You Will Be Assimilated

John Anderson, in his excellent DIYmedia.net blog, blasted the FCC and its toothless-watchdog enforcement policies vis-à-vis radio industry goliaths in this post yesterday:

Unholy Alliance
Clear Channel is the nation’s largest commercial radio broadcaster. Educational Media Foundation is one of the nation’s largest religious radio broadcasters. Both companies have an affinity for FM translators — and now, they’re working together for mutual enrichment at the expense of others on the dial.

EMF operates the K-LOVE and AIR-1 Christian music networks. It owns several hundred FM translators around the country; during the Great Translator Invasion of 2003, when more than 13,000 new translator applications were filed, EMF tendered paperwork for 875 new translators.

Clear Channel owns more than 700 full-power radio stations, and over the last few years it has also acquired or leased FM translators to rebroadcast some of its “beleaguered” AM stations as well as to simulcast otherwise-unheard HD Radio programming in analog form.

Clear Channel has already demonstrated that it does not seem to care what harm its hunger for translators may cause. In New York City, for example, the company worked with an independent translator-owner and the FCC to get the translator moved into Manhattan so it could broadcast a country HD-2 stream as if it was a stand-alone station.

This did not sit will with a full-power country music broadcaster in New Jersey, who discovered that the translator interfered with its coverage of the New York metropolitan area. After complaining to regulators about the problem, the translator was forced to power down.

Now, Clear Channel and EMF have entered into agreements in several states whereby CC leases EMF translators for rebroadcasting purposes. Clear Channel gets additional radio outlets out of the deal through which it can broadcast AM and HD programming without needing to pay for the maintenance of additional transmission infrastructure. Such stations also don’t count against local radio station ownership caps.

EMF gets rent money, as well as access to CC’s HD subchannel programming, which “lets it more efficiently feed some translators.”

In Texas, this “partnership” is causing interference to an LPFM station. EMF used similarly fancy footwork to move one of its translators to a prime spot in the capital city of Austin. Clear Channel has since leased this translator to rebroadcast one of its AM stations in the market.

Down the road is the town of Dripping Springs, home to a KDRP, a vibrant LPFM station. KDRP and EMF’s translator are on the same frequency – and ever since the translator was moved into Austin, it’s caused co-channel interference to the LPFM outlet.

KDRP is not taking the situation lightly: it’s filed a complaint with the FCC about the interference. While EMF has expressed concern over the allegation, Clear Channel is less conciliatory. “This is much ado about nothing,” the company said. “Simply stated, KDRP-LP is seeking to claim rights to coverage which is outside their FCC protected area.” This is an excuse KDRP flatly rejects.

It is ironic that an FM translator owned by a religious broadcaster is now being used to air sports-talk which is supported by commercials for “natural male enhancement” products and strip clubs. Although this disjuncture is curious, the real issue at hand is that commercial and religious radio behemoths are cornering the market on FM spectrum in a manner that detrimentally affects independent and community radio broadcasters.

Over the last 20 years, the FCC’s FM translator rules have been warped so badly that such stations are no longer used as a secondary service. The agency could proactively address this problem by restricting the use of translators in a manner more closely aligned with the original intent of the service. Unfortunately, it would seem that the FCC’s not really concerned with making any fundamental reforms to radio broadcast policy. As a result, practices such as the EMF/CC unholy alliance are likely to continue, and expand.

So now you have an unholy alliance between two of the behemoths of radio — religion and Cheap Channel. And with the FCC turning a blind eye to the latest encroachment, it seems too coincidental, as it also is the answer to Bob Struble’s most fervent prayers. In a recent column, the iBiquity honcho, presiding over the decade-long debacle of HD radio, has sounded a bit desperate in his attempts to rouse flagging interest in his monopoly “service.” Surely there must be some way radio’s suckers — errr, owners (including, unfortunately, a whole shitload of public radio stations) — can monetize this turkey. Nobody is listening to HD so no business will advertise on it.

As correspondent Jack pointed out in reference to this post, “Clear Channel and EMF have translator deals in more and more markets,” on Tom Taylor’s radio newsletter:

[T]he only value of Iniquity’s flawed “HD” technology to commercial broadcasters is allowing them to use the subs as “primary stations” for translators when, in fact, they aren’t really stations at all… It just a ruse to get around the per-market ownership caps!

It also gives us a good indication that outfits like the preposterously misnamed “Educational Media Foundation” are nonprofit in name only. Those “Christian” broadcasters are really just running a business, and their primary business is fleecing the flock. But they also wheel and deal, sometimes trafficking in stations and/or translators in ways that would have induced the FCC to lift their licenses back in the days when that agency still had some teeth (or some integrity).

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Don’t Give Up the Fight


“The problems today are not the the evil actions of the bad people, but the
appalling silence and inaction of the good people. ”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Three Primary Decision Makers Most Responsible for the Fate of WRVU:

The Bad People:
Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC),

The Good People:
Vanderbilt University Chancellor and Board of Trust and,
WPLN – the agency that is in agreement to purchase WRVU.

Vanderbilt/WPLN: Void the Sale of WRVU

Despite the shameless public wide-eyed hand-wringing from, Mark Wollaeger and Chris Carroll – the primary people who pushed for the WRVU license sale on behalf of Vanderbilt Student Communications – we here suspected that these two ‘adults’, of what is supposed to be a student run organization, were advancing a sale deal behind closed doors. Recent revelations of the timing of events have confirmed this to indeed to be the case.

The recent hateful result – the pawning off of WRVU for cash – is simply one that we now have come to expect to come out of an organization lead by Mark Wollaeger and Chris Carroll. What remains the most galling, is the silence and inaction of the good – Vanderbilt University and its Board of Trust, for passively letting these two ‘adult’ fools unilaterally attempt to destroy a much revered and storied student-run organization despite the mountains of protestations from all corners.

As you are well aware, all reasonable appeals to The VSC ended up falling on deaf ears. Efforts are to be directed to the other two players: Vanderbilt University (via Chancellor and Board of Trust) and WPLN.

Even though the criminal poaching of WRVU by Wollaeger and Carroll of the VSC has been public for several months, there has been a conspicuous silence from The Chancellor and the Board of Trust of Vanderbilt University. Unless they are outrageously incompetent, they are fully aware of the shameful deeds exacted by recent actions of the VSC. In many ways, Vanderbilt’s cowardly non-stance is almost more disappointing as the appalling treatment of WRVU by the VSC. As such, pressure must be applied to Vanderbilt to step up, and do the right thing – get WRVU back to the students, where it belongs.

HERE ARE THREE OPTIONS TO APPLY RIGHT NOW!
WRITE/CALL CHANCELLOR ZEPPOS and VANDERBILT BOARD OF TRUST!

See an actual recent excellent example of a letter written to Chancellor Zeppos below.

Hello,

I would like to officially state that based on how the university has
handled the closing of 91.1, I have NO intention of ever donating to
Vanderbilt again. I think the actions of the VSC were completely
counter to the educational mission of the institution and served to
disenfranchise students, who should be learning to develop an
autonomous voice. I also think that Chancellor Zeppos’ refusal to
admit that the actions of the VSC were a Vanderbilt issue was
completely disingenuous and again completely counter to setting an
example for how young adults should conduct themselves.

Sincerely,

Click HERE to get started on where to direct your own letter/email.

COPY YOUR LETTER/EMAIL TO USA NEWS AND WORLD REPORT!

Copy your letter to US News and World Report to show the College Ranking report that Vanderbilt is forfeiting a key student benefit that should be taken into consideration in its formulation of rankings. (Note: Most of the ranked peers of Vanderbilt have the sense to maintain their student-run radio stations.)

PLEDGE NOTHING!

*Go to Pledge Nothing Web Site.

Are you looking for an excuse to not feel compelled to donate to Vanderbilt University or to WPLN? Here is your excuse. Both institutions, normally worthy of giving, are complicit in the current attempted destruction of WRVU

. Don’t give them money and tell them why you will continue not to give them money until they right this wrong – Pledge Nothing.

Clear Channel Christianity

Forwarded as a Public Service of Austin Airwaves

God likes Natural Male Enhancement?

Listeners in Austin, TX who tune to 103.1 FM are in for a bit of a surprise. The FCC records show that a translator is on that frequency belonging to Educational Media Foundation (EMF), the California-based mega-ministry that operates the “K-Love” and “Air 1” radio networks on hundreds of full power FM radio stations and FM translators nationwide. However, on 103.1 in Austin, listeners do not hear inspiring Christian contemporary music or the reading of scripture. Instead, they hear promotions for gentlemen’s clubs and “natural male enhancement”.

Due to the recent rule changes that allow AM radio stations to be carried on FM translators, EMF is seizing the opportunity by entering into an agreement with commercial mega-broadcaster Clear Channel to carry the signal of AM 1300 KVET, an all-sports format on FM using the facility on 103.1 FM.

This is upsetting the residents in a nearby community who listen to low power radio station, KDRP-LP.

Just to the west of Austin in the small town of Dripping Springs, there is KDRP-LP, a full service LPFM station for the community of Dripping Springs. This is your typical LPFM station that features local community events, high school sports, church services and some of the local talent from former college station formats. This is what a local radio station should be about. KDRP also operates on 103.1 FM.

After two facility moves, allowed under loopholes in the FCC regulations, EMF’s translator in San Marcos was able to move to a prime location in Austin. As a result, KDRP is receiving substantial co-channel interference from the translator. This was upsetting KDRP’s listeners who were thinking that their small town community station is now promoting strip clubs. KDRP experienced a substantial loss in listenership and donations.

EMF’s translator in question, K276EL was applied for during the Great Translator Invasion of 2003, a filing window for new FM Translator construction permits that was marred by excessive speculative filing by two co-owned mega-ministries who at the time, had no full power FM broadcast holdings. The behavior of these speculative filers is being addressed in a current rulemaking docket before the Federal Communications Commission.

The translator was originally filed for in San Marcos, TX, a suburb nearly halfway between Austin and San Antonio and was approved in 2004. On June 14, 2011, EMF received approval to move the translator further north to Mountain City, an area located halfway between San Marcos and Austin. Then just over two weeks later, the FCC approved another move for this translator to a location in the hills just west of Austin. These changes were made using the FCC’s “minor change” application process, a process where broadcasters can make certain types of changes to their facilities without waiting for a major filing window including shorter distance facility moves.

In a recent case in Florida, Broadcast Towers, Inc., was sanctioned by the FCC for taking an FM translator facility that was licensed during the Great Translator Invasion and through multiple minor change applications moved the translator from a point just north of the Florida Keys to a location just outside of Miami Beach. The FCC and Broadcast Towers reached a consent decree in this case where the licensee would divest of their Florida licenses. The case in Florida was much more egregious than what EMF is doing in Austin but they are using similar loopholes in the rules to move their station.

KDRP started to experience the interference when the translator was moved to Mountain City. A story about the situation was carried on Austin NBC affiliate KXAN. Shortly afterwards, K276EL was taken off the air and then moved to their current site in Austin where the interference continues.

According to the story on KXAN, both EMF and Clear Channel is suggesting that KDRP have listeners tune to a translator on 100.1 FM instead of 103.1 FM. In a press release on June 29, Clear Channel stated:

This is much ado about nothing. As KDRP-LP well knows, the translator is in complete compliance with the FCC’s rules which were established specifically to eliminate these kinds of disputes. Simply stated, KDRP-LP is seeking to claim rights to coverage which is outside of their FCC protected area. Moreover, their listeners in our protected area can simply re-tune their radios to 101.1 [ed: should be 100.1] to hear KDRP.

The 100.1 they are referring to is K261DW in nearby Henly. This translator is owned by Rio Bravo Entertainment, Inc., a third party who is not affiliated with KDRP-LP but who has agreed to carry KDRP programming. Because the translator is now owned by KDRP, the translator is through an agreement with Rio Bravo. In fact, LPFM stations are not allowed to own their own translators. Addressing Clear Channel’s press release, KDRP’s general manager Ryan Schuh told KXAN-TV, “Our signal, the one that we own and must protect is the 103.1. That’s our bread and butter; that’s what makes the community tune in.”

Despite media coverage, the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s response to this issue has not been very supportive. Going to Congress and the Senate may be the only possibility for KDRP-LP. Schuh told REC, “We still have hope the folks at EMF will do the right thing and either move their dial position, give us one of their frequencies, or turn it off completely.”

In 2003, REC Networks exposed the filing abuses that took place by speculative filers during the Auction 83 FM Translator filing window, which we coined “The Great Translator Invasion”. Abuses during this filing window have resulted in over a million dollars in transferred un-built construction permits, all handed out to these mega-ministries and other speculators free of charge by the FCC. In a recent letter from REC to Senators McCain and Cantwell, the primary sponsors of the Local Community Radio Act, we explained the abuses by the mega-ministries in station ownership and the practices of trafficking construction permits for profit.

In a statement, REC Networks’ Michi Eyre questions the ethics of EMF in this transaction to allow KVET to be rebroadcasted over one of their translators:

These Christian organizations continue to preach the immorality of abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex and contraception, yet that doctrine seems to get thrown out the window when it involves making a quick buck. In 2003, we saw a number of supposed Christian ministries violating “thou shalt not steal” [in reference to the trafficking and profiting from unbuilt construction permits given to them free of charge by the government] and in 2011, we are seeing EMF violating many things that Christianity is supposed to stand for, or at least in the eyes of the mega-ministries. I wonder how the underwriters of K-Love and Air 1 would feel knowing that their funding for Christian radio is being mixed in with what some may refer to as ‘dirty money’?

REC is continuing to follow the situation at KDRP-LP and we are engaging our allies to provide as much support and assistance possible. KDRP has told REC that they are planning more awareness events in the future. REC is asking the entire LPFM and media justice community to join KDRP in their fight against encroachment and encourage the FCC to strengthen up enforcement of interference between the secondary band users. We must also prevent further AM expansion to the FM band to assure that these channels remain available for new local secular and faith based voices.

EMF has proven in Austin that money speaks louder than doctrine and these mega-ministries will stop at nothing, including violating their own morals to profit from the public broadcast spectrum.

KDRP’s website is at: http://kdrplive.org

Some material for this article can be attributed to KXAN-TV: http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/small-town-radio-station-fights-back

This article released under Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0.

REC Media Contact: Michi Eyre 415 407-6221.

Austin Chronicle’s website is at: http://www.austinchronicle.com/
http://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2011-07-15/radio-snack/

Can You Hear Me Now?

On the Audizine website, this damning exchange about HD radio just about says it all. With word of mouth like this, who needs enemies?

pcblion: Just picked up my 2011 S4 about a week ago and today I started having a problem with my radio and I was wondering if there are any others out there that have had this problem in the past. When I change radio stations to a station that broadcasts in HD, the music plays for about 5 seconds then fades out. I have no problem playing non-HD stations, and I haven’t tried XM stations yet to see if they are still working. I don’t think it is a reception issue because I haven’t had any problems for the past week in the areas that I drive and the music plays perfectly clear for those 5 seconds until it fades out. I dug through the MMI menus for a while to see if I may have accidentally set some sort of preview mode, but I haven’t found anything. Just wondering if anyone has had this issue or knows of a fix before I take it back to the dealership to troubleshoot. Thanks.

KZ: I experienced the exact same phenomenon in our family’s 2011 S4. I am a hopeless audiophile and I noticed it immediately. It drives me crazy. The car is my mother’s daily driver and I just haven’t had time to take it to the service center yet. This is my first experience with HD radio, surely it can’t just nominally suck this bad?! If you find anything out or get useful info form service people, please pass it on! I will do the same.

goony: The HD radio has $hitty reception; especially when listening to an HD channel. Some have likened it to losing cell phone reception and then picking up the next tower. This is a huge disappointment with this vehicle and I tend to listen to the Sirius because of it……..but perhaps that’s the plan to keep the subscriptions active. My previos car’s non HD stereo had much stronger sound than the B&O. In short, HD sucks! P.S. – I brought this up to my SM and he was unaware of any issues and found no TSB’s addressing it.

dr bryan: HD radio in my area sounds like crap, too, but that’s because it’s broadcast in such a low bitrate… Just like Satellite, they cut the bitrate so they can broadcast more channels on the same bandwidth. Just go in to MMI and turn off the HD radio and it will do only FM. You will lose the extra stations but most of those are crap where I’m from.

qtrocar: I’m having a problem which might be the same, but at a minimum, it is similar. The problem that I’m having is that while listening to HD Radio, the voice becomes strained, and it takes on a synthetic, almost electronic quality for a few seconds, and then the normal voice and normal tone return. Just as goony said, I also brought this up to my service advisor, and they did not know of the problem, and did not know of a fix.

zerinA4: It isn’t just your car, but a problem with HD radio as a whole. I’m in and out of a new car just about every week and EVERY single car I’ve tested with HD radio from VW to BMW to Jaguar has this issue.

Word that new red whiz-bang HD radio has hit . . . errr, plopped . . . on the market had them hooting on the Radio-info.com discussion board:

Savage: RHOADS RIDES AGAIN! MIGHTY-RED PERPETRATOR CALLS FOR HD “RE-LAUNCH”

Eric Rhoads, who graced us with direct sales of an Insignia portable knockoff sprayed red and dubbed “Mighty Red,” wants everyone to line up for a repeat fleecing by HD Radio. In an e-mail blast titled “Let’s Re-Launch HD Radio,” Rhoads opines that all we have to do is call HD something else/different and append the superlative “NEW!!!” to it — then — just like THAT! Radio will presumably have a cool new success to crow about!

Shocked ABSOLUTELY!!  GREAT freakin’ idea, Eric!!!

We can cross-market HD in all kinds of categories!! Think of HD, factory-standard in your new Segway scooter — sold nationwide at every neighborhood Bricklin-Yugo dealership!! HD can be part of an interior-appointment package including little cupholder trays for Olestra potato chips and New Coke!  HD branding can be applied to a whole new line of fanny-packs and cellphone holsters, etc. It’ll be like the return of…..DISCO!!!

Ahem….  Roll Eyes

“With all due respect…..” Meaning, not much — this is the kind of “thinking” that put the radio industry into a seven-year jackpot, doing such productive things as HD Radio and blowing millions on a paranoid lawsuit over satellite radio. “Re-launch HD Radio?” I see. Let’s try once again to foist an unparalleled market failure on the public and try to sell the idea that THIS time, it’s somehow different. “We just didn’t discover the right lies last time….”

SirRoxalot: How about if everybody turns in their Iniquity licenses and uses the money for better quality programming? We’ve got plenty of radio stations already. We don’t really need more. The analog signal is better than any digital signal. Even AM stereo in the old C-QUAM format was better than The Buzz.

Content is the real issue, not technology. Radio technology has gone backwards in the last decade. Settle on technology supported by the BILLIONS of existing receivers, add modern processing, and spend the money on content. See, isn’t that simple?

Alternating Currents

Do yourself a favor and listen to this
wonderful new podcast series, Alternating
Current
, from Austin.  Plz send them some
encouragement, Friend them on Facebook.

Real good stuff.

“Alternating Currents is a podcast brainchild of
Sara Robberson and Christian Thompson.
[It] is about technology, science, imagination,
and culture. Inspired by public radio. [It] blends oral
history, philosophy, and sound art into addictive
nuggets of entertainment. Stay tuned for stories
about augmented reality, professional gaming,
and easter eggs!”

Austin Airwaves review:
“These two young Austin radio gonna-bes have
put together a wonderful, ear friendly podcast.
Their first effort, featuring a coupla’ my fav0rite
‘radio is still the most important medium’ stories,
is well-woven with ambient sound, solid segues,
and uses of the word ‘cockroach’ in the most flattering
reference.”

College Update

Supporters of student station WRVU  in Nashville, shorn of any input on the stacked VSC governing board, have continued the battle, releasing the following information:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY FRIEND OF WRVU!!!

This time of year is meant to celebrate perhaps the single most important event in world history — the founding of America in its epoch making declaration of independence. One lesson to learn is that it is vital to rise-up against injustice and tyranny, particularly when the affected parties have been given no say in the outcome, or put another way, let’s call the proposed sale of WRVU by the VSC as ‘poaching without representation.’ You are undoubtedly aware by now, the VSC Board, the entity responsible for the horrid decision of establishing the sale agreement with WPLN, has absolutely no members with real WRVU experience. It continues to be shocking that a small cadre of callous fools (or Benedict Arnolds ?!?) can attempt to pawn off an esteemed student-founded and student-operated 60 year institution like WRVU.

As you all have likely heard by now, WRVU has many reasons to celebrate!

First of all, it appears that the sale of WRVU to Nashville Public Radio has a LONG way to go until it becomes final. We know, of course, that WPLN must raise $3.35 million dollars in the next 18 months to purchase the station. Attached is a letter (below) from Joe Helm J.D., former WRVU General Manager, that proves Vanderbilt University is the sole “member” of the VSC. Because the 91.1 FM frequency is “substantially all” of the VSC assets (see Mark Wolleager podcast) the Chancellor or the Board of Trust will be required to sign off on the deal. If they do not, of course, the whole thing is off the table.

See article in Nashville Scene HERE.

So PLEASE keep the pressure on Kirkland Hall! If you haven’t written a letter to the Chancellor yet – GET ON IT! If you have written before, please WRITE AGAIN. Don’t be afraid to let Zeppos know that you are aware of his role in this saga and of his power to bring it to an end. He has been shamefully ignoring Vanderbilt students and alumni who have been pleading for his help since September. It is time he took a stand.

A PRECEDENT HAS ALREADY BEEN SET!

Jennifer Waits of Radio Survivor has recently sent this information regarding WWPV, the student run station belonging to St. Michael’s college:

In March 2007, WWPV attracted local attention when Vermont Public Radio approached the college’s president, Marc vanderHeyden, and the Board of Trustees with an interest in purchasing the frequency to turn it into a 24-hour classical station.[1] After word of this potential sale became public in the Burlington Free Press and the St. Michael’s online magazine, The Echo, SMC students, faculty, and staff rallied against the sale in an effort to preserve the station as a student-run, freeform college station. Numerous letters were written to the Free Press, [2], posters were put up around campus, and a large Facebook group was created to mobilize students. Because of the outcry, vanderHeyden recommended to the board that the station not be sold, effectively ending the possibility of a deal.[3] Vermont Public Radio instead bought 90.9 FM, now known as WOXR, to run the classical format.

IT CAN HAPPEN IN NASHVILLE!
WPLN CAN FIND ANOTHER FREQUENCY FOR THEIR CLASSICAL PROGRAMMING!

WPLN MET WITH BOOS!

According to sources who attended a live recording of the Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me radio show last week at TPAC, Nashville Public Radio President Rob Gordon was booed off stage when he mentioned “our new classical station, WFCL” !!!

Way to Go Nashville!!! Then, apparently, Gordon shrugged and said “”Yeah, well, we’ll see how it goes.” WPLN must not have realized the huge overlap in WRVU and NPR listeners. No one is happy about sacrificing one station to feed the other. Enough public outcry & again, Rob Gordon can bring this shenanigan to an END!

Again, please remind your friends & neighbors to boycott WPLN, WFCL and all their affiliated stations. Until they release our frequency, do your best to screw up WPLN’s Arbitron ratings and their membership drives. Also, please stay vocal on the Nashville Pubic Radio facebook page. Perhaps one day, within the next 18 months, they will wake up and realize that purchasing 91.1 FM is a very bad idea!

SISTER STATION, KUSF, UPDATE!

In other good news, our sister station KUSF is having some success in their struggle as well. The FCC is concerned about the USF/CPRN lease-purchase agreement, which questions many variables including the educational value the new classical format. You are encouraged to read more HERE about the situation via the link below and look for items that sound familiar.

CONTINUE TO SUPPORT WRVU FRIENDS & FAMILY

WRVU Friends & Family has been working with a strong legal team to develop the most effective strategy for getting the station you love back on the air. Those individuals who were once skeptical now believe we have much more than a fighting chance! We welcome your thoughts and comments in the weeks and months to come. As this is likely to be a prolonged battle. To win, we must keep the moral high. Please continue to get the word out that this IS NOT OVER. With your support and encouragement, and that of the Nashville community, WRVU can rise again!!!!! (& just imagine what a story that will be…)

On other fronts, in the continuing struggle to maintain a voice, college radio saw another station fall prey to conglomeration, aided and abetted by the omnipresent Public Radio Capital:.

The $1.1 million sale of Mobile, Alabama’s WHIL (91.3) has closed, and the Tuscaloosa-based University of Alabama has taken the reins at the monster Class C signal. The deal dramatically extends the potential population reach of the Alabama Public Radio, while getting Mobile’s Jesuit-run Spring Hill College out of the radio biz. Spring Hill had worked with a local group to buy WHIL, but when that didn’t happen, the University of Alabama was in line. The March 19 TRI had the story of the deal and now it’s just closed, with Public Radio Capital representing buyer Alabama Public Radio. The AL.com site says the buyer hopes to eventually have a fulltime news reporter to cover Mobile, and it’s meeting with local arts groups. But WHIL’s 22-year-old Radio Reading Service for the blind and visually impaired is apparently now off its subchannel.

letter

Freepress Release

July 7, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

Court Rejects FCC Attempt to Weaken Media Ownership Rules

Free Press hails decision as ‘sweeping victory for the public interest’

PHILADELPHIA – On Thursday , the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued its long-awaited verdict on the Federal Communications Commission’s disputed media ownership rules. The court threw out FCC rules that would have allowed one company to own a newspaper and broadcast stations in the same market and upheld the FCC’s decision to retain its other local broadcast ownership restrictions.  The court also  instructed the FCC to better consider how its rules will affect and can promote ownership by women and people of color.

“Today’s decision is a sweeping victory for the public interest,” said  Corie Wright, policy counsel of Free Press. “In rejecting the arguments of the industry and exposing the FCC’s failures, the court wisely concluded that competition in the  media – not more concentration – will provide Americans with the local news and information they need and want.”

The case, Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, represents the second time the Third Circuit has jettisoned the FCC’s attempt to relax its media ownership rules. The first was in 2004, when the same panel of judges struck down then-Chairman Michael Powell’s attempts to gut media ownership limits.

The current case stems from an FCC decision under then-Chairman Kevin Martin in 2007 to lift the 35-year-old ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership. The FCC action prompted court challenges from public interest groups, including Free Press, seeking to encourage more competition and diversity in the media industry, as well as from big media corporations that wanted all of the media ownerships rules thrown out.

The court vacated the FCC’s decision to relax the ban on common ownership of local broadcast stations and newspaper located in the same market, finding that the Commission’s rule-making procedures were highly irregular and failed to give the public adequate notice and opportunity to weigh in. The court also determined that record evidence supports the FCC’s decision not to relax any of the other media ownership rules.

“Today the court confirmed that the FCC’s media ownership rules are not only constitutional but necessary to preserve competition, as well as to promote diverse sources of news and information for the American people,” said Wright, who argued the case along with Andrew Jay Schwartzman of Media Access Project,on behalf of Prometheus Radio Project, Media Alliance, the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ and Free Press. The Georgetown Institute for Public Representation also provided legal counsel for the public interest groups.

The court blasted the FCC for its repeated failure to consider the impact of its rules on media ownership opportunities for women and people of color.  It took the FCC to task for ignoring Free Press research showing that media concentration makes it harder for new entrants and underrepresented groups to become broadcast media owners.

“Innovative and creative media entrepreneurs deserve the opportunity to serve local communities – but they can’t break through when large corporations have a lockdown on local media markets,” said Wright.

The court’s findings are key as the FCC embarks on yet another review of media ownership limits this summer.  That proceeding, which was supposed to be completed in 2010, has stalled while the FCC awaited the court’s decision.

“Even though the court upheld the need for media ownership limits, industry groups are still pushing the FCC to eliminate them,” Wright said. “It’s not the Commission’s job to protect industry profit margins. The FCC cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence that existing media consolidation levels adversely impact the amount and quality of news from diverse sources.  Instead it should tighten current ownership limits and promote media diversity, localism and competition.”

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