830 radio stations. AMFM is already the nation's largest radio
empire. But the merged companies would keep the Clear Channel
Excerpt of interview with notes and links
Guest A: "That was one of the fears, and there were as many
controls as the government could put upon you while still being a free
society. At this point they [Congress] feels that there are so many voices
between the Internet, Radio, Television, Cable TV, Newspaper [that] that's
not something we should have to worry about anymore."
NOTE:] Tell that to Project
Tell that to the thousand of pirate radio operators and the many
more thousands and millions of those who listen to them and the increasingly
mainstreamed Pacifica Network.
Tell that to the thousands that are getting their news from the Internet
because there is so much cross-ownership among various media outlets that
the Internet (and magazines) is one of the few places to go to find an
Tell that to the Big Three TV news network that have experienced double
digit losses in viewership of their evening news to magazines and Internet
news sources ...
ATC Q: "And indeed, is there a cultural downside as you drive across
the US? Does America sound at all different?"
Finally tell that to the millions who cannot read even this simple
web page because they lack an access ramp to the "information superhighway."
Guest A: "America sounds a lot alike, and of course it's not
limited to radio [Wall Mart!!] ... just as food is just about the same
wherever you go so radio sound pretty much the same wherever you go.
ATC Q: [Reaching to salvage the interview] "But can a local
operator take advantage of that and become more involved in the community
and hereby more profitable?"
Guest A: "There are many stations who have done that. I
don't know about the more profitable, because there are economies of scale
and it's easier to get national advertisers to look at you if you are big
and in their face and dealing with you in hundreds of markets. As an individual
operator if you owned or some time you can still be making a good
living off it.
We've seen most of those operators sell though, just like someone who
owned a big farm, will sell out to the developers eventually because there's
so much money to be made verses what they can make farming it.
Same thing's true here, the pressure been on by the large companies
to buy the smaller ones and they've offered such outrageous sums of money
that just about everyone has sold."
NOTE:] The most conservative of the FCC Commissioners (the economist),
Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth,
sees this as a positive.
"[Following the 1996 Telecom Act] Radio stocks outperformed the broader
market even more dramatically.
As compared to radio's 107% gain,
the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 23%,
and the Standard & Poor 500 gained 31%.
Some analysts predicted that radio stocks would continue to outperform
the market in 1998, although that question has not yet been answered.
These results may well reflect the inefficiency of the prior era of regulation,
in all of its glory, including the national ownership limits. I do
not know what will
ultimately happen to the radio industry, which new technologies will drive
markets, which combination of assets are valuable and which are not, or
which firms will succeed and which will fail. None of these issues
is clearly within the scope of the FCC's governmental interests.
But I do worry about markets, and about the effects of excessive government
regulation on markets. Free markets and competition are a consumer's best
NOTE:] Why if "competition is the consumer's best friend" does Mr.
Roth defend the amazing merger frenzy that has almost completely destroyed
Regulation is an impediment to markets. And excessive regulation,
frankly, destroys markets.
NOTE:] But regulation in the service of the large monopolies is
OK. Small businesses, churches and civic organizations are relegated to
comitting "civil disobedience" in order to compete.
You know, some folks worried about the effect of deregulation of the ownership
caps on format diversity. That worry was not necessary, as time has
told. After all, it makes little business sense for an owner of
several stations in one market to program them identically. Group
owners have every incentive to direct their programming at different market
segments and use each station to aim at specific demographic groups, thereby
maximizing the group's total audience reach. To do otherwise would
be to forego audience share. To do otherwise would be irrational."
NOTE:] Too bad Mr. Roth assumed rationality. This is exactly what
Actually, it IS rational to do exactly what Roth assumed they would not.
It takes work and risk to reach out to new cultural centers and markets.
On the other hand the "economies of scale" can yield 40% profit margins
by carving familiar territory (Rock) into ever thinner slices and slashing
staff into nearly automated programming centers run by beancounters staring
at Excel spreadsheets and Arbritron books that literally don't count any
listener who listens to noncommercial programming.
At least some of the commissioners are rooted in reality. Susan Ness
is concerned that "economies of scale" can only go so far before it becomes
anticompetitive near monopolies. At least Ness seems to realize that
price is not the ONLY determinant of market efficiency. Having a variety
of products marketed for a variety of people also counts.
reviewing station transactions she asks herself, "at what point does the
market become so over-concentrated that small stations cannot realistically
And at what point does the loss from a reduction of voices and competition
outweigh any benefits to the public from consolidation?"
"It used to be that a "big" group owned perhaps fifteen radio stations
and made a "big" deal by acquiring a couple of AM/FM combos in good sized
markets for 50 or 60 million dollars. Today, while there are still plenty
of those transactions going on, it is increasingly common for us to review
a transaction where a company owning say, thirty radio stations and a few
TV stations in six or seven markets, is buying another group of ten or
fifteen stations -- many in the same markets they already serve.
Moreover, some deals are spiced with newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership
waiver requests, or combine a collection of radio stations with two television
stations in a market -- one owned directly, the other operated under a
local marketing agreement."
"What if the company also wants to acquire a TV station in that market?
And once it acquires a TV station, what if that station executes a local
management agreement with another television station in the market?
What if the company provides 100% of the equity in the form of non-voting
stock or subordinated debt to finance a competitor in that same market?
Now, what if the manager of that competitor is hired from the group owner
providing the financing?
At what point is a competitor kept from competing effectively? At
what point does an advertiser have a hard time finding options?
NOTE:] How can Mr. Roth maintain that this consolidation has been good
for those seeking to advertise ... yet the profit is up and up and up.
Where does that profit come from? The advertisers and ultimately the consumers.
At what point does someone looking for a fresh, independent voice have
a hard time finding one? "
NOTE:] And especially any point of view that is opposite to that
of the corporate managers?
NOTE:][And so now the huge mergers are running afoul of Antitrust
regulations via the Federal Trade Commission and the Department Of Justice].
The FCC has one more criterion than does the FTC or the DOJ, the "Public
NOTE:] The Public Interest issue that is uniquely the FCCs
is primarily the reason that Republicans are trying to kill the FCC
and the Low Power Radio Service. Republicans such as:
McCain, (who is hypocritically running on a campaign finance reform
platform) Detail HERE
"Billy" Tauzin (Who's daughter worked for the National Association
of Broadcasters (NAB) while he was using his position as the Chair
of the House Telecom Subcommittee to demand that the FCC stop proposing
to create competition via the Low Power Radio Service ... competition for
the NAB stations.)
Conrad Burns (Senate Telecom Subcommittee Chair who supported the
NAB by saying "We don't need all these little radio stations, I've had
about all the diversity I can stand!"
"At the heart of a public interest determination is the impact of a transaction
on the diversity of voices and competition in the local market. Our
democracy is strongest when ownership of broadcast licenses is widely held.
Only through a diversity of voices can we nurture our shared freedom, our
common bonds, our local and national communities. And excessive consolidation
of a local market can drive out competition, reducing the diversity of
voices. " Susan
Businesses -- NPR's Chris Arnold reports that some minority groups are
less likely than others to run their own businesses. African Americans
are especially under represented.
They make up about 13% of the U.S. population, but own only 4% of the
NOTE: The story also notes that the self-employed are much more
likely to be politically active.
The self-employed are much more likely to act in their own self interest,
to exercise their right of assembly and free speech to petition the government
(and the corporations that increasingly have purchased the lawmakers) for
redress of grievances.
This means that a radio dial that has less and less room for independent
single owners and especially minority mom-and-pop radio stations runs counter
to a healthy democracy that invites them into the discussion.
"Hear some of the worst Europe has to offer during a trip to
a music festival in Cologne, Germany. More than two million people were
at the annual event, attending concerts throughout the city and exchanging
ideas about the future of pop music ..."
(announcement on the All Things Considered promo
page, the day it broadcast)
NOTE: The use of the word "worst" [italicization not NPR's]
bias regarding music [Electronica,
Dance/Trance/Techno] as experimental today as classical music was 300+
examines influence of underwriting on public radio.
Read the Response
by Lorenzo Milam, author "Sex and Broadcasting" about building community
Marketplace "Morning Edition" (6:50am locally) special series "Radio
Days" investigates the changing face of radio as a result of the 1996
Telecommunications Act that allowed huge consolidation of ownership/control
NOTE:] Notice that they wait until JUST before the end of the
public comment period for RM-99-25,
(The Low Power Radio Service). Notice also at the bottom of this page there
is a link to a legal statement of NPR's opposition to increased access
to the airwaves. The claim is that these new stations will cause interference
... a bogus
concern if certain provisions are enacted.
NOTE:] Don't wait to check this out or share this with friends,
generally Marketplace does a terrible job of archiving and providing links,
this is above and beyond their normal level of aid to the tardy and researching
audience. It may not last.
PIRATES -- A group of community broadcasters from around the
country has converged
on Washington trying to draw attention to their cause
and what they see as persecution by the Federal Communications Commission,
which has been shutting down low-powered, unlicensed "pirate" stations.
Sunday evening, the pirates launched Radio Libre Mt. Pleasant, a pirate
for that Washington, D.C. community. They also held workshops on how
start a pirate station; issues of media concentration; and possible
low-powered radio. This morning, they held a debate at the Freedom
and marched to the FCC and the National
Association of Broadcasters. NPR's
Dean Olsher reports. (7:30)
Public Access Cable -- NPR's Margot Adler reports from New York
on the access cable channels in Manhattan. It's possible to see all sorts
of, out-of-the-ordinary programming on these channels, at all hours of
the night. She visits the production facilities of the Manhattan Neighborhood
Network -- which administers four different public access cable in Manhattan
-- to find out just how some of the hosts of these shows on the air. (6:15)
Quote of interest: "Cable Public Access is a snapshot of NY
as it really is ... the psychiatrists would call this the collective unconsciousness
... get a vector photograph of where the community is ... that's really
Quote of interest: "The process is more important than the programming
Quote of interest: " ... has shows by Albanian Nationalists,
Black Nationalists, Anarchists, comedians, poets and spiritualists, One
producer, an anthropologist that has traveled the world sums up Public
Access this way: People I meet in other countries are in awe when I describe
my little show, there are people who would kill for this freedom."
Broadcasting -- NPR's Barbara Bradley reports from Washington that
the coming of digital television is the latest in a series of legal and
regulatory setbacks for minorities in television and radio. Since digital
television broadcasts take up a significantly larger amount of the broadcast
spectrum, low-powered stations could ultimately be forced off the air due
to lack of space in the airwave bands. Many of these low-powered stations
are minority-owned and may feature foreign-language programming. There's
concern that already-underserved segments of the population such as immigrants
and minority members could find themselves with no place to turn for programming
geared toward their special interests and needs, as larger companies buy
up the rights to the remainder of the spectrum and consolidate their stations.
NOTE:] This report is on the displacement of (mostly) minority-owned
low power television stations. The same problem applies to radio. In fact
a quote from this story references radio; James Winston, Executive Director
of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters,"This trend [consolidation
following 1996 Telecommunications Act] is rapidly filtering out black and
ethnic voices ... the issue here is who is going to determine what is
news, what news gets covered, what viewpoints get aired, white Americans
and minority Americans have different experiences ... it is important that
that diversity is reflected in who controls the news ... A lot of people
think that if Michael Jackson is on the airwaves, that community is being
NPR's Anthem : PIRATE BROADCASTING: Co-host Rick Karr talks
with Millie Watt and Steven Dunifer about the state of "microbroadcasting"
in the U.S. Microbroadcasters are low-wattage, mostly community-oriented
radio stations that operate without Federal Communications Commission licensing.
Watt and Dunifer report that microbroadcasting is flourishing in the U.S.
but that there are significant legal hurdles before it. (12:00)
opposition statement against Low Power Radio Service access for local and
to Radio 4 "The Rest Of U.S."
NPR SOLUTIONS: (ranked by
easiest for PBS and Pacifica to implement listed first)
Restore open unscrambled satellite feed for all satellite-dish
equipped citizens to hear:
If your local NPR affiliated radio station did not carry the NPR programs
you wanted, you could point your satellite dish at their satellite and
get it directly. Until a few years ago, that is.
Then NPR decided to relieve their affiliates of the burden of competition
by forcing people to put up with the affiliates decisions by scrambling
the audio feed off the NPR satellite.
NPR could immediately simply unencode the audio for those of us
with satellite dishes..
NPR national should stop letting unresponsive elitist NPR affiliates off
the hook of competition. If the affiliate's donations drop due to popular
defection to the satellite receiver feed, then they obviously are unresponsive
to their population!
NPR national also should not encode a signal paid for with tax money.
Pacifica for competition) could get their unencoded feed onto
the digital DSS dishes audio channels.
(yo, NPR and Lynn Chadwick of Pacifica, people will pay for
those channels as part of the satellite bill, but they shouldn't, since
we already paid for much of the programming with taxes!)
Music Choice could
be convinced with public pressure/requests to expand beyond just the BBC,
the "Bible Channel" and music to carry the NPR
audio feed and Pacifica
audio feed also! Be shure when you mail them to carbon copy your
favorite media activist organization and your elected leaders (especially
in the city/county that approved the cable system's charter to be the monopoly
provider in that municipality).
It would also be nice to hear some of the Internet audio sources on the
Music Choice also such as what is available on WebActive.com.
and eclectic Internet Only "radio" services such as The
Womb or Netradio
Also an effective solution would be to carry the signal for one or two
shortwave alternative sources such as Radio
For Peace International.
PS for visitors to this website, consider visiting and donating to RFPI
so they can put a real bitcaster website together so we can listen
on the Internet.
Satellite Radio service and CD Radio
include these eclectic sources:
NPR should support instead of opposing
competition and multiple outlets.
With the Low
Power Radio Service. NPR has way more programs than any one affiliate
could carry. Howabout multiple affiliates in an area?
Also how about selling some of your programming to commercial stations
... since you are now taking roughly two minute "enhanced underwriting"
announcement breaks about every 15 minutes anyway ...
Ditto for Pacifica. There is nothing wrong
with wanting to expand your listenership. Unfortunately NPR and Pacifica
have taken a "zero sum" approach to expanding audience. The "zero sum"
approach says that the sum of all of the current outlets minus those areas
not covered equal zero, suggesting that the only way to increase
listenership is to blandize, remove the radical elements, make their signal
less "challenging" for the mainstream to listen to.
SUGGESTION for increasing listenership that respects
diversity and the full range of humanity's news/views/culture:
Realize that the population of the US is increasing and ...
that the geographic area (populated by a receptive audience) not covered
by existing affiliate signal areas is increasing and ...
that the diversity of the population and the range of interests is increasing
and furthermore ...
that the opportunities to air programming could be increasing
(IF y'all supported the Low Power Radio Service) and ...
that there is a sufficient population even in areas covered by an existing
affiliate to support a second one carrying complimentary programming and,
and, and , yes finally, and ...
that there is more programming available than one affiliate could possibly
cover, but that people would love to hear!
NPR and Pacifica should SUPPORT the Low Power Radio Service for more affiliates
and more coverage of greater geographic areas.
NPR and Pacifica should SUPPORT new attempts by small businesses and civic
organizations to start up independent nonprofits to air your programming.
NPR (and Pacifica
that matter) could initiate a deal with cable operators to carry the NPR
feed on their "Cable FM Feed Service".
Cable FM Feed is a regular FM radio signal that travels down the television
This is a common service, a holdover from before the advent of the encoded
"Music Choice" signals that require a special box and a subcription of
about $10 or so a month. The FM Feed is not encoded and if still on your
system, usually free. It is a great way to hear out-of-town signals and
weak local signals like that great college radio station.
You plug the TV cable from your cable company into the "in" side
of a cable splitter,
get two shorter patch cables,
plug one from the splitter output back into your TV or VCR and the other
one goes into the input on the back of your FM receiver! You can also attach
an alligator clip and lay it parallel to the whip antenna of a boom box,
but the sound is not so good and causes interference often.
Many systems still carry local and sometimes out-of-town stations but
do not promote it. (They are often trying to sell "Music Choice"
that unfortunately has not chosen to actually replace the FM Feed with
anything better as far as eclectic and news/talk programming is concerned).
In this case, the cable operator descrambles the NPR satellite feed, then
remodulates it to something your FM receiver would hear that is not used
by a local station, like 88.5FM or whatever and fed down their TV cable
to your house where you hear it on your FM receiver!
Cell-Phone-Radio Solution: The technology exists right now
to surf Internet Bitcasters that provide niche-market programming on your
Nino 500 PDA with a wireless modem while walking down the sidewalk.
IMAGINE if you could walk down the sidewalk, or had an audio-enabled
PDA installed in the dash of your car that enabled you to surf MP3 and/or
RealAudio streaming sources portably!! You would be completely freed of
the tyranny of the program gatekeepers of ANY of the above networks!!
For the Cell-Phone-Radio Solution to work we need:
TADAAAAA! The Big Boy Broadcasters can kiss their
multizillion dollar tyranny goodbye!
You would have full access to the over 3000 audio
sources of the Internet on your audio-enabled cell-phone anywhere you could
get the cell-phone tower's signal.
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
(until the activism gets results):
If you live within 120 miles of a more responsive NPR or Pacifica affiliate
that is the next town over, get a better antenna!
With a good antenna.
A "Yagi" antenna ($20 at Radio Shack) can bring in weak local stations
That $20 Yagi works even
if you don't mount it on a pole on the roof.
You can just have it in
your bedroom as long as the walls are not made of metal or have metal on
(like aluminum siding) or significant metal in them (such as steel
reinforced concrete and cinderblock or metal studs).
Generally the larger and
the more elements (cross pieces) the better.
Don't bother with an antenna
amplifier if you live in an urban area. It will not increase the
number of stations you can pick up but WILL increase the interference
by closer more powerful stations.
Instead, whether it is
outside or inside a wooden or brick structure ... THE KEY IS TO GET
THE ANTENNA AS HIGH AS YOU CAN.
Another Key to good reception
of distant stations is a good cable in-between the antenna and the receiver.
Reception Tips Here and Here
here. Here is info on Skip.
Remember that the antenna
is the most important component of any attempt to receive distant or weak
signals and that the height affects it more than anything else.