Archive | January, 2003

Senate Reviews Radio Consolidation; Sen. Feingold Chases Clear Channel

The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing this morning on consolidation in the radio industry. You can watch it live at the CSpan.org website. The video should also be archived for later viewing (I’ll post a permalink if I can find it).

According to Billboard, Sen. Feingold (D-WI) reintroduced his

“Competition in Radio and Concert Industries Act, which he says will help consumers, small and independent radio station owners, and indie concert promoters by prohibiting anti-competitive practices in the radio and concert industries.”

Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Commerce Committee, is likely to sign on as a co-sponsor to the bill.
This bill is aimed squarely at Clear Channel, which in addition to being the nation’s largest radio station owner is also a big player in concert venues, “independent” music promotion and billboards (not the magazine). CC is accused of using its radio and promotion power to bring back payola, requiring record company tithing to its promo agencies to get their songs onto CC’s radio stations. (Billboard link via Slashdot)

In a related note, John at DIYmedia.net takes a critical look at how Clear Channel is trying to clean up its image.

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Real Citizens at the FCC? OK, let’s count 1… er, 1….

The LA Times reports on “Citizens Knocking on FCC’s Door” and actually getting face time with FCC Commissioners “to discuss the arcane rules of national telecommunications policy.”

Just seeing the headline made me think, “Yes, this is the way it oughtta be.” But then reading it raised some suspicions.

The only real citizen the article cites is a self-described housewife who is lobbying the FCC on behalf of mega-telecomm SBC so that her husband won’t lose his job with the company.

See, her husband might be laid off because those pesky competitors expect SBC to make good on the requirement of the 1996 Telecomm Act that the company open acces to its monopoly-built-and-protected-lines to those competitors. SBC claims it will lose profits and have to lay off workers as a result.

It seems a little disingenuous all around, doesn’t it? Especially to anyone who is unlucky to have SBC as a phone company and see first hand how the bastards have decimated Ameritech and generally botched up customer service and broadband Internet in the name of profit.

Even putting that aside, where are the other citizens getting face time with FCC Commissioners? How many former local radio employees fired by Clear Channel? How many citizens pissed off at losing local news from their Sinclair-owned TV channel in St. Louis? None are cited by this article.

So, here we have a case of a journalist turning one example into a trend. It’s a hook in search of an actual story — a case of “let’s make news that’ll make us all feel better.”

Turning up the cynicism up a notch, Tribune Company, owner of the LA Times, would love for the public to believe that the FCC is listening to citizen’s actual concerns. Especially because Tribune’s been pushing the FCC to charge ahead on its media ownership rules review and to shunt every possible opportunity for public input. A story like this one let’s Tribune claim, “See, you don’t need extended comment deadlines or public forums. The public is getting their licks in to.”

Yeah, when they’re bankrolled by SBC or some other conglomerate (or “a retired SBC manager”).

Now don’t you feel better about the FCC?

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Responding to the Oligopolistic Desires of Local Media Owners

As promised on the radio show, I now have posted the comments that Nexstar and Sinclair filed with the FCC on the media ownership review docket. Both companies own TV stations in the Champaign-Decatur-Springfield, IL DMA (where the ‘geek is located), in addition to owning stations nationwide.

Nexstar owns Champaign CBS affiliate WCIA Ch. 3 and Springfield UPN affiliate WCFN. Sinclair owns Champaign NBC affiliate WICD ch. 15 and Springfield NBC affiliate WICS ch. 20. Sinclair is the bigger company that owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 63 television stations in 40 markets, reaching 25% of the national market.

What’s most telling about these companies’ comments is that both encourage the FCC to drop the Newspaper-Television cross-ownership rule and the local-telelvision ownership/duopoloy rule. Here are definitions of these rules, thanks to the Media Access Project:

The “Newspaper-Broadcast Ownership” Rule:
The newspaper broadcast cross ownership rule prohibits a newspaper from owning a broadcast station in the same local area and vice versa. The FCC adopted this rule in 1975. The Supreme Court upheld the rule against constitutional attack in a case called NCCB v. FCC.. At the time the FCC adopted the rule, it allowed many existing newspaper-broadcast combinations to keep their combinations. Many of these “grandfathered” combinations continue to exist today.

Local Television Ownership Rules:
This rule limits ownership to two television stations in same market only if that market has 8 independent voices, and, one of the two stations is not among the top four stations in that market. Sometimes this rule is referred to as the “duopoly” rule.

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Testify! (to the FCC)

Radio activist extrordinaire Don Shellhardt relays how to submit your testimony to the FCC for the Commission’s public hearing on media ownership to be held in Richmond, VA: As noted elsewhere on this Message, the FCC has just announced Field Hearings in Richmond on whether the FCC should remove the remaining legal limits on how […]

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Senate Commerce Committee to Focus on Media Ownership

When the FCC appeared in front of the Senate Commerce Committee a couple weeks ago the focus was primarily on telecomm and competition in the phone/Internet biz. But the issue of ownership in the mass media nonetheless got brought up by several Senators and was therefore addressed by the five commissioners.

Now, the Commerce Committee is going to hold a hearing specifically on the issue of media ownership. From a Commerce Committee press release:

Washington, DC – Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced the following
hearing schedule for next week:

* Media Ownership – Radio Industry: Full Committee hearing scheduled for
Thursday, January 30, at 9:30 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate
Office Building. This hearing is first in a series of hearings on
media ownership. Members will examine consolidation in the radio
industry. McCain will preside. Witnesses will be announced at a later
time.

This hearing should give some more insight into how the Congress is viewing the issue and how likely that it may step in to bolster or further erode media ownership rules.

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