News Archive: June 2004
6/29/04 - The Counter Never Lies: Truthful Translations Top 180 [link to this story]
In celebration of this dubiously monumental occasion (just in case we stall or get raided before hitting 200), enjoy the introduction to Margaret Thatcher's [manipulated] "Tribute to Reagan," added to the gallery as part of the latest update:
6/28/04 - FCC Reasserts Jurisdiction Over Airwaves [link to this story]
The agency's Office of Engineering and Technology released a three-page public notice Thursday "regarding radio interference matters and rules governing customer antennas and other unlicensed equipment." The notice talks about an increase of complaints about the use of unlicensed devices in "multi tenant environments" but makes no reference to any specific instances that may have spurred its publication.
Later on the FCC seems to hint that it is mostly talking about concerns involving the proliferation of wireless network devices, but a clever lawyer could probably read the entire thing broadly enough to construe it as a diss against Florida's recent criminalization of pirate radio. Perhaps the vagueness in this release was intentional, so as to discourage the interpretation offered here.
6/25/04 - Third Circuit Orders FCC to Re-Justify Media Ownership Changes [link to this story]
Kind of a big day for "the public interest" - in a 2-1 decision yesterday the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the implementation of several media ownership rule changes made by the Federal Communications Commission last year. However, it did not do so because the court thought they were necessarily bad rules.
"Citizen Petitioners" (a plethora of public interest groups) and "Deregulatory Petitioners" (the FCC, media companies, and their trade organizations) can both find something to like. The primary criticism of the decision falls in the citizens' favor: Mikey Powell and his FCC are taken to task for a skewed interpretation of their mission under the Telecommunications Act.
The Act requires the FCC to review its rules (now every four years) and either retain, repeal, or modify them to suit "the public interest." Powell and crew have been ignoring the "retain" and "modify" parts with claims that the Telecom Act "forces" the FCC to toss out various ownership restrictions. The Third Circuit's not buying it:
As for the court's opinions on specific rule changes, the decision is less celebratory. Generally speaking, the majority of the Third Circuit was actually okay with the nature of relaxing or eliminating various ownership rules. Where the FCC primarily failed was in providing adequate justification to satisfy judicial review.
First off, the tossing of cross-ownership limits is attacked: "the Commission [did] not provide a reasoned analysis to support the limits that it chose." In the court's humble opinion, the agency's well-sauteed studies showing mostly positive benefits from the elimination of cross-ownership restrictions didn't make much sense.
On the FCC's expansion of allowable consolidation in television: congressional action earlier this year raised the maximum national audience reach of a single network (through its own stations) from 35 to 39%; the court can't do anything about that. But the rest of the FCC's (upward) revisions in this department must be reworked because of "flawed rationale" behind the studies that supported the changes.
Things appear to be the worst on the radio front. Again, the court believed the general outline of the FCC's revisions have merit, but it could not accept the rules as written. The court specifically calls into question the numerical caps on how many stations one company can own in any given market - and asks the FCC to provide a "reasoned analysis" as to why they should even stay in place. Mikey and the broadcasters might read this as potential to remove these caps from radio completely - a bad thing for a medium already too far gone.
Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica dissented from the ruling: he believed the court overstepped its authority, delving too deeply into complicated policymaking at a level he thought dangerously close to judicial micromanagement.
To recap: contrary to popular belief, the FCC's wholesale revisions to the media ownership landscape have not been defeated, but delayed for a longer term. The agency's been ordered to review and revise its decisions, but for the most part it has not been told that any of its proposed changes - in and of themselves - are unacceptable. "Back the changes up with more than shuck and jive," said the Third Circuit to the FCC, "and then perhaps we can talk business again."
Barring an appeal to the Supreme Court (which could conceivably happen, given the number of players now consolidated in the case), this decision will touch off several new rounds of rulemaking at the FCC level. Early on the majority made note of the fact that some two million people provided public comment on the first go-round. There will now be a second; can "the public interest" up the ante?
Given the generally sluggish pace of legislation this session, Big Media may not be able to do a congressional end-run to get the FCC's revisions implemented piecemeal, but I'm sure it will certainly try. Otherwise conditions are primed for another slugout via study...
6/22/04 - Florida: Pirate Radio Attracts Bounty Hunters [link to this story]
Meet Signal Finder - a Florida company founded by engineers with experience at Clear Channel and Motorola. For an hourly fee it tracks pirate stations and provides detailed reports on their signal quality, strength, and interference potential (relative to the client). It's an FCC enforcement action wrapped with a bow.
Key bit: "The commission has been quiet about Signal Finder's efforts to this point, [Signal Finder vice president Steven] Grey said. 'One FCC enforcement officer told me that having us pinpoint a pirate could expedite the process. However, they still need to do their complete investigation. That leaves our clients the option of taking action against unlicensed broadcasters in civil court,' he said."
Combined with a new state law criminalizing pirate radio, the stage is set for vigilantism among spectrum users: sue 'em off the air or throw 'em in jail, choose your poison.
6/18/04 - LPFM Rematch on Capitol Hill [link to this story]
Four years ago, when the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio successfully convinced Congress to significantly scale back the FCC's new LPFM service, grassroots media activists weren't packing much heat on the Hill.
It's been a productive four years: 400+ LPFM stations are now on the air with more in the pipeline and dedicated lobbyists in Washington willing to push for an LPFM revival.
The NAB recognizes the landscape has changed and has its own congresscritters on a short leash already over this issue. This time around the end-run may involve an attempt to divert LPFM into a blind alley at the General Accounting Office. Let the fireworks begin!
6/17/04 - Comment Deadline Nears in Broadband over Powerline (BPL) Rulemaking [link to this story]
The FCC's ongoing project to approve the use of powerlines as data infrastructure grinds on, and the initial public comment period on this rulemaking ends next Tuesday. It would've closed months ago if not for a short extension of time (granted at the request of the Amherst Alliance and National Antenna Consortium) to digest the latest technical studies on the plan, released just three weeks ago.
BPL technology sounds wonderful but is a massive interference generator, literally wiping out several amateur and shortwave frequency-swaths. Yet the FCC seems relatively determined to bring it on regardless.
In somewhat related news, the FCC last month released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for input on a proposal to open up unused segments of the analog TV spectrum to unlicensed use by wireless (not broadcast) devices. REC Networks asked the FCC more than a year ago to consider a portion of this same spectrum for an expansion of the FM dial; the agency ignored the idea.
6/15/04 - Two Critical Online Resources Get Even More Useful [link to this story]
The first is the venerable A-Infos Radio Project (which I believe is now separate from the woefully outdated Radio4All.org) - a complete overhaul of the project source code. The new layout takes a bit of getting used to and there might be a couple of bugs left to catch, but remember, this is free sh*t. The A-Infos Radio Project is arguably the best open source audio clearinghouse available online, with several uploads added to the system every day. They can always use some help: bandwidth is a killer, and there has to be hundreds of gigabytes of audio archived already.
Also the database wizards at REC Networks have rolled out a major update to their searchable radio frequency databases. Stations identified in searches are now tagged by ownership, which allows for the running of "media concentration reports" in markets across the country. This includes data not only on the largest commercial broadcast conglomerates but reports about various non-commercial entities, including our favorite religious translator networks.
6/14/04 - Mercer Island High to Keep Radio Station [link to this story]
Slightly old news, but mention-worthy nonetheless: the FCC last week reversed its decision allowing a commercial station to move its transmitter to a location that would force an Oregon high school to close down its Class D (30 watt) FM outlet. The short announcement did not specify a reason, but it's not a difficult one to discern (read: negative publicity for an already-maligned agency). KMIH-FM is not out of the clear just yet, though - the FCC always has the authority to change its mind once again if it so chooses. Here's to hoping it doesn't get stupid (again).
6/8/04 - More Ink for WNFC: "The FCC's monitoring it, and we are, too" [link to this story]
The Detroit area FCC office is pretty quick on the draw but has handled unlicensed broadcasting cases in the past with a level of diplomatic aplomb not seen in very many places. Although the organizers of WNFC have extended an offer of dialogue to the local field office, there has been no reported contact as of yet.
6/6/04 - McCain Moves on LPFM [link to this story]
On Friday Senator John McCain (R-AZ), along with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill to restore the FCC's original vision of LPFM. My favorite line from the text of the legislation (S. 2505) is, "After years and the expenditure of $2,193,343 in taxpayer dollars to conduct [a study on interference involving LPFM stations], the broadcasters’ concerns were demonstrated to be unsubstantiated."
Now we shall see if it moves. Promises kept in word are one thing; deeds are quite different, especially in D.C.
6/2/04 - Dept. of Corrections On A Roll [link to this story]
Check these new tracks from one of the most prolific artists doing Truthful Translations. These don't quite fit there, but are definitely worth sharing:
Memorial Day Mix 2004 (MP3, 5:56, 4.8 MB) - Not for warmongers; features George C. Scott, System of a Down, George Carlin, Willem Dafoe, the Fearless Leader....and ear-opening news on unit casualties and depleted uranium contamination in Iraq.
Unit 227 - (MP3, 1:23, 1.2 MB) - The D.O.C. vs. NBC in Afghanistan, with cinema-clip zingers. Definitely not for warmongers.
6/1/04 - Low Power Radio Legislation Afoot? [link to this story]
It appears there may be some movement in D.C. on some sort of legislation involving low power FM radio stations. It's a curious thing: Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) plans to sponsor a bill to upgrade several old "Class D" FM educational stations.
The move stems from a controversy involving a high school whose 25-year old station might be bumped off the air by a commercial station who wants to move its transmitter to reach a larger audience.
While the FCC phased out Class D educational FM licenses in 1980, several dozen stations are still on the air. As part of the phase-out, they had to move out of the educational band of the FM dial (88.1-91.9 MHz). They also were endowed with "secondary" status: post-1980, if a commercial station wanted their frequency, the Class D station had to either find a new frequency or go off the air. Mercer Island High School's station will probably have to shut down unless Sen. Cantwell's legislation becomes law.
Unfortunately, this proposed bill only protects a handful of Class D stations - so called "super-powered" stations, "defined as those with a (50/50) 60 dBu service contour that equals or exceeds 6 kilometers." About a dozen educational stations would receive primary status, but the rest of the Class D licensees (including the station at my undergrad alma mater, which broadcasts with 6 watts more power than Mercer Island High but yet does not meet the "contour criteria") would still be left hanging.
As for the newer LPFM stations (which are technically identical to the old Class Ds): Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has yet to introduce promised legislation that would expand the LPFM service back out to its original parameters as defined by the FCC in 2000, later trumped by Congressional fiat. McCain and Cantwell might do well to compare notes, as both are working to expand low power radio.
In related news, a camera crew is traveling around the country working on an hour-long edition of a 15-minute documentary first released in 2001 by the United Church of Christ's Microradio Implementation Project. The expanded version of LPFM: The People's Choice will be offered to NBC affiliates sometime this fall; Susan Sarandon will narrate (Peter Coyote voiced the earlier version).