FM Translator Abuse Creates Ownership Loophole

Nearly a year ago it came to light that radio broadcasters were using FM translator stations as a sort of “back door” to provide more exposure for their HD Radio signals.

Ironically, these translators do not broadcast in digital; rather, many HD-capable radio stations are rebroadcasting their digital-only (“multicast”) programming via analog translator as a way to recoup their investment in a technology which has no meaningful audience.

Some radio conglomerates have purchased or signed lease agreements with FM translator owners to create ostensibly “new” stations in markets around the country in this manner. The practice has caused difficulty for independent broadcasters. Read More

Hardening the Oligopoly in Wireless Broadband

Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge has some incredibly insightful analysis on the proposed purchase of T-Mobile by of AT&T.

The $39 billion deal would effectively reduce the number of national wireless broadband service providers to three (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint – and as a Sprint customer, why do I have a feeling this development will f*ck me, too?).

Brodsky’s piece catalogs the immense amount of backstage preparation AT&T accomplished to sow the seeds of government approval for the buyout. However, he also touches on one implication of this deal that deserves more attention: it’s “the one issue that never seems to go away – Net Neutrality.” Read More

Striking Back At The Empire?

From the inestimable Jerry Del Colliano: a former employee of Cumulus Media is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the company (common share stock price as of today: $2.55) alleging several violations of employment law. The suit is in the very preliminary stages now, but if any of Jerry’s other informants inside Cumulus (and other large radio conglomerates) can back up their “believe it or not” horror-stories, the company – and perhaps the entire industry – is in for some serious trouble.

A quick history recap: after the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the radio industry went on a station-buying binge. This led to massively inflated prices for stations across the nation. Flush with cash from investment banks, radio companies bought other radio companies, leading to a situation where less ten major broadcast conglomerates controlled some two-thirds of the industry’s total revenue. Read More

Comcastic Adventures: Coming to Everyone?

It’s difficult, even for me, to wrap my head around the scale and scope of the merger-in-progress between Comcast and NBC/Universal. I’ll leave it to Harold Feld, who comprehensively (and in eminently-readable fashion) analyzes the implications of this deal.

Quoth Feld, “In ideological terms, it is rather like Vatican City joining the Arab League.” Distinctively, it’s the first merger where historical enemies in the Big Media marketplace are now combining. The implications are massive; Comcast’s promises of the merger’s benefits clearly ring hollow. Read More

Microradio: As Pawn and Pain In the Ass

It’s hard to imagine that the FCC in 2007 would end the year with such a thud, but it has. With the promulgation of a rule effectively repealing the ban on newspaper/broadcast station cross-ownership – drafted in the dead of night, formally introduced in a newspaper op-ed, modified without consensus, and approved along partisan lines, with outright disdain for the 99.99% margin of public disapproval of both the practice and policy – Kevin Martin’s FCC has firmly put itself in the political cross-hairs.

A lawsuit to challenge the ruling is in the works, and members of Congress are yelping as their constituents call all pissed off (and rightly so); they’re pondering taking actions ranging from a “resolution of disapproval” of the FCC’s cross-ownership action, to a bill formally repealing the FCC’s decision, to a campaign to scrutinize and overhaul the FCC itself next year. The latter option would definitely be the most interesting to observe – anytime an agency goes into the legislative woodshed for restructuring, it’s going to disrupt business as usual. Regardless, this issue is far from finished, and still has the potential to undertake several dangerous iterations. Read More