Archive | April, 2003

News Headlines from the April 11 mediageek radioshow

These are the news headlines that were supposed to be read on last Friday’s mediageek radio show, but some technical difficulties resulted in me not having them to read, and the show not getting recorded. But you can still read them. Stories include: Murdoch to buy DirecTV; The FCC, Indecency & Ownership; Clear Channel Drops […]

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You Read It Here First… Radio Stations Can’t Use Copy Protected CDs

The Age reports that at least one radio station is unable to play the copy-protected promotional CDs they received from EMI because they use computers and automated systems to play CDs, not regular CD players, which are supposed to be unaffected by copy protection schemes.

I predicted this might happen back in November 2001 when the notion of copy-protecting CDs to keep them from being ripped to mp3 or copied first bubbled up:

One snag in this plan is that most commercial radio stations now run under some kind of automation and store most of their music on hard drives. Although they have the physical CDs, most of them are ripped to the automation system’s drive (usually at full uncompressed quality). If copy protected CDs prevent this, then it’s like telling radio stations “please don’t play this CD.” But then if the industry sends unprotected CDs as promos, those CDs will make their way into the hands of file-sharers, some by way of underpaid station employees, and some by way of used CDs stores, which are usually stuffed to the gills with liberated “promotion only” CDs. I’d be curious to hear from commercial stations if there have been any problems or if they anticipate any as a result of copy protected CDs.

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Somebody’s Reading

The ‘geek got a shout-out in the current issue of In These Times magazine, in an article by Guerrilla News Network’s Stephen Marshall, entitled “Prime Time Payola”:

In January, Sen. John McCain’s Commerce Committee held two hearings that targeted, among other things, the issue of media concentration. At the first hearing, Michael Powell and his four commissioners were subjected to intense questioning about their strategy to protect the public interest from “sky’s the limit” deregulation. In a response that clearly surprised the committee, Powell, traditionally an unabashed proponent of the free market and loosened restrictions to ownership, said he was “concerned about the concentration, particularly in radio.” Mediageek.com’s Paul Riismandel explained: “Indeed, [Powell] didn’t want much publicity or input … But now the cat is out of the bag and yowling like crazy.”

Unfortunately they’ve listed the site as mediageek.com rather than mediageek.org. I don’t own the mediageek.com domain – somebody else has it, although there’s no site there (squatter?). Ah, but mediageek.net will work, too.

Yeah, I know, quit whining. It’s probably a copy editing error anyway, especially because a different version of the article on the Guerrilla News website has the domain correctly linked.

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The World Press Views Pacifica’s Anti-War Radio (?)

I thought this was kind of interesting and curious. The China Daily newspaper published an article today on Pacifica entitled “Rebel radio station makes ‘antiwar’ waves on air.”

A little investigation turns up a similar story on the Islam Online website, only rewritten some and titled “Pacifica Makes Comeback As Anti-war Radio.” This version says it’s sourced from the AFP, while the China Daily story just says “Agencies via Xinhua” (whatever Xinhua is).

Indeed, a little more search brings up the Agence France Presse story that seems to be the base source for both articles, with the same title as the Islam Online one.

But the differences are interesting. Take, for example, the opening paragraphs:

AFP – “Pacifica radio makes comeback as anti-war radio”:
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – A generation after Pacifica radio made a mark opposing the Vietnam War, the pacifist broadcaster is making a comeback, offering a dissenting voice as most American media are accused of cheering on the US invasion of Iraq.

Islam Online – “Pacifica Makes Comeback As Anti-war Radio”:
SAN FRANCISCO, April 6 (IslamOnline.net & news Agencies) – In a bid to offer a balanced coverage of the U.S.-led war on Iraq different from the main stream media “cheerleaders”, the pacifist Pacifica radio, which gained world popularity opposing the Vietnam War, is making a comeback.

China Daily – “Rebel radio station makes ‘antiwar’ waves on air”:
SAN FRANCISCO: A generation after Pacifica radio made a mark opposing the Viet Nam War, the pacifist broadcaster is making a comeback, offering a dissenting voice among ”pro-war” American media.

I have no particular conclusion to draw from the comparison, except to note the differences and that they’re interesting to see. Perhaps now it’s time for me to take an AP article and see how it might be interpreted by the likes of Fox News

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Infinity/Viacom Radio Station in Detroit Fined for Sexually Violent Broadcast

I’ll start by saying that I’ll always have some trepidation about indecency fines on broadcast stations, because there is always the lurking risk of the fines being leveled for political reasons, such as when the FCC fined community radio KBOO for playing a feminist rap answer to mainstream rappers’ mysogyny (and then later rescinded it with their tail between their legs).

But the shit that this station in Detroit was broadcasting in the middle of the afternoon is simply beyond the pale. Reuters reports that WKRK-FM in Detroit was fined

“$27,500 for the Jan. 9, 2002 ‘Deminski & Doyle Show’ broadcast between 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., during which the on-air personalities asked listeners to call to talk about strange sex techniques.

‘The station presented graphic descriptions of violent sexual acts against women as entertainment at a time when children likely composed a significant portion of the audience,’ FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said.”

This is not mere “shits” and “fucks.” No, this is rough, brazen talk about sexually assaulting women treated as humor in the middle of drive time.
The depictions were so rough that no newspaper is going to reprint them. This deprives their readers of actually understanding what (little) this station’s hosts and management think of women. I didn’t enjoy reading it, but I think it’s important for people to actually realize what kind of vile misogynist crap is being sold by big media giants like Viacom to their sons, boyfriends and husbands. Straight from the FCC’s own Report and Order, here’s some excerpts from the show (MV=Male Voice, likely a show host; MC=Male Caller):

MV1: What’s a… I may have heard this but I forget. What’s a “Frothy Walrus?”

MC7: Well, that’s where you have a girl perform oral on you, you complete the act and then you finish it off by punching her in the stomach so it comes outta her nose. (Laughing)

MV1: Oh God. Another abuse one. If we ever talk about this again ‘cause I swear there’s so many of these and guys have jammed the phone lines, we gotta get all sorts of romantic music to play underneath this. Tom in Sterling Heights you’re on 97.1 FM Talk.

MC8: Hey guys this is great. This is actually kind of like the last one, its called the “Strawberry Swirl.” You get the girl to pleasure you, get it on her face, punch her in the nose and smear it all around.

The transcript, unfortunately, speaks for itself. I think if more people read exactly what kind of violence against women this station sells as entertainment at 4 in the afternoon, there would be much more uproar and pressure on the FCC to actually hold station owners accountable for their licenses to the airwaves.

And yet, the fine is just $27,000, which is probably what Viacom, the station’s owner, spends on toilet paper each week. FCC Commissioner Copps sums it up well in his dissenting opinion when he says, “I am deeply disappointed that the majority proposes a mere $27,500 fine against this station. Such a fine will easily be absorbed by the station as a ‘cost of doing business.”’

Although this is probably the truly extreme end of so-called “shock jock” programming, this brand of hatefully racists, mysogynist and jingoistic radio is invading more radio dials, appealing to a lowest common denominator for a quick buck. No media corporation is innocent — they all indulge in this shit, all while they lobby intensely against opening up the FM airwaves to few more noncommercial low-power stations.

Two other FCC Commissioners — Adelstein, a Democrat, and Martin, a Republic — noted in separate statements that they would support much higher fines, where each incidence of indecency would be given a separate fine. Neither FCC Chairman Powell nor Commissioner Abernathy, who is a woman, releaesed separate comments, which indicates that they pushed against the higher fines, choosing to shill for the media conglomerates rather than levying anything close to a suitable punishment. I’d guess that Copps, Adelstein and Martin compromised on the fine amount so that there would be a consensus on levying the fine in the first place, which serves to send a strong signal that the FCC means business about this kind of garbage.

Somewhat impressively, the FCC has indicated that they actually considered revoking WKPK’s license, although backed way off, as Copps explains in his statement:

“The majority presumably recognizes the seriousness of the offense. And, importantly, this Commission has agreed for the first time that it may revoke the license of a station owner that broadcasts indecent material. But the Commission does not take this step.

“Our tepid action today will not dissuade these types of broadcasts in the future. The message to licensees is clear: Even egregious violations will not result in revocation of a license. The majority does warn Infinity that another similar action could result in a revocation hearing, but it fails to mention that this is not the first action against a station owned by Infinity. “

Let me wrap this up by saying that I am viciously anti-censorship, but I also abhor the abuse of the public trust, especially by a major media corporation that fills a valuable (but artificially scarce) public resource with their valueless garbage, when that frequency could be used by a community broadcaster to bring much more diverse and entertaining programming to the air.

Commercial broadcasters engage in censorship every day of the year. They systematically keep most recorded music off the air, they monopolize their airtime for mostly angry, white, male, conservative voices, all while vigorously lobbying against any expansion of broadcasting to include more stations and voices. All of the major radio broadcast companies do everything in their power to control, stifle or acquire the competition so as to consolidate the radio dial for their exclusive profit.

AND they do it with the full authorization and protection of the state. THAT is the real censorship, and that is the real indecency. Unfortunately, the laws are written in their favor (and mostly by their lobbyists, too), so they can’t be fined for that.

If we have to fine the likes of Infinity for their most visible displays of indecency, so be it. These theives don’t deserve the licenses they exploit nor the profits they gain. Anything that strikes at their stations is fine by me.

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