FCC Enforcement: On the Wane?

Just got the Enforcement Action Database caught up for the year, and the numbers show that FCC field activity is running at the lowest level it’s been since 2005. Just 173 enforcement actions to date, as opposed to ~260 at this time last year.

There was a similar dip in the years afer the FCC first proposed the creation of LPFM, and with LPFM’s second wave in the works it’s enticing to see a correlation, but this time around I’m more inclined to believe it has to do with changing political priorities regarding enforcement policy (pirates take a back seat to cell-phone jammers, for example) coupled with the effects of austerity on federal government services more broadly. Read More

Religious Broadcast Executive Pay: 10 Years Later

While moving my site over to the WordPress platform, I had several trips down memory lane regarding past stories I’ve told. One of them, published 10 years ago this month, broke down just how lucrative it is to run a religious broadcast syndicate.

Back then, the explosion in FM translators was a relatively new development, and the millions of dollars harvested unethically from the public airwaves was yet but a pipe dream in many minds.

Even so, in 2004 salaries for religious broadcast executives were pretty damn lucrative, ranging from $117,000 to $250,000 per year. How have those numbers changed over the course of a decade, with the windfall of FM translators extending their business-models? Turns out it’s been a rocket ride (data courtesy of Charity Navigator). Read More

FCC FOIA Request in Official Limbo

It’s been nearly three months since I last heard from the Federal Communications Commission about the agency’s determinations on the journalistic legitimacy of a news organization I founded more than a decade ago.

For those just tuning in: earlier this year, the FCC fined a Chicago radio station more than $40,000 for airing newscasts produced by Workers Independent News. The FCC, in historically unprecedented fashion, categorized WIN as something other than journalism and admonished the offending station for deceiving its listeners.

I filed a FOIA request to get a sense of just how the FCC came to this determination, and what the implications of its decision might be on other independent media outlets seeking public access to the airwaves. The FCC, to put it mildly, has been less than helpful. Read More

Translator-mongers Brag About Gaming System

Eleven years ago, one wily guy made a spectrum-grab on the FM dial of unprecedented proportions. Using a custom program and a bank of computers, Clark Parrish filed for more than 4,000 FM translator construction permits during a short application window for translators in 2003.

Operating under two corporate identities, Edgewater Broadcasting and Radio Assist Ministry, Parrish put the permits on the market. In fact, his gambit created an entirely new market for FM translator stations. Over the last decade, that’s netted RAM/EB and other religious broadcasters who got in on the game millons of dollars from hundreds of sales, many involving the nation’s largest broadcasters, who deploy FM translators as automated outlets typically fed by out-of-market or HD2/3 programming. Since translator stations are considered a secondary broadcast service, they don’t count against the FCC’s radio ownership caps. Read More

Radio Stations Fall Victim to Cyberattack (Again)

Several radio stations in small markets throughout the United States are licking their wounds after suffering cyber-intrusions.

The alarm was first sounded by a cluster of radio stations in Louisiana on October 16. When the morning crews arrived, they found they had no access to the stations’ automation systems or music libraries. Instead, the data on their computers had been encrypted and frozen…and then they began to receive e-mails asking them to pay hundreds of dollars in order to set their machines free.

The stations’ owner reports that instead of paying the ransom demand, they’ve reported the intrusions to the police and plan to rebuild their systems from scratch. It will cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to undo the damage that the malicious software has inflicted, and they apparently keep finding more compromises as they continue their damage assessment.

Then last week, stations in Arkansas and Virginia announced that they, too had been infected by software that scrambled several of their computer systems and demanded payment to restore them. And this week, a cluster of stations in Michigan belatedly reported that they suffered the same sort of attack in September. Read More