mediageek news headlines for 11-1-02

These are the news headlines as read on the Nov. 1, 2002 edition of the mediageek radio show.

Stories include: Advocacy Group Asks for Public Hearings on IBOC; Public Thinks Media Is Too Big; DOJ Blocks Echostar-DirecTV merger; WA Rep. Discourages GovÂ’t Free Software Use

Mediageek headline news for 11-1-02

Mediageek headline news features stories about our communications environment that typically get relegated to the business pages of our newspapers and often don’t get reported at all in the electronic media. News on media law, regulation and industry is not just of interest to investors and stockholders – it’s important to all of us, especially if we want to have a role in changing our media environment to meet the needs of a truly democratic society.

HereÂ’s whatÂ’s happened in our media environment this week:

Advocacy Group Asks for Public Hearings on IBOC

A Low-Power FM Radio Advocacy group has filed a motion with the FCC for a rehearing on IBOC digital radio. The group, the Amherst Alliance, is one of the organizations responsible for getting the FCC to seriously consider licensed low-power FM radio, which they achieved by submitting petitions for rulemaking. The Amherst Alliance is joined by 33 other signatories, including broadcasters, journalists and media democracy activists.

IBOC digital radio broadcasting was approved by the FCC on Oct. 10. This new type of digital broadcasting piggybacks on traditional analog broadcast signals, but requires almost double the space on the dial. That extra space threatens to crowd out distant and low power stations that are near IBOC digital stations on the dial.

If granted, a rehearing would be an opportunity to further explore and expose the interference that IBOC digital broadcasting is likely to cause on the FM dial. Unfortunately, the chances of a rehearing are small without more powerful interests supporting the idea. Strong grassroots support can also have an effect, and public comments can be filed on-line at the FCC website

For furher info:

Public Thinks Media Is Too Big
Accused again of failing to assess public opinion before ruling on key issues, the FCC has been asked by a coalition of over 40 consumer, civil rights and media advocacy groups to hold public hearings on its proposed relaxation of media ownership rules. A report released yesterday by the Consumer Federation of America demonstrates that the public’s view of media concentration and the control of digital communication networks stands in sharp contrast to FCC priorities.

Amongst the findings in the report are:

  • 70% of respondents to a recent survey believe that media companies are
    becoming too large.

  • By a three-to-one margin, (49% to 17%) respondents felt that cross-media
    mergers, i.e. mergers between local broadcast and newspaper outlets were bad
    for the country.

  • Respondents felt that cross-media mergers would create less diversity in editorial points of view (49% to 18%) and that diversity in points of view in covering local news would decrease (39% to 21%.)
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents believe that broadcasters will just
    maximize profits if not directed to air public interest programming.

The FCCÂ’s lone Democrat Commissioner, Michael Copps, has also sounded a call for public hearings on the issue of media ownership rules. President Bush has nominated democrat Jonathan Adelstein for the fifth vacant FCC Commission seat, but it remains empty due to Senate Republicans blocking AdelsteinÂ’s confirmation.

The report, “Public Support For Media Diversity and Democracy In The Digital Age” can be viewed online at

For more info:

DOJ Blocks Echostar-DirecTV merger
Thursday the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to bar EchoStar Communications Corp.’s planned takeover of Hughes Electronics Corp.-owned DirecTV Inc. Such a merger would create a single direct-broadcast satellite TV provider monopoly in the US. Labor unions, consumer groups and public-interest advocates have all voiced strong opinions against the proposed merger.

EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen has been urging DOJ antitrust officials to accept a revised plan that would hand some satellite spectrum and facilities to Cablevision Systems Corp., which is making preliminary moves to start its own direct-broadcast satellite service.

The DOJ said that Ergen’s plan to spin satellite capacity to Cablevision is “unlikely to become a sufficient replacement for the vigorous competition that now exists between Hughes and EchoStar within a reasonable period of time.”.

Attorneys general from 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have also joined the DOJ in the suit against Echostar-DirecTV merger

As I reported last week, the Federal Communications Commission has already rejected the Echostar-DirecTV merger.

For more info:

WA Rep. Discourages GovÂ’t Free Software Use
Finally, in Free Software News, last week a letter was by Democrats and Republican
Congresspeople urging White House computer security adviser Richard Clarke
to find sales opportunities for government-funded software projects. Rep.
Adam Smith (D-WA), whose leading campaign contributor is Microsoft, also
circulated the letter but he added some language to discourage use of the
GNU General Public License, also known as the GNU GPL. The GNU GPL is the leading Free Software license; it is known for protecting the ability to freely share
and modify software, even if the software has been modified by a proprietary software company like IBM, Microsoft, or Apple.

Rep Smith claimed “[the free software philosophy is] problematic and threaten[s] to undermine innovation and security.” Free software advocates argue that the
opposite is true, that the GNU GPL insures security by making the source code
available to everyone who gets a copy of the program. They say that the GNU GPL assists innovation by creating and maintaining a software commons atop that everyone is
free to use to develop new ideas.

Sixty-seven representatives signed the letter to Clarke; almost two-thirds
were Democrats. Microsoft employees and its political action committee
have given $22,900 to Smith’s re-election campaign. The original letter
was written by Rep. Tom Davis, (R-VA), chairman of the House Government
Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy, and Jim Turner
(D-TX). Davis and Turner want the White House’s forthcoming national cybersecurity plan to ensure that companies that develop software using federal funds are free to use the resulting products for commercial gain. Such a guarantee could be a windfall for the nationÂ’s largest software company.

For more detail on what’s wrong with the letter (including Rep. Smith’s additions):

Headline assistance from Jeff Nicholson-Owens






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