A New Day?

Is the FCC showing signs of intelligent life now? Don’t bet on it, though this post on the site Broadcast Law blog — entitled “FCC Commissioner Copps Calls For Stricter Broadcast Station License Renewal Standards — Could It Happen?” — is rife with possibilities:

In his address . . . given to the Columbia University School of Journalism, [FCC Commissioner] Copps specifically suggested a “Public Value Test” for broadcasters when they file their license renewals. If the broadcaster passes the test, the broadcaster would get a renewal. If the broadcaster did not pass — if it does not show that it has “earned” the right to “use the people’s airways” — then the licensee would get a one year probation period to prove that it should keep its license. If it does not improve, then the license would be taken and given to “someone who will use it to serve the public interest.”

Of course, that depends on the definition of “serving the public interest.” Perhaps this is a question best addressed to the solons of public radio. Commercial radio, with its conglomerated monotony, may already be too far gone. But does the “public interest” in public radio include a simpering sycophancy to Arbitron numbers, with an eye to presenting the most popular music possible to listeners? Is that their mission?

Some of the thoughts from the commish on what should be checked:

  • Enhanced Disclosure — requiring broadcasters to provide more information about their programming performance, on the Internet, as the Commissioner believes that information in the public file is “laughable,” and also requiring that the FCC review that information at renewal time
  • Reflecting Diversity — looking to increase the gender, ethnic and racial ownership of broadcast stations
  • Community Discovery — requiring that broadcasters be required to, in some formal way, communicate with their communities to determine local programming needs and the interests of various groups within a station’s community
  • Local and independent programming — requiring that broadcasters provide more local and independent programming instead of “homogenized music and entertainment from huge conglomerates — the Commissioner suggesting 25% of local programming being dedicated to local and independent programs.

Whoa. Dude. That’s communism, isn’t it? “Homogenized music” is public-radio bean-counter Valhalla, the altar at which they worship. And “disclosure”? How about some financial disclosure? As the “What Can I Do?” link on the left notes, public radio stations receiving taxpayer money should be required by law to completely disclose their finances — no more hiding mismanagement behind parochial statute.

And as long as we’re talking about taxpayer money, what about the $50 million that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has poured into local stations as a down payment on HD radio — a sham pseudo-science controlled by iBiquity, a monopoly interest, and boosted by major consolidators in radio. At no other time in history have the public airwaves been offered up for sole proprietorship. NPR itself is complicit in gaining its acceptance, as noted here, for the intended result of marketing its canned programs.

HD radio’s effect on low-power stations and analogue radio in general has been well chronicled in these pages. And as Mr. Copps himself admitted, “Everybody involved pretty much admitted from the outset that the digital radio initiative is all about giving the broadcast industry more avenues to make money rather than actually improving radio from the perspective of the listener.”

So has the commish turned into the great crusader all of a sudden? Or has he, in face of a greater power in the hallowed halls of the Columbia University School of Journalism, undergone some sort of death-bed conversion? If we’re going down that road, there’s much more to the question than just the pop pap purveyed by radio — public or otherwise. And as the post’s author, David Oxenford, takes great pains to note, chances of any of this happening (in an FCC that’s served loyally as an industry lapdog) are slim and none. And Slim just rode outa town.

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3 Responses

  1. “NPR’s war on Low Power FM”

    “NPR opposes proposals to strengthen rules allowing LPFMs to obtain channel interference waivers when an encroaching full power station arrives on the scene. And the broadcaster decidedly dislikes measures that would require new full power signals to offer technical and even financial help to an LPFM that they’ve suddenly squatted on (or squatted next to). This is a serious issue, because over the last decade the NPR service has expanded from 635 to 800 affiliated stations. Public radio’s stance on this puts it at odds with practically every media reform group in the country.”

    http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/04/nprs-war-on-low-power-fm-the-laws-of-physics-vs-politics.ars

    You’ve got that exactly right. Also, the IBOC monster helps NPR and Big Group radio stations destroy their smaller, adjacent-channel community radio stations. I’ll never in a lifetime donate to NPR.

  2. NPR has been made into a monster. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. NPR was originally created with a mission to bring radio to rural towns that didn’t have a big enough audience to support commercial radio stations, or maybe in major metropolitan markets to support niche music. NPR has mutated into a godzilla type media corp that destroys other stations with smaller audiences to satisfy its own appetite for growth.

  3. “Are HD radio stations serving the public interest?”

    “The FCC has essentially handed over this additional spectrum to incumbent broadcasters without thinking seriously about the long-term implications of this transition, how it related to media ownership in local markets and its bearing on the Commission’s public interest obligations. FMC proposes an HD radio playlist analysis project during which a researcher would examine HD radio programming, and determine whether programming is increasing diversity, or addressing local issues or community interests.”

    http://mediaresearchhub.ssrc.org/grants/default-research-bounties/are-hd-radio-stations-serving-the-public-interest

    It appears that HD Radio stations have always been exempt from serving the Public Interest, as it has been exempt from causing massive interference, too. Even the RIAA pointed out to Congress that major radio stations are not serving their local communities, and run some clusters unmanned with voice-tracking. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if HD Radio stations finally have to put major investments into their HD channels, to which virtually no one is listening. More money down the toilet – LOL!

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