FCC Localism Task Force Meets in Clear Channel’s Back Yard

pirates at clear channel hq

TheFCC’s Localism Task Force held a public hearing in San Antonio, TX, home to everyone’s favorite radio goliath, Clear Channel, which also happens to be the arch nemesis of localism.

As one would expect, media activists used the hearing as an opportunity to point out and bash industry consolidation and it’s decimation of local accountability and service. Clear Channel used it as an opportunity to show piece of video propaganda to demonstrate how much of a good media citizen the company has been in San Antonio — but not necessarily in the hundreds of other cities where it has stations.

You can get a rundown gloss of some of the affair from a Reuters story, but otherwise the national press didn’t pay much attention to this, the second Localism Task Force hearing.

The San Antonio area press paid more attention to the event, which drew about 500 people. The Express-News reported that about a quarter of the attendees stood in line to participate in the public comment period. Even though they don’t say it outright, every indication is that the comments from just about everyone who wasn’t in the broadcast industry were critical of broadcast localism, since the only positive comments mentioned were from representatives of local broadcasters. You gotta figure that if some average Jane had something glowing to say, that would’ve been news, and given plenty of space in the story — especially since the Express-News’ website is a joint venture with KENS TV-5.

As John at DIYMedia.net points out, there was a 10-watt pirate station broadcasting at a small protest held outside Clear Channel’s headquaters. As you can see in pictures posted to Houston IMC, the protestors indeed were dressed as pirates — maybe that was so they would blend in with the bigger, more theiving pirates inside the HQ.

Clear Channels WOAI-TV tried to spin the protest as if San Antonio was about to become downtown Seattle in 1999:

” Protesters from around the country, some of them veterans of anti globalization demonstrations in Seattle, Miami, and elsewhere, are descending on San Antonio to demonstrate their displeasure with media consolidation at a Federal Communications Commission hearing on localism set for tomorrow evening.”

As the pictures and all the other press coverage show, that’s all a bit of wishful thinking on Cheap Channel’s part. While there were certainly folks from outside Texas at the hearing, it appears most of the comments were dominated by San Antonio residents and other Texans. Even greater wishful thinking was the story’s claim that the pirate station “was shut down by officials late Tuesday afternoon.” A claim that John also dispels based on reports from people who were there.

Clear Channel, all the news that fits our ideology.

Unlike the first Localism Task Force hearing held last October in Charlotte, NC I didn’t hear any talk of the FCC trying to keep speakers from mentioning the ownership issue, pushing the ludicrous stance that localism and ownership are separate issues. I reckon the FCC’s organizers figured they’d only get bad press and a 500 pissed off attendees if they tried to shut them up on this hot button issue.

Of course, the FCC’s new ownership rules, which pound another nail in the coffin of localism, may still yet take effect. Although they’ve been held up by the courts, they haven’t been overturned, and Congress still hasn’t done anything substantive, except blow a kiss to national TV cartel.