news headlines from 11-08-02 mediageek radio show

These are the news headlines as read on the Nov. 8 edition of the mediageek radio show.

Stories include: FCC Extends Ownership Rule Comment Deadline; Digital TV Causing Analog TV Interference; Aussies To Block “Protest Websites”; Freak Radio Reporter Arrested by City Council Member; The Microsoft/ DOJ settlement

Mediageek notes for 11-8-02

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.

Here’s what’s happened in our media environment this week.

FCC Extends Ownership Rule Comment Deadlines
Responding to calls from citizen and media democracy groups, the FCC announced on Tuesday Nov. 5 that it is extending the deadline for comments on its forthcoming review of media ownership rules. The deadline for public comments had originally been set for Dec. 2. The new deadline is for one month later, Jan. 2, 2003. The deadline for reply comments has also been pushed back one month, to Feb. 2, 2003.

Some of the ownership rules that the FCC will be re-examining include the so-called duopoly rule, which prevents a single owner from having both a television station and newspaper in the same city, as well as limits on the ownership of radio and TV stations in a single market, and limits on the total number of television stations a single company may own.

The groups petitioning the FCC for an extension on these comment periods had asked for longer periods, with their requested deadline for comments being March. Large media companies, like the Tribune company, which owns television and newspaper properties in multiple markets, are eager to see ownership rules relaxed, and so have opposed the extension of comment deadlines. Therefore the FCC’s move to extend comments for just thirty days is seen as a compromise between powerful media companies and public interest advocates.

The same day that the commission announced the comment deadline extensions, the FCC’s lone Democratic Commissioner, Michael Copps, released a statement critical of the mere 30 day extension. In it he says,
“We’ve asked the public to analyze six separate media consolidation rules. We’ve asked them to sift through twelve studies that many groups claim are inadequate. We’ve asked them to suggest what other areas of this issue need to be explored. And we’ve asked them to do all this in a media landscape that has changed dramatically over the past
decade. Yet we provide a mere 60 days to do this. The last-minute addition of 30 days fails to even come close to solving the problem the FCC has created.”

Copps goes on to say, “At stake in this proceeding are our core values of localism, diversity, competition, and maintaining the multiplicity of voices and choices that undergird our marketplace of ideas and that sustain American democracy,” Copps continued. “With such important values at stake, we ought to give parties the time to provide detailed data, granular evidence and studied analysis. I am disappointed in the extreme and alarmed at the prospect of forging ahead to dismantle the limits and caps before we fully understand the effects of such action.”

Additionally, on Oct. 1 the FCC released 12 studies on media ownership that it commissioned from academics, FCC staff and industry researchers. These reports have come under fire from critics who charge that many are clearly biased in order to support the lifting of ownership regulations. Some critics have also claimed that the reports don’t adequately reveal the data and methodology used in their findings.

In response the FCC’s Media Ownership Working Group will be revealing the underlying data and methodologies for eight of the twelve reports. According to the Working Group for four of those eight studies, the authors created data sets using proprietary information licensed to the author and/or the author’s employer for purposes excluding public dissemination. In order to view and analyze these data interested persons must travel to FCC headquarters in Washington DC. The other four reports that don’t contain proprietary information should have their data available on-line at the FCC’s website.

For further info:,,BT_CO_20021105_008400,00.html

Digital TV Causing Analog TV Interference

On the Digital TV front, it looks like some television stations that are broadcasting digital signals are causing interference to neighboring analog stations. In some cases this interference is causing the analog station’s signal to be completely blanked out by snow and static.

The Federal Communications Commission has been asked to referee between three pairs of stations locked in signal disputes. WBOC-TV in Salisbury, Md charges that it is receiving interference from public TV station WHRO in Hampton, Va., 125 miles away. WMGM-TV, an NBC affiliate in Wildwood, N.J has reported interference from WTKR-DT, the New York Times Co.’s CBS affiliate in Norfolk, Va.; and Paxson Communications’ KSPX-TV in Sacramento, Calif., has reported interference from CBS’ KPIX-DT in San Francisco.
Also, NBC affiliate WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently built two temporary transmitters to overcome interference from digital public TV outlet WMVS-DT, located 80 miles across Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.

Warm humid air, as often found in coastal regions, is often capable of extending the reach of TV and FM radio broadcast signals. Some engineers believe this effect may be partially responsible for the reported interference.

At least until 2007, stations will broadcast both digital and analog signals. 600 out of about 1,700 public and commercial stations nationwide are broadcasting digitally, many at reduced power. It is still not clear what will happen when those running at reduced power boost their signals to full power and more analog stations make the mandated conversions to digital.

For more info:

Aussies To Block “Protest Websites”

In the name of fighting “cybercrime,” the Courier-Mail newspaper reports that Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison will look at upgrading federal powers to block certain websites. He’s apparently acting at the behest of police ministers who agreed it was “unacceptable [that] websites advocating or facilitating violent protest action be accessible from Australia.”

In the past Indymedia websites have been implicated by Australian politicians for aiding protests and violence. However, Melbourne Indymedia reports that most recently
“The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) has cleared Melbourne Indymedia and the website saying they are not in breach of government regulations. Despite the government defeat NSW Police Minister Michael Costa has claimed that ‘we will be doing everything we can to pursue it internationally.’” The Melbourne IMC story goes on to say, “Lucky for net activists they are far more globalised than the derisive anti-globalisation label suggests. Physically shutting down the site would be very difficult given that it is hosted overseas. Politically it would be even more difficult given the huge network Indymedia, and net activism more generally, has developed around the world. Around 200-300,000 people read Indymedia sites every week. ”

For more info:,5936,5437553%255E8362,00.html

Freak Radio Reporter Arrested by City Council Member

John Anderson of reports on an altercation between a reporter from an unlicensed free radio station and a local government official.

Robert Norse, a reporter with Freak Radio Santa Cruz, had no idea his mini-tape recorder would cause so much trouble.

On Monday, Norse attended the inaugural meeting of a special committee empaneled by the Santa Cruz, CA city council. The “Downtown Issues Task Force” is charged with implementing a controversial city plan to “clean up” downtown Santa Cruz. In addition to effectively outlawing panhandling, the plan would also place severe restrictions on street theater, leafleting, and the ability to set up informational tables.

According to Norse’s account of the meeting posted to the Santa Cruz Independent Media Center, 10 minutes into the DITF’s meeting, its chairman – councilman Ed Porter – took issue with Norse’s tape recorder, which had been set up in plain view on the table.

Porter reportedly asked Norse to stop recording and Norse refused, citing open meetings laws and his right as a reporter for FRSC to document the discussion. After asking police to remove Norse (which they refused to do), Mr. Porter performed a “citizen’s arrest” on him, which forced the officers to kick him out of the building where he received a misdemeanor citation for “disrupting a public assembly.”

Mr. Porter obviously doesn’t know what he’s up against: not only has FRSC been operating mostly 24/7 for more than seven years now (in direct defiance of multiple FCC warnings), but in 1999 the Santa Cruz city council approved a resolution in support of the station. The resolution also urged the FCC to legalize low power FM radio. Mr. Porter wasn’t on the council at the time.

Robert Norse later commented, “If Ed wants privacy, he should retire to private life. He’s a public official & this was a public meeting. I have a job to do as a radio broadcaster. If he’s going to arrest the media for every tape recording, the police will be mighty busy.”

On Microsoft/ DOJ settlement
Last Friday, November 1st, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly accepted most of the
Department of Justice/Microsoft antitrust settlement. Many computer users consider this to be bad news because it effectively shuts down the lawsuits that US states
wanted to pursue against Microsoft separately from the DoJ. Further Microsoft will be able to continue leveraging the air of secrecy that led to the landmark antitrust suit in the first place.

This agreement chiefly hurts Free Software and Open Source developers–the
movements Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer has said to be their primary
competition–because it means making compatible replacements for Microsoft
software will be more difficult.

The details of the final agreement reveal loopholes which are not in the
public interest to promote competition with Microsoft:

In one part of the settlement the technical committee that was supposed to
keep Microsoft from violating the agreement will be replaced with a
committee of Microsoft board members. Although The judge thinks
self-monitoring will be adequate insurance against future antitrust
transgressions, this switch provides a strong economic incentive for the Microsoft-appointed committee to rubber-stamp any decision the company deems necessary.

In another part of the settlement Microsoft was ordered to make APIs
(“Application Programming Interfaces”–the building blocks of programs)
publicly available so programmers can ensure non-Microsoft services will
work as well as Microsoft-made services. However, the judge allowed
Microsoft to cite exceptions to this rule for any API that would:

“…compromise the security of a particular installation or group of
installations of anti-piracy, anti-virus, software licensing, digital
rights management, encryption or authentication systems, including
without limitation, keys, authorization tokens or enforcement criteria;
or […] any API, interface or other information related to any
Microsoft product if lawfully directed not to do so by a governmental
agency of competent jurisdiction.”

In other words, if Microsoft thinks revealing a particular API would create
a security problem, interfere with certain other kinds of software or
licensing, or interfere with a request by the US Government, Microsoft can
keep those APIs a secret. This virtually negates telling Microsoft to
publish the APIs at all because *every* API can be said to fall into one of
these categories.

Shutting off public access to APIs means it will be far more difficult for
non-Microsoft software suppliers and Free Software developers to write applications compatible with Microsoft operating systems and software.

Finally, it’s worth noting that letters submitted to the judge by the public under the terms of the Tunney act were overwhelmingly against this settlement agreement. The Tunney Act dictates that these letters of public comment should be considered by Judges in determining the public interest. Because of the overwhelming public sentiment against this settlement agreement, public interest advocates charge that Judge Kollar-Kotelly has definitely ruled against the public interest in this case.

Final Note on Campaign Spending
Candidates and special-interest groups have spent more than $900 million on television ads in the run-up to Tuesday’s elections, a record sum that is nearly double the amount spent in the midterm elections four years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports.






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