DvG2: KDRP Takes on Clear Channel

It’s springtime in the Texas Hill Country. Bluebonnets are blooming and new-borne critters are rustling through the underbrush. Over in Austin, the South by Southwest festivities are drawing down and the students are coming back from Spring Break. But out in the little community of Dripping Springs, a battle is brewing, a battle over the airwaves themselves.

And it truly does look like a David vs Goliath rematch—a small nonprofit radio station taking on one of the true giants in broadcasting, Clear Channel Communications. According to its website, Clear Channel today reaches over 110 million listeners on over 850 stations nationwide, five of those being in the Austin area itself. They also syndicate 90 programs and services to more than 5,000 station affiliations, as well as owning and operating more that 140 stations in Australia and New Zealand. All in all, last year they boasted of nearly 6 billion dollars in revenue. So with numbers like that the San Antonio-based corporation seems the very epitome of a giant, and as with most giants it’s used to getting its way.

And, for better or worse, KDRP fits into the role of the over-matched underdog all too well. On their website the Mission Statement says, in part:

 The Principle Broadcasting Foundation will primarily offer community, family and spiritual educational programming, community events such as High School Sporting Events from the various surrounding areas will often be broadcast in addition to public awareness programs regarding community issues. Also offered will be music programming, Public Service Announcements, News and Feature Programs that are responsive to the needs and interest of the local community.

And it is the music programming that is drawing a wider audience to the station, mainly due to some savvy decisions by General Manager Ryan Schuh and Operations Manager Denver O’Neal. Last year they added two radio legends to their on-air talent pool—Sammy Allred and Larry Monroe. Both had long careers on larger stations in Austin but had parted ways with their former employers. KDRP realized that both still had loyal followings and returned them to the airwaves last year, Sammy in a familiar early-morning slot and Larry back on in the evenings. And recently the station announced its newest show and host—“290 Radio,” hosted by singer/songwriter Paula Nelson. With its signal reaching through the Hill Country, maybe proud papa Willie can tune her in whenever he’s in town. Or he can always pick it up streaming worldwide.

So, to look at these two entities from afar, it would be hard to imagine that they would ever come into conflict; their goals are just too disparate. Clear Channel is obviously out for maximum profit and clout in the broadcasting world, and KDRP is a nonprofit low-power station set up to broadcast small town community events and Texas-flavored music. Their two paths should never cross. But a battle is in fact brewing and now KDRP is lawyering up.

And the basis for that battle has been building for some time now, going back at least until June of 2011. Much of that was covered at the time, both by our site, here, and by Austin NBC affiliate KXAN reporter Jim Swift, here. In a nutshell, the problem is one that gets down to the very heart of any broadcaster, the sanctity of their signal. Starting in June 2011 KDRP began hearing reports from listeners about strange content coming in, something besides the small-town chat shows and church news they were expecting. Instead it was sports talk radio, along with ads for what many considered unsuitable products—such as adult-oriented businesses and breast augmentation clinics. With these ads sometimes coming in during actual church sermons, it was pretty disturbing for any parishioners tuning in from home.

Most of the background on just how that came to be was covered in depth in the previous articles, but in brief, it turns out that local station KVET, a Clear Channel affliate, had secured antennae space on a tower actually owned by a major religious broadcaster, Educational Media Foundation. And then through some fairly intricate moves between the giants, the EMF tower was moved closer to KDRP’s tower, resulting in two stations now broadcasting on the 103.1 frequency with only 15 miles separating their towers. Now anyone trying to listen to KDRP on their assigned frequency may well get KVET instead. Or, even more frustrating, they will get “drift” between the two and basically keep switching back and forth unexpectedly.

Of course, there is a government agency specifically set up to prevent and handle such disputes, the Federal Communications Commission. But, as with many national agencies, the rules and regulations there can best be described as byzantine. And there is always the suspicion that politics and financial clout is what carries the day at FCC, something that wouldn’t bode well for a tiny entity such as KDRP. Things certainly haven’t gotten off to an auspicious start with the agency. According to a letter recently published on the KDRP website, they first contacted the FCC and the owners of KVET about the alleged interference and were instructed to obtain letters of concern from the public. Those letters were then sent to the FCC, who ordered KVET to investigate. In reply, KVET argued that the letters were mainly written by KDRP underwriters, volunteers, sponsors and other fans and therefore were not legitimate complaints. That seems to be a pretty specious argument, and as the KDRP letter goes on to state :

Apparently the FCC will only accept complaints from passive listeners or complete strangers to KDRP. If so, this raises a question: How would anyone know they are receiving interference to the 103.1 signal if they are not already a fan of KDRP?

How indeed. . . . If the actual listeners being affected are not considered valid complainants, then it is hard to see how any station anywhere could ever make a case for signal interference. Casual or first-time listeners would have no idea that anything was wrong, or know who to file a complaint with if they did. Seems like a bit of pretzel logic, and since KVET refuses to acknowledge the interference or return phone calls, things seem to be heading for litigation.

Of course the FCC could well step in and actually do something to enforce their own guidelines—the guidelines on signal interference are pretty clear. But federal agencies are notoriously slow weighing in on local matters, or at  least they usually are. And that’s where this story takes an unexpected twist. This whole issue first came about when Clear Channel was able to move that transmission tower closer to Austin from another location, and that requires an OK from the FCC. And the usual processing time for such a ruling is generally six to nine months. In this case the FCC expedited the process and approved it in just eight days. This is being viewed by many as a sign that Clear Channel has the inside track at the FCC, and with all of their money and political connections the suspicion doesn’t seem far-fetched.

So now the little station in Dripping Springs is preparing to do battle as the David against the Goliath of Clear Channel, and they’re doing their best to get the word out. As an opening salvo they held a “Free the Airwaves” benefit concert in Austin the same weekend as the SXSW Music Festival. People came to the beautiful oak garden at Hill’s Cafe for a lengthy show that featured such acts as the above-mentioned Paula Nelson as well as Clay McClinton, George Devore and a surprise visit from Waylon Jenning’s son, Shooter, who performed a spirited set. There was also a silent auction and speeches from station personnel and from the attorney who is going to be heading the legal maneuvers to return KDRP’s signal back to its rightful owners and listeners.

There are a lot of changes going on in the radio world right now, and it’s difficult to determine just where this will all end. The FCC is already working on frequency allotments for further LP-FM stations such as KDRP, and there is always concern there about market saturation and diversity with conglomerates such as Clear Channel. As those new frequencies get assigned and the new generation of small stations come on line, there will doubtless be further conflicts between small community stations and the media giants. So perhaps the bellwether for the future may be the fate of this tiny little station out in the Hill Country. The David taking on the Goliath on his own turf, right there at the FCC. As of now it’s impossible to say how David will do in “DvG2,” or how long it might take to resolve. But for the listeners out in the Hill Country tuning in to 103.1, the only mystery for them lies in just what they might hear.

 —Rev Jim

 

 

TROLLS GONE WILD

by savewrvuradio

TROLL IN CHIEF CARROLL LORDS OVER ‘NEW’ WRVU

Chris Carroll, Please Go Away.

As noted earlier, Carroll and the Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) — wholly deprived of representatives of WRVU —continues to have an overbearing role over what is now, in name only, a student run organization.  Carroll has made it a career at Vanderbilt to wrest control of basic responsibilities out of student hands and, now, continues unabated, with a new string shameful deeds as the neutered new Vanderbilt student-run radio station starts its ‘reboot’ semester.  The latest Carroll dictate is making sure that DJs, who rightly aired grievances with the recent deplorable actions of the VSC, and its dishonest handling of the proposed sale of WRVU over the past year,  be subjected to an unprecedented VSC ‘screening’ process.  Troll in chief, Chris Carroll, unsurprisingly is rejecting applications of djs who have not proved sufficiently submissive through the recent Carroll-led attempts at poaching WRVU away from the students to largely pay Carroll and VSC ‘adult’ salary bloat.

A letter the editor from one such victim, a 10+ year WRVU DJ and current Vanderbilt Staff Member as well as the host of a long-running highly popular show wrote the following:

VSC REVOKES VU STAFF MEMBER’S DJ PRIVILEGES

[…]

[…] my application to do a show this fall was rejected by Student Media Adviser Chris Carroll (acting alone). When I discussed this with him, I was told he thought I’d be ‘toxic’ at WRVU because I had often stated publicly that an online-only WRVU would be a poor substitute for an FM station and thus the sale was a bad idea. He claimed I would badmouth the station and poison student morale. (I’m an alumnus and a VU staff member. Before turning in show applications, we’d been told that VU-affiliated non-students’ applications would merely be ‘reviewed’ by VSC and did not need ‘approval.’)

I said that when I decided to do a show again, I determined to do what I could to improve WRVU in its new form. Why would I sign up if I wanted to sabotage WRVU? I promised not to ‘editorialize’ while working, and suggested that at the first questionable syllable they could can me. I pointed out that no WRVU staffer had expressed resentment of my comments — we’d been on the same side. None of this made a difference. I think Carroll just doesn’t want me to have any chance to state my opinions publicly. This seems a clear example of censorship by prior restraint.

It was also clear that Carroll was retaliating against me for opposing VSC.  He claimed that giving me a show would be like
inviting someone to your house for dinner after he had insulted you.

[…]

Carroll said that he would rather run automation, which currently fills much of the schedule, than give a show to someone whom he sees as a potential troublemaker. This was not the will of the station staff. General Manager Robert Ackley enthusiastically invited my continued participation and that of the two other rejectees (for whom I do not speak here, by the way). […]

I believe Student Media Adviser Carroll is imposing his will on the station for reasons of censorship and retaliation (against me in this case). I feel I’ve been wronged, but I write also because I think Carroll is behaving unethically to disempower opposition to the license sale — which by the way is not yet complete — and establish greater control over WRVU. Once again VSC makes clear that the interests of WRVU and its student staff are not a priority.

Does this mean students shouldn’t support WRVU? Of course not. It’s more important now than ever. WRVU is still a golden opportunity for students and a part of Nashville culture, whether on the airwaves or not. Keep your eye out for ways to show your support, and become a DJ yourself — it’s your right as a student, and fun as hell.  This is a crucial moment and you can be a part of it.

Read full letter HERE.

Note that this letter to the editor is posted on InsideVandy also under Carroll’s purview and unsurprisingly, readers have found it difficult to get their responses to show in the comments section. Hmmmmmmmm.

The real shocker is that this Troll overlord is operating unfettered, at the obvious expense of the students, with full complicity with the Vanderbilt administration, who ostensibly should be functioning on behalf of the students and keeping a check on these ‘adult’ trolls gone wild.

ARE THERE BIGGER FORCES AT PLAY?!?

A great in-depth report on the PRC, strip-miner of college radio, can be found HERE in the invaluable blog Keeping the Public in Public Radio. In the article, WRVU’s case is highlighted as being the latest in a string of ‘serial killings’.

A must read: Public Radio Capital: Money From the Sky.

LUV Newsletter on National Propaganda Radio


NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday had the Hoover Institution’s Russell Roberts on to tell us we have to cut Social Security and Medicare to balance the budget.

The Hoover institution, like the other corporate-funded think tanks appearing so often on NPR, the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, etc., are funded to sell out the American  people by presenting plans that always go against the public interest in order to enrich wealthy transnational investors and corporations.  If you listen to NPR throughout the day, you will hear that the rich need more money, transnational corporations must get more tax breaks, and we’ve got to get rid of those nasty regulatory agencies in the government that watch over our banksters, food safety, and the environment.

This morning on NPR, Steve Inskeep railed against “entitlements,” then pushed Barney Frank, who was trying to say we can end the wars and get out of NATO, to agree, but when Frank replied “Wait a minute, you are demonizing entitlements” he was told by Inskeep, “Congressman, I really have to cut you off,” we’re out of time.

Later in another segment Inskeep went to Senator Simpson of the famous Cat Food Commission, who railed against “entitlements” and Inskeep had plenty of time for that.  Inskeep often identifies himself as a “journalist,” while kissing elite butt to hang onto his job.

Inskeep and the other NPR “hosts” will not allow guests to point out that Social Security pays for itself, as Barney Frank was trying to show, or that the real entitlements go to corporate welfare, bankster bailouts, the cheating nuclear mafia etc.— in defense of the American people, the only people living in a major industrialized nation left without a health care plan or a meaningful safety net.

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/

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.”

Radio Lightning Rod

For decades DJ Larry Monroe worked the radio trenches. After starting in radio at age 13, he worked at stations in Indiana, Ann Arbor, Detroit & Austin to name a few. While always receiving high accolades, including a “Keeping the Blues Alive” award in 2002, he was the prime example of a journeyman DJ. He put a lot of personal time & effort into his shows, he communicated with his peers and listeners, and he got along with his bosses as well as most of us.

Then in 2009 there was a sudden and unforeseen change in fortune. On July 2nd, just a couple of hours before the start of his long-running Phil Music Program, he was advised by KUT-FM managers that the show had been canceled, being replaced with a generic AAA format designed to bring in new listeners, whoever those might be. That started a long chain of events, part of which resulted in the formation of this site. Larry hung around another year doing his Blue Monday show, but finally called it quits and retired from KUT in August of 2010.

But after a few months of retirement and working on his archives, Larry found a new home at KDRP-FM, a low-power FM station in the Austin area town of Dripping Springs. And it seemed the perfect match. KDRP management was proud to have such a talent on board and all of Larry’s many fans were thrilled to have his programs back on the air. For those out of the over-the-air signal coverage there was both a streaming feed for the Internet as well as an iPhone app. So when he returned to the air in March of this year, his programs were greeted with much praise and a sense that the little guys had triumphed this time.

But now there is another radio controversy in the Austin area, and once again Larry seems to be right in the thick of things. Thankfully, this time it has nothing to do with him personally. Instead it touches on many of the other things that we have been writing about on this site from the beginning: the greed of radio conglomerates such as Clear Channel, the deleterious effect of HD channels, and the hopelessness of the FCC in enforcing their own mandates.

The reason for this is clear, as in Clear Channel. There was a wonderful piece done on this by local Austin TV station KXAN last week (see story here). What has happened is that small-town station KDRP is being bullied by Clear Channel, by way of another entity, Educational Media Foundation (EMF). EMF is a nationwide Christian broadcasting group that had entered into an agreement with Clear Channel, where Clear Channel was able to lease some antenna space from EMF in exchange for some HD radio signals. Remember HD Radio? If so, you may be the only one, as HD Radio has been a debacle and the idea that the conglomerates are swapping them around is interesting in itself.

Trouble is, even though this was done with an OK from the FCC, you now have two stations broadcasting on 103.1 with only 15 miles separating their towers. And the inevitable loss of signal to low-power KDRP is causing major problems for the little community-based station. A lot of KDRP’s programming is typical small-town stuff — church broadcasts and Little League games, community events. The station bleeding over is KVET, an Austin-based sports and talk station that sometimes airs what KDRP listeners consider questionable content. And since it comes in on KDRP’s frequency, they are blaming KDRP for the problem.

For its part, EMF has been mainly conciliatory. According to the KXAN story, EMF’s vice president for signal development has stated flatly that they understand that they can’t interfere with KDRP’s signal, and that they are willing to work with KDRP to resolve the issue. But the big guns are having none of that. Clear Channel has issued a statement stating that their translator is in compliance with FCC guidelines, and that KDRP is “seeking to claim rights to coverage which is outside their FCC protected area.” KDRP has filed a complaint with the FCC, but considering how the FCC has kowtowed to the likes of Clear Channel in the past, it looks like this David is going to have a tough time up against the Goliath.

And in the meantime KDRP will have to try and hang on to its local listening community. As well as pay what will have to be large legal bills just to try to keep up with the attorneys from a large corporation such as Clear Channel. And all of this is just part and parcel of what this site and others have been trying to say for some years now: Public and community radio is on the ropes right now, and there is just no way of battling huge corporations such as this when they decide to come in and run roughshod over smaller stations. KDRP was filling a much-needed service for the people of Dripping Springs; they have been growing with the community for some time now. And because of that friendly energy they were attracting new listeners, as well as known talents such as KVET alumni Sammy Allred and Larry Monroe. They deserve protection from such predatory tactics, and if the FCC has any teeth (or cojones) left at all, it will prevent further encroachment on KDRP’s signal as well as its coverage area. It’s what the FCC was designed to do; if it is no longer capable then it might as well be disassembled, much as an old transmitter from one of the stations it has failed. Stations such as KDRP need their core local audience. And the radio world in general needs an outlet for such talents as Sammy Allred and Larry Monroe.

Which brings us back to our old Radio Lightning Rod, Larry . . . None of this has anything directly to do with Larry; he is just another volunteer working at a community station in this matter. But in Austin his name still carries clout in the music community. So it’s no real surprise that when KXAN did their piece on the troubles the station itself was having, they also did a side piece on Larry himself. Specifically, they did a piece on his dismal treatment by his former employer, KUT, and how he had come to find a new home with the folks at KDRP. It’s well worth a read (or a viewing, here). It’s a great review of Larry’s radio journey here in Austin, some of the ups & downs. A lot of this has been chronicled here before, but it’s good to hear Larry tell the story in his own words. And a big hats off to Jim Swift and KXAN for allowing Larry the forum to do so.

We’ll try to keep up with this story, because for us at this site it pretty much has everything we’ve been talking about, all wrapped up into one doozie of a local story. And with KXAN’s coverage maybe more people will be waking up to the very real problems in radio today. The citizens of Dripping Springs, TX, probably didn’t know anything about translators, coverage areas, HD radio, or Clear Channel until recently. But when questionable material starts coming out of the radio you thought you were supporting for church coverage, it’s a pretty big wakeup call. Let’s just hope it’s not the beginning of a nightmare.
—Rev Jim

%d bloggers like this: