News Archive: September 2002
9/26/02 - Mosquito Fleet Feature Complete [link to this story]
The major components to our coverage of the microradio activity that took place during the NAB radio convention in Seattle earlier this month are now in place. Please keep in mind that the operational analysis is only one man's opinion, and I'd love to hear from others who want to share their experiences. If you recorded anything, please let me know and spread the love!
Looking back on all the action, I must say that it felt good to be part of something special, although I'm in awe of so many peoples' dedication and resourcefulness. Hopefully the dialogue that started in Seattle continues and evolves.
I've still got to add links to other stories done about the Fleet's maiden voyage; those should be up soon. I collected a lot of other microradio-related material in Seattle - a backlog you're going to find quite enjoyable, so stay tuned.
The only thing I regret is not getting to say good-bye to everyone before we left town. Here's hoping we sail again soon....
9/24/02 - ABCNN? Don't Laugh [link to this story]
Well, spank my ass and call me Charlie, the L.A. Times reports today that AOL Time Warner has been in talks with Disney about possibly spinning off the ABC News division and merging it with CNN as a stand-alone company. Apparently this has been a morsel of discourse between the two for about 18 months now.
This isn't the first time Time Warner has tried to spin off CNN; it apparently danced with CBS for a while before that deal fell through.
Witness the terminal decline of American broadcast journalism in real-time. This potential deal may sound disturbing - and it is - but it's the end result of years of media consolidation.
No matter how media companies like to slice it, journalism requires actual human beings with some rudimentary form of training or experience to actually report on and explain stories. Fortunately for them, the pabulum that's replaced actual news on most broadcast outlets doesn't require these skills or manpower anymore. While ad rates may still be good, that terrible drain of wages looks bad to the investor.
The big TV networks have been continually paring away at the budgets of their news divisions for years, and they've cut all the way to the bone. But the magic "degree of profitability" they seek still isn't materializing, and that makes a merger the next best thing to making a killing.
Now all we need is MSNBCBS, and symmetry will be restored.
9/23/02 - Pics and Zines from Mosquito Fleet Deployment Online [link to this story]
Enjoy the partial story of mass microbroadcasting during the NAB convention in Seattle. A photo album and two zines published especially for the event are now online - the audio and feature detailing the broadcasts themselves should be ready sometime today or tomorrow.
9/19/02 - Mosquito Fleet Feature in Production - Have a Taste of What's to Come [link to this story]
Still slogging through lots and lots of multimedia goodies collected from Seattle that should, when properly assembled, paint an entertaining and informative picture of the Mosquito Fleet of Microbroadcasters who swarmed the recent NAB convention. Once I get access to a scanner and some video encoding equipment, the real party will start.
In the meantime, take a listen to the KJR-FM culture jam simulcast on at least six microradio stations on the opening day of the convention. Produced exclusively by a member of Negativland for the festivities, with extra-special digs at Clear Channel!
Much more should be online as the weekend rolls on. Stay tuned...
9/13/02 - Seattle is Radioactive! [link to this story]
It has been a busy couple of days since we arrived into town...the Seattle Independent Media Center has been an awesome hub of activity, serving as a workshop, reception space and newsroom. At any given time you can find people sawing lumber, soldering equipment and making stories.
The Reclaim the Media! events got rolling in earnest last night, and they have been well-attended. The schedule of panels, workshops, rallies and concerts is an ambitious one, and kind of works against everyone meeting en masse in a single location. Rallies at Freeway Park have been relatively sparsely attended, but that will probably change as the weekend progresses.
I have been working hard trying to follow the Mosquito Fleet of microbroadcasters who are here in quite a significant contingent, but it's dicey because operating locations are scattered throughout the metropolitan area and those running the operations are understandably low-key about disclosing information. Needless to say, though, that there's people from all over the country here, and they're all fired up about firing up. I'll have lots more about this when all is over and the immediate risks have passed.
Stations began appearing on the radio dial as early as Tuesday, and at least two frequencies have been pretty much continuously occupied for most of the week. Both of these channels are blanketing downtown Seattle quite nicely, and the IMC has set up a radio on the sidewalk to play the stations to passerby. Out of the 13 frequencies identified as being potential spots for microradio broadcasts, as many as eight have been simultaneously occupied. Power levels being used range between four and 150 watts, and since Seattle's got lots of hills, it's possible to site multiple low-watt transmitters on the same frequency in different locations around town.
Some stations are doing more programming than others (content is one of the last things they seem to think of when making their lists of things to bring), but those that are conducting extended broadcasts aren't repeating much, which keeps things fresh.
Yesterday was the day when the Mosquito Fleet simulcast a special anti-Clear Channel screed produced by Negativland. It involved a 24-minute loop of programming aping local station KJR-FM. Somebody took a radio into the NAB convention hall and let attendees have a listen - many were confused and actually thought the pirate was KJR until the "DJ" began ripping KJR, Clear Channel and the NAB new ones on-air. You can listen to excerpts from the simulcast (recorded directly off the radio) at Radio4All.net. It was very cool to dial through the FM band and hear the send-up
So far, though, there haven't been any overt moves by the FCC or any zealous radio engineers to squelch the stations (knock on wood). For now, though, people are doing a lot of talking and sharing of ideas - which makes for a good time, but doesn't replace action, and outside of what's on the air, there hasn't been much of that yet. Stay tuned...
9/12/02 - Screwed LPFM Applicants to get Second Chance [link to this story]
This week, the FCC announced a remedial window for LPFM applicants who applied for a license before Congress gutted the plan and disqualified many who'd already applied. These applicants were shafted when the channels that they applied for, which were initially considered open by the FCC's initial LPFM rule, were suddenly declared off-limits by Congressional fiat. For more than a year now, these applicants have been in a sort of limbo, unable to amend their applications to account for the lower number of open frequencies.
A five-day window for those applicants will open in late October - but many have been permanently disqualified from an LPFM license thanks to the NAB/NPR shenanigans in Congress. Some of those who had applied have gone on the air anyway, and don't have much interest in trying to re-engage the FCC in the licensing process. Even so, it's a nice gesture on the FCC's part.
Of course, this tidbit of good news is overshadowed by the bad news: the FCC has begun a review of its media ownership regulations, with an eye on further loosening the rules to allow even more media consolidation, including expanding the opportunities for cross-ownership between different forms of media. Chairman Michael Powell is obviously very giddy about the prospects of this, but at least one Commissioner is expressing misgivings about releasing this genie - especially when it'll be almost impossible to put back in the bottle.
Studies are currently underway to examine the rules and how they might be changed; once those are done the FCC will invite public comment on the issue.
9/8/02 - Seattle or Bust [link to this story]
It's packing time for the trip out to Seattle for the Reclaim the Media! conference next week, being held in conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters' own radio industry convention.
In addition to the panels, workshops, rallies and conferences, there will be plenty of time to follow the "mosquito fleet" of microbroadcasters who are mobilizng to send commercial broadcasting a strong message about media and democracy.
It'll be exciting, enlightening, and hopefully a bit historic! I'm planning on filing some updates from the action, but probably won't write up a full report until returning home, much like I did for the media democracy activity in San Francisco two years ago. Paul with Mediageek is the traveling companion, and between the two of us we'll have the event well-covered.
For breaking news from Seattle, make sure to check the Seattle Independent Media Center and the Reclaim the Media! website. Updates to the rest of this site (and the general content resurrection process) will resume when we get back.
9/6/02 - LPFM Test Details, Radio Listening Hits 27-Year Low [link to this story]
More info is now available about the testing of third-adjacent channels (.6 MHz from other stations) for the new LPFM service. Comsearch, an engineering consulting firm based in Virginia (who lists its fields of expertise as "Microwave," "Satellite," "PCS," and "Broadband"), has received the deal and was awarded six experimental LPFM licenses on August 30.
Comsearch's 100-watt stations will operate in Winters,CA; Owatonna,MN; Brunswick,ME; Benicia,CA; Avon,CT; and East Bethel,MN. The full-power stations on the third-adjacent channels in those areas range in size from 23,000 to 100,000 watts.
Interestingly, none of these locations are in major urban metropolitan areas - those who were basically excluded from getting new LPFM stations when Congress gutted the FCC's original ruling and restored third-adjacent channel protections.
When doing tests like these, location, location, LOCATION of the transmitter and receivers is paramount. A cursory examination of what little we know about the project so far has left me feeling a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Still no word yet on when we can expect to see results.
In some radio industry-related news, Duncan's American Radio, who's specialized in radio market research for more than 25 years, has just released its 2002 Market Guide. Inside, it notes that radio listenership is at the lowest levels ever seen since the Guide has been published. In the last 12 years alone, overall listenership has dropped some 13%.
Maybe it has something to do with consolidation and the likes of Randy Michaels, the recently-ex CEO of Clear Channel's radio division, who boasted to Radio Ink magazine recently about how he still idolizes Wal-Mart as a business model for the radio industry:
"When Clear Channel comes to town and buys both radio stations, nothing much changes. Maybe we put in voicetracking, but we probably also put in more news and other systems...We increase the level of public service, and compared to Wal-Mart, the effect on the community is negligible. Yet the bulletin boards are filled with people bashing Clear Channel."
Yeah, Randy. Only in your little fantasy world. Maybe you could explain to me why the news staff at the local Clear Channel talk station in my town (population 200,000) is also doing the news for the Clear Channel talker in the metropolitan area of more than 1,000,000 an hour down the road.