News Archive: August 2005
8/31/05 - NAB/NPR on LPFM: Forked Tongues [link to this story]
REC Networks has collected and posted summaries of several "constituency comments" (those filed by groups representing communities of interest), doing the thankless job of weeding through the auto-file form-fill spam.
The National Association of Broadcasters, predictably, opposes any changes to the FCC's LPFM rules that might expand the service, continuing to peddle fully-debunked claims that 100-watt stations have the potential to cause "harmful interference" to stations 10 to 1,000 times their size in terms of power.
The comments - which took three NAB executives, three staffers (including former high-level FCC staff), and two law clerks to write and sign off on - also rubs the agency's nose in the fact that it is prohibited by congressional fiat from relaxing channel-spacing rules to create space for LPFM stations in urban areas.
The NAB also claims that FM translator stations "enhance localism," although it fails to describe how exactly that happens. But it does give props to the Educational Media Foundation, promulgators of K-LOVE and AIR 1, for its clever use of translator networking.
Big Broadcasting does now recognize that LPFM "may provide...an important public service." This is only significant insofar as it's in writing.
National Public Radio's comment language is more cerebral, but the song remains about the same: LPFM stations are somehow less "spectrum efficient" than full-power stations, and expanding the service expands the potential for interference. Whereas in the original round of rulemaking NPR's interference hype revolved around reading services for the blind (often carried on the subcarriers of full-power FM station signals), this time the threat-focus is on translator stations.
NPR (via five authors) believes that should LPFM stations gain priority to spectrum relative to translators, the entire translator service will be "subverted." The Station Resource Group generally echoes NPR's substantive claims but is harsher on the FCC for the way it allowed translator-mongers to suck up spectrum in the first place; it also supports an independent investigation into FM translator speculation and trafficking.
On the other hand, the National Translator Association wouldn't mind doing away with carpetbagging translator-mongers:
It also supports some change in the rules allowing LPFM stations a measure of primacy over satellite-fed translators, but not terrestrially-fed ones.
The initial comment round on the FCC's proposal to modify LPFM (with an eye toward expanding it) is now closed, but reply comments can be filed until September 21 (use 99-25 as the proceeding number).
8/30/05 - Tactical Media Love Tour? [link to this story]
I've received some interest from people who attended the microradio workshop at the Allied Media Conference in June about taking the show on the road, as it were - demonstrating tactical media technology in hands-on style. I envision such events, being outside a conference atmosphere, also drawing heavily on Tetsuo Kogawa's "radio party" model (without the soldering).
If this sounds like a great way to spend an evening, drop a line and details can be discussed. All that would be required in each location is a flat patch of ground, a power outlet, and some floor space to crash on. For the moment, such travels would have to be confined to the Midwest, given time and circumstance; Detroit is a go, Chicago and Indianapolis are possibles, and anywhere in-between is game. Spreading tactical media love by example isn't just effective, it's a hell of a lot of fun.
8/25/05 - Truthful Translators: Where Are They Now? [link to this story]
Some interesting developments in the lives of a few of the talented collagists that have taken political rhetoric to new levels:
Norton Scooter made a pilgrimage to Crawford, Texas during the president's vacation and spent time at the spontaneous peace camp that grew up outside the ranch. It ended in his arrest. As is his penchant, the story is told in audio - a priceless 30 minutes' worth (29:55, 24 MB). Scooter is one of the most talented long-form storytellers working in the medium of sound today.
On the other side of the world, Tom Compagnoni, under the moniker of Wax Audio, has blown up at home and can be heard all over Australia's airwaves. This is thanks to a 7" record released under the Metal Postcard label featuring two of his translations first released in March. Tom's own Lennon/Bush subversion, "Imagine This" (4:32, 4.2 MB) is the A-side.
The 7" has since become a hot commodity, garnering significant airplay in the U.K. It's also trickling onto the U.S. airwaves. Ironic that it took a vinyl release to finally break big, but that's the way it still works sometimes.
8/18/05 - Stat-Parsing [link to this story]
It's been about nine months since this site moved to a properly-beefy server. One of the advantages of the move was regaining access to site stats. Having a somewhat consistent record to work with now, there's interesting info to share.
At present DIYmedia serves up an average of ~80,000 pages per month to more than 20,000 unique users. Hit-wise, on a monthly basis, the number's well over 300,000. This works out to nearly 700 visitors a day (on zero publicity).
Folks download an average of 120-150 gigabytes of goodness per month (which is the equivalent of downloading the entire site's A/V archive at least once per day). We should cross the terabyte mark this month.
The top search term is "free radio stations" (a close second is "paul harvey bong").
Top 10 downloadables (for August, so far [search for these]):
(Honorable mentions include DJ Shadow "Would You Buy A War From This Man?," New Horizon In Violence "A Deep Personal Love," rx "Imagine/Walk on the Wild Side" and "Dick Is A Killer," 37Hz "Death of Democracy," and Skidmark Bob "Commander and Chief Radio #13.")
The top 25 visitor domain/location categories (again, for August):
Thanks to all for sharing the love.
8/16/05 - Radio4All Funding Crunch Redux [link to this story]
To those who may pooh-pooh the ability to run an incredibly successful public service on no budget, look no further than the A-Infos Radio Project. For more than seven years Radio4All has provided a repository for an amazing amount of aural information and charged its users nothing for the service. Since the mainstream arrival of the anti-corporate globalization movement the service has found itself under increasing demand, which now amounts to ~30,000 users per month.
Over the years Radio4All's also weathered an amazing amount of crises, including emergency storage upgrades and bandwidth increases. Bandwidth alone now costs some $500 per month, and now its hosting provider wants those payments tendered quarterly. According to Radio4All co-founder and co-maintainer Shawn Ewald, "right now, our current balance will only cover this month's bill." There may be lots of sites out there offering similar services now, but none were developed in such bottom-up fashion and none have attracted the amount and quality of content as Radio4All.
8/12/05 - Mikey Powell: Telecoms Investor [link to this story]
Not much surprise in the news of former FCC chieftain Mikey Powell going to work for Providence Equity Partners, which specializes in venture/vulture capitalism involving global media interests. Powell, as a "Senior Advisor," will no doubt assist in the management of Providence's ~$9 billion portfolio. His pinstriped suits should fit in very well there.
This development further demonstrates the bipartisan nature of greed, and also that the revolving door between public/private power remains well-greased. This has been the case at the Federal Communications Commission for a long while. Powell's predecessor as chairman, William Kennard (D), left the agency to become a telecom stockjobber for The Carlyle Group. Kennard's predecessor, Reed Hundt (D), has a veritable franchise of the same going on. The chairman before Hundt, Alfred Sikes (R), headed straight to the Hearst empire upon leaving office. Dennis Patrick (R), who preceded Sikes, went to Time Warner (where he ran a corporate division created especially for him) and then founded a tech company during the 1990's boom which later sold for $125 million.
And that only takes us back some 20 years. Richard Wiley, who was FCC chairman during the 1970s, deserves honorable mention as he is now considered one of the most powerful communications lobbyists working D.C. today, with a veritable army at his command.
8/10/05 - New Free Radio Berkeley Station-Building Guide [link to this story]
A "radio comic book" called A Popular Guide to Building a Community FM Broadcast Station is the first release under Can of Worms Publishing, a new FRB venture. Some sample pages suggest a real potential to demystify the workings of radio; a Spanish-language version is also available. T.J. Enrile is the project's main author.
8/6/05 - Dueling Legislative Priorities: LPFM vs. Translator [link to this story]
An interesting development on Capitol Hill seems to be stymieing the advancement of legislation to expand the LPFM service. Advocates have been working closely with congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) to craft a bill in the House of Representatives that would jibe with Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) Local Community Radio Act. The bill hasn't been introduced yet because it needs demonstrable support from GOP representatives to be taken seriously, and no Republicans will co-sponsor the bill, although the ongoing grassroots recruitment effort is impressive.
Now comes a new complication: Slaughter has learned about the translator speculation and trafficking scheme that threatens to eat up space for new LPFM stations, and she's pissed. So pissed, in fact, that she wants to include language in her LPFM bill that would deal with the translator issue pretty severely. The conventional wisdom suggests that the addition of such "polarizing" language - especially on an issue involving religious organizations - won't help the effort to drum up GOP support for LPFM.
It has been suggested that Slaughter introduce two bills: one dealing with LPFM expansion and the other with the translator issue. For some reason there is reluctance to do that. Hence the search is on for another Democrat to sponsor a more modest LPFM bill that contains no translator language. The hope seems to be to find someone whose committee membership portfolio has leverage that might entice Republicans to support the legislation. No word on whether Slaughter will follow through with her own version.
There is something disconcerting about two important issues being forced to compete with each other in Congress, although it's good to know both are being taken pretty seriously.
8/4/05 - FCC Still Hunting in San Diego; LPFM Comment Period Extended [link to this story]
This week the folks behind 106.9FM, the on-air relay for RadioActive San Diego, got a letter dropped at their door warning them to shut down or face a $10,000 fine. This is not much of a surprise given the recent raid of compatriots. The station plans to be off the air for a spell - during which time volunteers will build a bigger transmitter. Sez the blog, "The station will not only resume broadcasting within two weeks, but with the help of community sponsors, we will go back on the air five times stronger."
On the legal side of things, the FCC has extended the comment/reply comment period on its current LPFM rulemaking for two weeks, making the new deadlines August 22 for comments and September 6 for reply comments. The extension comes at the request of the Station Resource Group, a consortium of pubcasters who will soon be going on their annual retreat and want to use part of their time together to write collective comments.
8/3/05 - Berkeley/Oakland Update [link to this story]
Intelligence from the scene indicates that Berkeley Liberation Radio has not returned to the air full-time. There are BLR hit-and-run-style broadcasts taking place until a permanent home can be found.
8/1/05 - LPFM Comments Call for Translator Inquiry/Overhaul [link to this story]
Freshly-filed, these comments more deeply document the shenanigans of the Edgewater Broadcasting/Radio Assist Ministry/World Radio Link triad, with deeplink footnotes to illustrate the speculation and trafficking in action. The are four simple conclusions:
1. Incremental changes to the FCC's translator rules over time created the conditions that brought about the use of translator stations to build broadcast networks, which in turn helped engender a vibrant marketplace for translator stations themselves.
2. The doings of RAM/EB/WRL and all of its principals deserve serious, focused scrutiny, in the form of an active investigation.
3. RAM/EB/WRL's transactions are just the tip of the iceberg. The FCC should freeze all translator applications from the 2003 filing flood and examine them systemically for similar behavior from other parties.
4. The FCC should revisit the concept of translators as a class of service and, where necessary, better define its secondary status relative to other FM services.
The bottom line is, translator stations were never intended to be used as low-cost network broadcast nodes, for godcasting or otherwise. Using translators in such bulk fundamentally changes their actual use into something that's hard to classify as a secondary service.
The FCC has yet to demonstrate any initiative to properly deal with the translator situation and deserve the prodding. Comments on the current proposal to modify the LPFM service - including discussion of the translator issue - can be filed electronically, either via the FCC's own interface or the Prometheus Radio Project's more user-friendly hack.
The comment period on this proceeding is open for another week (until August 8) with a further two weeks for replies. Make sure to file under the correct proceeding number (99-25).