News Archive: November 2006
11/29/06 - Making Waves, Pirate Radio USA Screening in SF [link to this story]
A unique chance to see the two newest documentaries on U.S. microradio and LPFM, both will be shown this weekend at the 2006 Anti-Corporate Film Festival in San Francisco.
Pirate Radio USA is the last film on opening night, while Making Waves will be shown on Saturday afternoon. Waves producer Michael Lahey will be on hand for a Q-and-A afterward, tag-teaming with San Francisco Liberation Radio's Karoline Hatch.
Both films cover microradio from very different perspectives, so if you can catch both I'd highly recommend doing so.
11/27/06 - Second Recruitment Effort For New Full-Power Community Stations [link to this story]
RadioForPeople has launched in hopes of stirring up interest in building new non-commercial full-power FM stations. Sometime in early 2007 the FCC is supposed to open up a filing window for new station applications - something it hasn't done in years.
RadioForPeople is a coalition consisting of the Prometheus Radio Project, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Pacifica Radio, and Public Radio Capital. A similar project, Common Frequency, was founded half a year ago.
Not quite sure why the two haven't combined forces (there is some overlap between their principals), though RadioForPeople has quickly mustered more institutional horsepower and fiscal resources. Now to find actual applicants for open frequencies in areas where a critical mass of interest can be fostered, otherwise godcasters are likely to get them all.
11/24/06 - News Potpourri [link to this story]
A confluence of busyness this semester has swept aside my site-update time. I'm almost caught up with the major stuff, though the regularity of updates will remain slow for the foreseeable future, and more general site-maintenance is on hiatus. Which is funny, because back when this site actually paid for itself, I only updated it about once a week, though it was a lot smaller lo those nearly ten years ago.
That being said, here's a highlight of things that are now up to speed:
Enforcement action this year continues apace; the stats are somewhat skewed by a growing number of arrests in Florida, three in the last two months. But the state's anti-pirate law has yet to receive its day in court, much less produce a conviction.
The microradio documentary Pirate Radio USA got a good review on Cinematical. I saw a screener version a couple of months ago, but have been waiting to write up my own till I get some clips to publish along with it, like I've done for the others. The producers are great people and tell the story from an honestly first-person perspective.
Friend Peter Brinson just published a great article in The Sociological Quarterly about the modern U.S. microradio movement and its implications in the larger realm of media reform. He's a critically optimistic scholar, nice to have someone at your back.
Search the Center for Public Integrity's Media Tracker by zip code to find out who owns what media where you live. This is a useful tool, and will most likely get useful with the flurry of corporate media sales/transactions underway.
11/17/06 - Mediageek Highlights Oaxaca Crisis [link to this story]
I have been remiss in mentioning this, but last week Paul the Mediageek did a comprehensive show with reporters on the ground in Oaxaca, Mexico, where a teacher's strike started earlier this year has escalated into a full-scale state revolt.
According to Nancy Davies and George Salzman, most of the stations occupied by those in the movement to reclaim Oaxaca for those who live there have been reacquired by the authorities; the university's previously-licensed radio station has been declared a "pirate" and suffers from active jamming.
11/16/06 - Clear Channel: Sold [link to this story]
As a rudimentary reading of the tea leaves has shown, Clear Channel has elected to go private, accepting a buyout offer of nearly $19 billion from two private investment firms. On the same day, Clear Channel announced it would divest its holdings of radio stations outside of the top 100 markets - just under 39% of its total station inventory, minus those small cluster-sales it has already made over the last couple of months.
It's anybody's guess what a leaner, meaner private Clear Channel may mean; regulatory review and approval of the deal will be required. There already may be a shareholder lawsuit in the works, too.
I'm interested in what this means in the context of radio's ongoing digitalization. Clear Channel is a major investor in iBiquity Digital Corporation, which has been actively pushing the rollout of its half-assed technology.
It's almost as if perhaps Clear Channel is shedding its stations in order to focus its digital strategy, in effect abandoning the proliferation of the technology for rural and exurban America. Don't know what this means with regard to actually seeing a bona-fide national rollout in the near future, but it certainly doesn't look hopeful.
11/9/06 - Veronica/NRG Founder Dies [link to this story]
Stephen Moss, founder of NRG Kits and the original creator of the Veronica line of gear, died on October 23rd from complications involving ALS/MND (known in the States as Lou Gehrig's Disease). He was first diagnosed in January, and while the prognosis is usually bleak in these cases the disease progressed unusually fast.
According to correspondence with NRG staff, the business will continue to operate, but some gear will be discontinued - stuff that only Stephen could make. Further details are unknown at this time.
The loss of Stephen Moss is huge for the FM free radio world. Veronica gear was once the gold standard, though what is marketed under that brand name now is not the same quality as what Stephen once made. NRG then assumed that role: price for performance, NRG transmitters were top of the line. I've seen several boxes go through hell and back and perform flawlessly. Let's hope Stephen's legacy lives on in that regard.
11/7/06 - Guy Wire Pimps NAB Translator Invasion [link to this story]
I've long respected the opinion of Guy Wire, the pseudonym for a "veteran radio broadcast engineer" who writes regularly for Radio World, an excellent source of industry news. Hiding behind a pen name has given Guy Wire the balls over time to speak unpopular truths about the radio industry.
Which is why I was somewhat disappointed in his latest column, where he praises the National Association of Broadcasters' plans to flood the FM dial with more translator stations that will do nothing more than simulcast AM radio stations.
Guy paints the plan as prudent, allowing neglected and beleaguered AM broadcasters to finally have "real relief" from increased interference and noise on the AM band. He says AM radio is "under siege," with "far too many marginal stations with dwindling audiences and revenues."
Back in 2000, Guy Wire defended the NAB's fraudulent assertions that dropping hundreds or thousands of LPFM stations onto dials across America would cause oceans of interference; he later backed away from that position, tentatively endorsing the possible expansion of LPFM in a 2004 missive (though it never happened). He's also been quite the apologist for digital ("HD") radio, even in the face of all of its attendant technical problems.
This time around, though, it's the industry ox that's getting gored, so the tune has changed: woe to the poor AM broadcasters whose federally-mandated mode of transmission hasn't aged well in the face of new technology, especially digital radio. And where was Guy Wire when mostly-religious broadcasters mounted their own translator invasion three years ago, whose effects have yet to be fully felt?
Tough sh*t, Guy. As you like to say, radio is a business, and those who invested in lower-power, non clear-channel AM stations are now feeling the pain of "progress." Pain in part due to moves to adopt a digital technology that further marginalized the little guys on the AM dial. That was an industry decision. These are the consequences. The solution is to advocate a wholesale migration of AM stations to the FM band? Sounds like nothing more than another chance for incumbent spectrum-users to stake some new claims on a scarce resource. Unfortunately, that's just business as usual, and I expected better from you.
11/3/06 - Clear Channel: For Sale (and Selling) [link to this story]
Though Clear Channel may possibly be shopping itself around, the Mays family that runs the company sits quite pretty. Should the company be sold and Lowry and his two boys be asked to leave, their golden parachutes call for tens of millions of dollars in stock and cash payments each: even the taxes on that income will be paid for by the company.
There is some evidence that Clear Channel has begun quietly selling off selected properties, specifically involving "support businesses" and clusters of radio stations in smaller markets. This would make sense as the company cleans up its books to position itself in the best light for potential suitors to either take it private or buy it up to sell off piecemeal.
Clear Channel is both best-known and most-hated for its radio business; will a restructured Clear Channel remain so radio-centric? It is heavily invested in the industry's favorite (and flawed) digital radio technology; will whatever comes out the far side of this speculation continue that commitment?
Interestingly enough, one of the financiers mentioned as a player in any future deal, Providence Equity Partners, is the new employer of former FCC Chairman Mikey Powell. Another leveraged buyout specialist also interested in a piece of any Clear Channel action is the Carlyle Group, where Powell's Democratic predecessor, William Kennard, now moves dough.