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News Archive: October 2003

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10/25/03 - Media Activist/Reformers Preparing Madison Invasion [link to this story]

Less than two weeks from the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison and plans have been announced for a shadow "Be the Media" convergence as well. The idea is to get the participants to mingle with each other and teach some real media skills to people.

Various IMCs and other grassroots media outlets around the U.S. are sending contingents and many events will be webcast (this is why I have been so busy as of late). There's also plans to set up a collective conference blog so participants can pool coverage and perspectives. Stay tuned for more details. In all I wouldn't be surprised if 1,500-2,000 people - maybe more - take part in the fun.

This week's Schnazz update is especially good for catching the stuff that's fallen through the news cracks, like the Supreme Court's dismissal of a petition from Greg Ruggiero in his lawsuit challenging the ban on "pirates" from LPFM licensure, Utah Phillips' homage to microbroadcasters recently aired on NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion," and lots more.

10/24/03 - Amherst Alliance in Last-Minute Lobby Flurry [link to this story]

Congress is getting ready to wrap up business for the year; work left undone so far includes the rollback of the FCC's changes to media ownership rules. There's a quasi-insurrection brewing in the House of Representatives, where 190 congressfolk have signed onto a letter asking Republican leadership to allow a vote on the FCC rollback.

The Amherst Alliance's Don Schellhardt put together another detailed analysis of where things stand now, and includes helpful boilerplate examples of what to say if you're inclined to call your representative and urge some action.

The Amherst Alliance has also launched a petition drive to the FCC designed to immediately expand the LPFM service back to its original parameters and request that the FCC protect LPFM stations from digital radio interference. Visit the Amherst Alliance's web site and sign on, if you can...

10/19/03 - Bad News Ahoy: Collage Galleries Too Popular [link to this story]

Last year I began to host various galleries of media collage online as an expansion of this site's scope. An offshoot of this project - the Truthful Translations of Political Speech gallery - has taken on a life of its own.

The media collage sections of this site now account for at least half its traffic and most of its bandwidth use. As MP3 files are much larger than web pages, the bandwidth demands have grown with time, especially as the collage galleries have grown. I had plans to expand them further, with new galleries and a slew of new Truthful Translations which I've collected over the last few weeks.

On Friday, Oct. 17, a web site featured DIYmedia and posted three links to here. One was to a web page; the other two were direct links to MP3 files (specifically, "Rush Limbaugh Sings I'm a Nazi" and a racy Martha Stewart clip). Subsequently the server hosting this site got whomped and bandwidth use maxed out at 1 mbps/sec for most of the day.

DIYmedia shares a 'net connection with dozens of other web sites, and the massive bandwidth suck caused traffic to all of them to slow to a crawl. That forced my kind, generous, and gracious hosting provider to take DIYmedia offline temporarily Friday. He's subsequently restored access to everything except the pages/files linked to by the offending web site, which obviously has little sense of 'net etiquette.

'Net etiquette lesson of the day: If you like the MP3s collected here, please download them and share them with others. Or link to the web pages here - but NOT directly to the files themselves.

[Update 11/11: Further expansion on the collage galleries has been frozen until a server move can be accomplished, hopefully before the new year.]

This is all incredibly frustrating because spreading the subersiveness is the ultimate goal, and just as the momentum gets rolling the entire project is jeopardized. I'm exploring several options ranging from begging for benefactor-hosts with bandwidth on which to store the MP3 collection to purchasing my own 1U rack mount server and moving the entire site to a faster host (likely quadrupling the out-of-pocket expenses paid every month for your pleasure).

I'm wide open to advice on this one and could really use any helpful suggestions.

10/17/03 - Liberation Radio Raid Update [link to this story]

A statement released by the station coupled with an excellent phone interview of Liberation Radio volunteer Karoline Hatch by Skidmark Bob clarifies things quite a bit.

Factual corrections: While the swarm of law enforcement involved in the raid numbered more than two dozen, only ~15 were federal officers. They were assisted by 10 San Francisco police officers (in contravention of the wishes of the city's Board of Supervisors), although an IMC report cites Supervisor (and mayoral candidate) Tom Ammiano and SFPD chief Alex Fagan denying any city involvement.

"Ransacked" was an overly heavy term to use in describing the raid: just about everything broadcast-related got confiscated, save for a nice set of speakers in the studio. Those in the studio at the time got to keep their personal belongings (like music). The station had two computers (one dedicated to streaming); both were seized. It doesn't sound like the battering ram was actually used, just brought for show.

Interesting Trivia: Karoline Hatch's parents (Charlotte, 57 and Jim, 73) hosted the station in the basement of the building where they live, which they own. The building's broken up into apartments and the station was segregated from those and accessible through an outside door. Instead the agents entered through the first floor (rented to a tenant not connected to the station) and headed down an interior stairwell.

Karoline's mom Charlotte was in-studio at the time, as was the guitarist for the 60's psychadelia supergroup Big Brother & the Holding Co. Charlotte handled the situation quite smoothly while everyone else was a bit "shaken" by the invasion of cops, who didn't say much during the entire snatch-and-grab.

Stunning Irony: While the FCC and Federal Marshals think San Francisco Liberation Radio is bad, the U.S. Department of State thinks it's pretty cool. Some program there (possibly "Community Connections" within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) refers people from "developing countries" looking for advice on how to set up community radio stations to SFLR. Karoline Hatch says they've taught a dozen delegates from West African countries the techniques of microradio on recommendation from the State Department, and another government-directed inquiry recently arrived from a former Soviet republic.

"It's kind of an example of how fucked up our federal government is," said Karoline (1:19, 628K MP3).

SFLR's web site is currently in a state of suspension and cannot be updated, so the station plans to use the San Francisco IMC as its primary news conduit. It held an all-hands meeting last night to plot the course of action from here.

Elsewhere in California: Freak Radio Santa Cruz is now broadcasting on two frequencies. Its original home, 96.3 MHz, was recently stomped on by a godcast node set up on a nearby mountain, cutting coverage to a fraction of what it once was. Freak Radio simulcasts on 101.1 now to supplement.

Free Radio San Diego just celebrated its first birthday (in style, it would seem) and is also closely following the FCC activity. It will broadcast a program on microradio and LPFM featuring in-studio guests from SFLR on Thursday, October 23. Free Radio San Diego offers streaming audio feeds in two bit rates for global listening pleasure.

10/15/03 - Mass of Marshals Descend on San Francisco Liberation Radio [link to this story]

According to several reports, more than two dozen Federal Marshals (armed with a battering ram) and "several" FCC agents hit San Francisco Liberation Radio's studios around midday today. They had arrest warrants for the equipment; over the course of several hours the entire station was cleaned out (a more accurate term might be ransacked). Everyone at the station is physically okay.

So much for community support: even though the city of San Francisco has endorsed SFLR, the feds flexed their muscles today. It's unclear whether local law enforcement agencies participated in the raid (the city's resolution in support of the station urges local non-cooperation).

Freak Radio Santa Cruz is on heightened alert for an FCC incursion, as it shares similar circumstances (a long history and strong community support). Freak Radio got someone from SFLR on the line and aired an on-scene report.

The raiding party assembled to take down SFLR has to be one of the largest mustered in several years. The last time the FCC and their cop-like brethren assembled battering ram-levels of manpower for a raid on a high-profile microradio station was on "Black Wednesday" - November 19, 1997, when three outspoken microradio stations in Florida had up-close encounters with SWAT teams.

The only amusing moment of an otherwise serious situation occurred at the beginning of the raid; SFLR's studio is in the basement of an apartment house but the FCC/Marshal swarm went into the second-floor apartment first, which is apparently "completely unconnected" to the station. Smooth move, stormtroopers!

10/10/03 - October Amendment One: "Halftime" In Washington [link to this story]

Don Schellhardt weighs in with some excellent analysis in October's hefty Amendment One. He's got harsh words for Senator John McCain and even harsher words for Kevin Klose and National Public Radio.

McCain may ultimately stall media reform efforts in Congress by protecting his own committee turf, while NPR's stalling tactic in the FCC's resolution of the LPFM interference issue has apparently torpedoed a proposed Senate committee hearing on LPFM, which would've been chaired by (yes, the same) John McCain last month.

Outside of the folks at Free Press (who are actually being paid to work Capitol Hill), nobody's got a closer read on the situation than Don. Detail-wise, he's the man in all respects.

10/9/03 - Free Press Kicks of Call Congress Campaign [link to this story]

With reports of the FCC veto effort stalling on Capitol Hill, the lobbying begins again in earnest. These shenanigans often take place as correspondence between congresscritters; one can often gauge the level of political support certain bills have by the number of signatures on a letter of support for it circulating the House or Senate.

Such a letter is now making its way around the House, which is where much of the resistance to this particular media reform campaign is coming from. Free Press continues to gather signatures on its petition to Congress, but now they'd like folks to pick up the phones. Why? Bob McChesney sez because it's quick, painless and may actually do some good (and the record so far is no small feat):

"If your Representative hasn't signed it, please call them and ask him/her to do so. Over 120 (out of 435) have signed already. Instructions are provided."

10/8/03 - Szoka's Screwing Continues; Miscellaneous Self-Props [link to this story]

Jerry Szoka, former proprietor of Cleveland's popular Grid Radio, was socked with an $11,000 fine more than six years ago, and the government came collecting in February. Szoka doesn't have that kind of cash and has been trying to appeal the collection. He was supposed to have a hearing yesterday but the judge cancelled it and entered a judgment for the FCC: "They said they tried to contact me but didn't have my home number...A complete travesty of justice."

Szoka will attempt to continue to the appeals process, but without a lawyer (or the funds to hire one) the outlook remains grim.

On the home front, expect less activity here for the next month or so, many things are cooking with more details to follow. It'll be more like one or two updates a week instead of three or four, although updates to the Schnazz and Truthful Translations gallery will continue as usual. If you missed last week's Schnazz there was this ditty published in the Denver Westword which gives a pretty comprehensive overview of LPFM. I play the pessimist in the story (a role I know well).

Those who would like to complain and are in the Chicago area can do so on Friday, October 17, when I'll be in town for a conference on labor and the media. There should be a feisty panel on Friday night with workshops to follow on Saturday.

10/4/03 - Media Reform Conference Will Let Journalists In For Free [link to this story]

Another member of Thursday's panel on campus was Free Press co-founder John Nichols. After finishing up with Kevin Klose I pigeonholed him as well, wondering what the f*ck the deal was with possibly charging journalists to attend the National Conference on Media Reform.

Nichols did not know this, and did not believe it. Of course journalists would not be required to pay for entry. He said they will not make distinctions between news organizations, either - the New York Times and Indymedia will get equal treatment, although there is concern lots of folks may show up and claim to be IMC reporters just for a free pass.

The house is guaranteed to be far from empty: at least 500 people have registered for the conference so far (which at $75-175 each makes for an excellent debut) and more are signing on every day. The momentum with which things are growing seems to have swamped the organizing staff, leading to disconnects between stuff like what the web site says and what the real deal is.

Nichols also believes combining activism with reform is the way to go. Hopefully this gets reflected at the shindig itself.

10/2/03 - Smokin' Klose: NPR Prez in Madison [link to this story]

National Public Radio President/CEO Kevin Klose was on the UW-Madison campus this morning as a guest of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He appeared on a panel at a public forum on "Accuracy, Fairness, and Balance" with regard to NPR's coverage of the U.S. escapade in Iraq.

Klose didn't say anything terribly remarkable about the practice of journalism and NPR's role in truth-telling. He compared trying to cover the fighting in Iraq with "circling an intersection at a fender-bender" with the hope of reconstructing what actually happened. But Klose did exhort the undergraduates to stay engaged in the democratic process, and as journalists-to-be they should always strive to maximize the diversity of voices given play in the media.

Klose makes trips like these quite often. For the head of NPR, he's a pretty accessible guy.

When Klose stopped into Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in March 2001 to visit the public radio and TV stations there - just a couple of months after NPR and the National Association of Broadcasters teamed up to neuter a new low power FM (LPFM) radio service via an act of Congress - Mediageek's Paul Riismandel took the opportunity to quiz Klose during the taping of a public TV program on his opposition to LPFM. After the taping, Klose tracked Paul down to explain that he wasn't really anti-LPFM: he was simply concerned about interference to NPR stations, espcially to those FM affiliates that run reading services for the blind on subcarrier channels.

A little over two months ago a Congressionally-mandated report on LPFM completely exposed the fallacies of these interference concerns, so I decided to pull a Mediageek and needle Klose publicly on LPFM.

The entire feature follows here.

10/1/03 - Free Press Not So Free: Journalists Must Pay to Cover Media Reform Conference [link to this story]

This disheartening link hit the inbox recently: it takes you to a page on the press credentialing process for the Free Press National Conference on Media Reform, which takes place next month here in Madison.

This conference promises to be quite a newsmaker, with a star-studded lineup of left-leaning notables, FCC Commissioners and a gaggle of Congressfolk gathered all in one place talking national strategy on media reform. Symbolically, it's a big step forward for the fledgling movement around media democracy which has been growing steadily over the last five years or so. It will be a Big Deal, and something you'd think Free Press would want coverage on.

The entry fee - for journalists - is $175. A "student/low income" rate of $75 is also available. These are the same rates all attendees must pay. This is for the privilege of covering a conference on media reform, involving the core of America's progressive populace.

This is actually the most deflating development of several since conference planning began earlier this year. Madison has quite an activist contingent, and a vibrant alternative media scene, and at one point there were local folks here actively involved in the conference organizing process.

From what I can piece together, sometime over the summer Free Press hired a couple of "professional" non-governmental organizing types, who apparently know squat about media issues. From that point forward, most of the local help (both paid and volunteer) were cut out of the process. I have no idea whether or not Free Press co-founders Bob McChesney and John Nichols know this is happening; I have the utmost respect for both of them and have a hard time believing they would approve of the hired help's latest move.

On balance, while the conference had always been planned to be a more wonkish than activist affair (and a fundraiser for Free Press, natch), the way it's coming together is disappointing, at least for those of us here in Madison who were excited about having this happen in our own backyard. At one point, the site advertised a conference panel on "Indymedia as a policy issue," which would probably be even more interesting if there were some Indymedia folks there (beyond the couple of IMCstas who regularly navigate these circles already).

I know of at least one IMC-Madison reporter who had planned to attend but now cannot, as the $75 cover charge is a bit steep for a few interviews, and he lives mere blocks from the conference center. This same person tried repeatedly to volunteer for conference tasks and was first stonewalled, then rejected for "not having compatible interests" with the conference organizers.

I'm holding out hope that all of this is a big misunderstanding, and when the Free Press conference actually happens it will be quite enlightening and energizing. That is, if I can somehow finagle free admission.