And Then There Were Three?

At the rate of consolidation of the big three — corporate radio, NPR, and religious radio — independent radio may go the way of the eight-track tape. Of what concern is that of ours? Well, do you want to listen to only what music the bean counters deem fit or that “counts” well? News filtered through an organization running scared from right-wing boogie men? Only radio content that’s divined to be “appropriate”? That’s where we’re headed, aided and abetted by our guardians in the FCC (who seem to be willing to go along with whatever the big guys want) and, shudder, what appears more and more to be some sort of agenda of the puppet masters.

The following is a letter posted on Facebook by the hard-working folks in the Save KUSF movement, touching on the loss oa college radio in San Francisco:

My name is Bobby Lee, I’m a graduate of USF, class of 2007. Although my major was Finance, I spent four years volunteering in the Production Department because the idea of radio, audio production and voice-over work absolutely fascinated me. KUSF is important to me not only because of the great experience and training I received, but also because of how it is indicative of the university’s continued effort to terminate programs on-campus that are not in line with Father Privett’s agenda.

KUSF has been one of Fr. Privett’s largest victims thus far and we’re just one organization in a long line of victims that have suffered at the hands of a tone-deaf and insensitive university administration.

Not in a million years could I have imagined that my own Alma Matter could bring upon itself an immense amount of negative publicity by selling KUSF and lead the local prime-time television newscast on three separate days within a one week period. As an alumnus, my role is to take an active interest in helping to develop the university into a world-class educational institution, and more importantly, to ensure that the decisions that are being made on a day-to-day basis by administrators positively influence and shape USF for years to come. I would have expected USF to perform proper due diligence for this sale. Someone in this administration said “there’s a need to sell KUSF, the deal on the table is fair, and it’s in the best interest of the university.”

Whoever that may have been, lied through their teeth. There was absolutely no reason to sell this radio station, contrary to what the administration has said. On top of that, they did not make the best deal financially either. Over the past 10 years, only a handful of radio stations have changed hands in the Bay Area. Every one of those stations fetched $10 million to $40 million. USF accepted a low-ball offer from the University of Southern California for a paltry $3.75 million. But Fr. Privett had the gall to stand up and say to the community that his hand was forced and that it was the best offer. Not only was this not the best offer, it was the only offer. USF wanted to slice-off KUSF from the university’s budget so fast, it didn’t even have time to clean up the blood. And frankly, as we’ve been shouting from the mountain tops for the past month or so, this sale was not in the best interest of USF.

Bottom line, we need to save KUSF not only because it serves as an essential link for the USF and local communities, but also because we need to send Fr. Privett a message that the buck stops here. Not one more organization, not one more group will be ousted because of his failed agenda. Because if we don’t, every single student organization and educational program on campus that’s not in favor with Fr. Privett, is at risk of being shut down.

Bobby Lee

Also posted on the Facebook page is a link to a New York discussion group’s view of the Moment of Silence protest in college radio:

Bill Scheffler: It didn’t get much attention elsewhere, but many college and other non-commercial community radio stations observed a minute of silence at 1-PM EDT today with the hope of increasing public awareness of the value of college radio stations to their local communities.

The demonstration was the result of the recent sale of Rice University’s KTRU, the pending sale of the University of San Francisco’s KUSF-FM and the potential sale of Vanderbilt University’s WRVU.

I just happened to catch the moment of silence on WFMU in East Orange, NJ, which used to belong to Upsala College and was purchased and rescued by its mostly volunteer staff when the well respected liberal arts college closed in the 1990s.

WFMU has continued as a community supported non-commercial station with a free form format since.

In leading into today’s intentional minute of dead air, both the program host and station GM mentioned how free form and traditional student run college format stations are being bought by wealthy religious broadcasters, or being added to NPR affiliate networks essentially as relay stations.

In the New York City area, college and other independent non-commercial stations provide lots of variety on the FM dial that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

WBGO with Jazz, WFUV with AAA, WSOU with Heavy Metal, WFDU, WKCR, WFMU with a variety of musical program types including Jazz, Country, New Age, Asian music and more.

Unfortunately, as you travel around the US you will find areas where the entire non-commercial end of the FM dial has the same one or two programs, either NPR or a local religious network on every available frequency. There is nothing live and local even run by volunteers or college students.

The “Crawdaddy Magazine” link below provides more details on what some college broadcasters are calling a crisis.


The “Liberal” Media

From time to time, we are wont to pontificate about the conservative agitprop concerning the “liberal media” and all the accompanying absurdist proclamations that have led through the years, ultimately, to an emasculated form of “journalism” at best. The following piece by Lisa Pease, entitled “What a ‘Liberal Media’ Might Look Like,” came to us in the LUV newsletter, courtesy of the website. As Jeff Boudreau has discussed with us on occasion, oddly enough there are some major points of agreement between liberalism and Tea Party populism — obscured only by the ranting of corporatist mouthpieces. In truth, in the eyes of an old dog, we are more alike than we are different. The sad truth of the matter is, as Ben Franklin noted, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” We can hope that the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson ring more true in the years to come: “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

The consortiumnews site introduces Lisa’s piece as follows:

Editor’s Note: For decades now, the American Right has pushed the myth that the national U.S. news media is “liberal,” even though the owners are mostly wealthy corporations run by rich executives who generally favor Republicans over Democrats. And that was true even in the days before Fox News and right-wing-dominated talk radio.

Even the limited inroads of liberalism in media have been under pressure in recent days with MSNBC’s ouster of liberal icon Keith Olbermann and AOL’s purchase of HuffingtonPost (raising new questions about Arianna Huffington’s ideological sojourns). However, in this essay, Lisa Pease contrasts what today’s media is versus what a “liberal media” might look like:

The piece itself, in its entirety, spreaks volumes about what “liberal media” would really look like:

I’m surprised that otherwise intelligent people continue to believe the myth that the media is “liberal.” I think it’s worth discussing what a liberal media would look like if we had one, so we can better understand that we don’t have one.

Let’s imagine a fictional cable network called LNN – the Liberal News Network. What might the morning news on such a channel be?

The show might lead with pictures of starving children all over the world, so that while you sat down to breakfast, you’d be reminded of just how lucky you were to have been born in the U.S., and how others are still very much in need.

Viewers would be encouraged to send in at least some of their morning latte money to feed a baby for a week. Each morning, the number of children who had been moved out of poverty would also be shown. If there were truly a liberal media, that number would be growing, daily, by leaps and bounds.

You would see pictures of the war – really horrible, tragic pictures, showing not just death, but the maiming, the suffering, the devastation to innocents we currently think of solely as “collateral damage.” Each day, the grievances of both sides would be fully aired.

We’d hear not only from our own soldiers but from soldiers we were fighting, so we could start to understand why they are fighting back. If we are truly the good guys, there’d be no reason for anyone to oppose us.

A truly liberal media would allow us to hear the other side so we could better understand how our actions are affecting others, and what we could do to improve relations with the ultimate goal of ending all wars.

Truly, fostering better communication skills, deploring greed, and promoting fairness would be keystones of this network.

The commentators would be drawn from not merely all nationalities, but all walks of life. Instead of recycling the same news and intelligence and government figures, commentators would be sought among farm workers and blue-collar workers as well as low-level white-collar workers. The view from the socio-economic top would be balanced by the view from the bottom.

On LNN, union issues would be a regular discussion. Are workers getting a fair shake? Are unions really helping their membership or are they getting too close to management? When do unions go too far?

The ecological “state of the planet” would also be a regular discussion. Audiences would learn the science behind pollution, so that they’d make the link between the chemical elements in the products they buy and the environmental damage caused at every point in the production chain.

Corporations that were finding a way to offset their environmental damage would be recognized as heroes, while those whose policies amounted to a hit-and-run on the environment would be publicly castigated at ever turn.

Truly educational information about child rearing would be offered. Are those soft drinks making your children obese? No amount of advertiser action would stop LNN from exposing such a connection.

Can yelling at your child be a form of abuse? A liberal media would talk about things many people would rather not think about.

A liberal media would not make us feel good all the time, but would poke at us and challenge us to be better parents, better neighbors, better people.

A liberal news channel would have a regular report about working conditions around the world. Would you still buy that piece of clothing if you knew it was sown under essentially slave-labor conditions, sometimes by children working 12 hours a day?

Would you admire China’s economy if you realized its coal-powered growth made it one of the most polluted places in the world? Would you travel to Thailand if you understood how much of the tourist economy depends on sex-slave trafficking dollars?

Or might you spend that money instead on a country that plowed the money received from tourism into a public fund from which all citizens who shared that country could benefit? Would you enjoy flowers sent to you on Valentine’s Day if you found those flowers had been picked by forced labor on farms where women routinely faced sexual harassment?

If we had a liberal media, we’d be hearing about other economic models around the world. When does capitalism work best? Would the answer be like what we hear from CNBC anchors who say capitalism should be unregulated – or “self-regulating” – allowing monopolies to take over, which then can raise prices and strangle our options?

A rising tide won’t lift all boats if it’s only happening in a private pool.

LNN would talk about the difference between labor-based income and non-labor-based income (passive income), and discuss how the upper class has kept the latter from the masses to preserve the power of the rich, and how we need to change that.

There are other models, even within our own country, such as the Alaska Permanent Fund, a fund that allows all citizens of Alaska to receive royalties on the oil recovered from their state.

All products come ultimately from some finite earth resource. Imagine if we all had a share of income generated from the products taken from the ground in our respective countries.

LNN would never shade the truth to further an agenda. The facts would be selective, necessarily, but extraordinary effort would be used to ensure all sides of an issue were fairly presented.

Note that, however, that does not mean all sides would be proportionally presented by certain measures. Although 20 percent of the people control 93 percent of the wealth, it does not follow that they should be allowed to control 93 percent of the media. The other 80 percent deserve a much larger say than they have.

Our fictional liberal network would be absolutely fearless in taking on corruption within our own government. A liberal media would relentlessly ferret out secrets, exposing them unless doing so would genuinely damage more people than would be helped.

Even “taboo” topics with strong factual support, such as the Kennedy assassination and the October Surprise case, would receive a fair hearing, on our mythical LNN.

A liberal media would talk seriously about the very real danger that the use of computers in our elections may be compromising our votes. Without a transparent system, without a way to genuinely audit, by hand and in public, election results, what’s to stop a computer voting manufacturer from building in hidden switches that allow the reprogramming of elections in undetectable ways?

Nothing, as this network would point out to us regularly until people filled the streets in protest, insisting on a change.

A liberal media would even dare to explore all the money in the sporting world and ask, is anyone really worth that many millions? Should there be a cap – or at least a significantly higher marginal tax rate – beyond which some of the money goes back into the communities that have to put up with the traffic, pollution, noise and drunken damage that accompanies such events?

Sure, keep your first $50 million. You worked hard, you risked your life, you earned it. But how much more than that does one ballplayer or owner need? If that cap allowed whole communities to be employed, would that be a worthy trade? A truly liberal media would open such discussions.

A liberal media would ask hard questions of corporations. If the product you create comes from a violence-torn region, where the violence comes over the fight for the minerals you need to make your product, what responsibility should the corporation have for that violence? What should the corporation give back to those areas to end the violence?

A liberal media would be inspiring. Every day, people who fought for justice and won would be highlighted. Legislators who took brave stands that helped the many, rather than the privileged few, would be lauded.

Shareholders who overthrew bad regimes within corporations, ushering in management that was more socially responsible would be featured. Class-action suits won against corporate polluters would be praised.

The values of fairness, equality, freedom of movement and opportunity and – perhaps especially – the freedom to imagine a better, more equitable future – would be the cornerstone of this liberal media network.

A liberal network would not treat opinions as news, nor facts as opinions. Viewers would be educated to quickly recognize the difference. And historical context would be brought into play.

Events from the past would be use to better inform our understanding of present events, because after all, everything is connected. Every event transpires based on what has led up to that point. There is no “spontaneous evolution” at play in world events.

LNN doesn’t exist, of course, and it’s no surprise why. Media depends on advertisers for sustenance. Major media outlets depend on major corporations. Major corporations don’t want you to hear the kind of stories mentioned above because then you might press them to change their ways, cutting into their profits. And that would be bad for business, even if it might be great for the planet.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t find good news on television. CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox, once in a while, produce useful and valuable stories. But not one of them shows you the spectrum of coverage demonstrated here.

There are a lot of points of view you never hear, a lot of stories never attempted. There are many places they dare not go, in their coverage.

There is no liberal network out there. There is no “fair and balanced” network out there, either. They are all unbalanced in favor of the corporate landscape from which their revenues grow.

To join the Liberty Underground news service, email with “join” for a subject. Here you can experience what is in fact “liberal media” — and see some of the best in populist political cartoons, as well.

Union-Busting at ‘GBH

In Massachusetts, the site for Jobs with Justice and one of our sister Facebook sites, Supporters of Folk and Blues on WGBH (here), is passing the word about extraordinary demands management is making of workers — after giving themselves bonuses:

Workers at WGBH, our local public television and radio stations, are fighting for the basic right to have an effective union in their workplace. They are members of AEEF/CWA Local 1300, and have been organized for nearly 40 years. In the past, WGBH has bargained in good faith with their workers. This time, management has brought to the bargaining table a complete rewrite of the contract, demanding that workers give up basic union rights and renegotiate the whole document. WGBH has gone so far as to justify their actions by freezing wages and reducing the benefits of unorganized workers and demanding that organized workers do the same.  When the contract expired, the company took the nuclear option to not extend the contract and discontinue collecting dues. The offer from management is impossible for workers to accept.  Take a minute to let WGBH know that you support the workers!

Click on the link there and you’ll find more information on the attempt to further squeeze employees at ‘GBH:

Take Action for WGBH Workers

The Fight for Fairness at WGBH

Workers at WGBH, our local public television and radio stations, are fighting for the basic right to have an effective union in their workplace. They are members of AEEF/CWA Local 1300, and have been organized for nearly 40 years. In the past, WGBH has bargained in good faith with their workers. This time, management has brought to the bargaining table a complete rewrite of the contract, demanding that workers give up basic union rights and renegotiate the whole document. WGBH has gone so far as to justify their actions by freezing wages and reducing the benefits of unorganized workers and demanding that organized workers do the same.  When the contract expired, the company took the nuclear option to not extend the contract and discontinue collecting dues. The offer from management is impossible for workers to accept. Below is some basic info on the offer.

Management is demanding:

ability to subcontract any and all bargaining unit work

ability for management and unorganized workers to do bargaining unit work

unlimited and unregulated use of unpaid volunteers to do bargaining unit work

ability to assign new work to unit members with no obligation to bargain over the terms (including training and the potential for discipline for poor performance of the new work)

ability to terminate your favorite on-air hosts without cause or due process

new standards for arbitrating the discipline of all union employees that would make it easier for the employer to discipline or discharge those members

new prohibitions on most forms of collective action during term of contract that would silence our voices

to significantly reduce many benefits employees have come to rely on including severance, sick leave, retirement contributions and personal time

employees who are currently above the top of the wage scale won’t get even a modest annual wage increase

What makes matters worse….

In fiscal year 2009, WGBH workers agreed to serious and deep cuts to their wages and benefits, some workers losing more than 30% of their income.

At the same time that workers were taking cuts to help WGBH solve a financial crisis, the heads of WGBH awarded themselves bonuses totaling more than $200,000.

Add your name to the protest on the JWJ site.

The Public Radio

Few posts stir as much interest as those taking NPR itself to task for what public radio is becoming and what changes NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have wrought in the public’s name. Criticism generally falls within — but is not limited to — several general categories.

  • The homogenization of programming content — specifically, the headlong rush to find the music most appealing to the least common denominator in radio listener. Following the dictates of god Arbitron, a shaky system by its own estimation, stations in major markets such as Boston and Austin have abandoned any pretense of exploring the reaches of music to embrace the latest fancy, Triple A radio. This in concert with commercial radio’s similar frantic struggle to reverse heavy losses (and flat growth in public radio), as chronicled herein and elsewhere
  • The profligate squandering of $50 million in public funds dispensed to aid in the proliferation of the junk science HD radio (advanced by its monopoly overlord, iBiquity) — a cause in which NPR Labs played a complicit, and questionable, part (along with industry giants and investors) in gaining government imprimatur. The attendant weight on local budgets in licensing, programming, maintenance, and the like (aside from what had to be discarded to afford the change), with little or no discernible return on investment, redounded only to the ostensible benefit of NPR and its ilk in programs sold to populate the dead air. At the same time, many of our public stations refuse to divulge how they spend public moneys, whether taxpayer dollars or those hustled in semiannual pledge drives.
  • A perceived drift rightward in politics, accompanied by reliance on wisdom gleaned from corporate hegemony and the militarist bent in government — Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex.

Matthew Murrey’s blog NPR Check, here, and his many outside links are a good source for this final point. But also particularly trenchant is his recent post on education, where he states, “In its education coverage, NPR consistently ignores the negative effects of poverty on student outcomes — and instead opts for the corporatist focus on ‘effective teachers,'” as well as his attacks on the “new” methodologies reported as in vogue that similarly discount the socioeconomic effects on education (and that, he says, were in use in 1987 when he was working on a masters in education at the University of Iowa).

As one correspondent points out, these criticisms of public radio are not new, citing this 1992 article, “Why public radio isn’t — and what you can do,” written for Whole Earth Review by Rachel Anne Goodman, which begins with this prescient observation:

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you felt like you were the “public” in public radio? Seldom, you say? Now there’s a new trend that may remove you for good. Once seen as immune to market speculation and rapid swings in format, public radio has gone commercial in its thinking. The programming will soon follow, and the biggest losers in this battle for dollars will be us, the listening audience.

Rachel’s observations 18 years ago have an all too familiar ring to them. How many of them apply to your station today?

It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to find signs of public radio’s current direction. Just take a look at the audience descriptions in this year’s Broadcasting Yearbook. For every one that says “ethnic/cultural” or “diverse,” there are three that read, “target audience: |upwardly mobile, educated youth,’ |upscale, affluent, societally conscious,’ |25-50 urban professionals,’ |educated adults.'”…

There is a new move toward single-format public radio stations. WHYY in Philadelphia used to have news, classical, folk, blues, jazz, and local public-affairs programming. One day the program director called in the on-air volunteers and told them their services would no longer be needed. The station went to an all-news format, relying heavily on satellite feeds from NPR and augmenting it with local news and talk. The trend caught on at KPBS in San Diego, which went all news/talk in winter 1990….

Most public radio stations will defend their narrow programming in terms of the current economy. True, budget crunches on the state level are affecting the university funding that is the life-blood of these public stations. While the economic arguments are real, they are also self-created. Stations have become increasingly autocratic in their staffing, and have enlarged their staffs to accommodate the increased paperwork. They have replaced volunteers with paid announcers, citing the need for “oversight” of air sound. The most popular programs tend to come from NPR or APR (American Public Radio), and are the most expensive….

A critical document came out of NPR in 1986 — the Audience-building Task Force Report. With the goal of doubling public radio’s audience by the year 1990, it advised “professionalizing” the sound by eliminating programs where “each person selects program material on the basis of personal taste.” Commercial audience research from Hagen Media Research in Washington is also being circulated around NPR stations. It reveals that “talent” (read: local-human-being announcer) just isn’t important to listeners….

One public station I worked for told me I couldn’t read a lost-dog announcement that was called in because it made us sound too “provincial.” Soon after, they dropped the bluegrass programming because the rural audience it attracted “wasn’t educated and upscale enough” and didn’t “fit our mission statement.” This station serves a largely rural audience. Public-radio program directors have misread their core audience in much the same way presidential candidates have alienated voters. As with election speeches, during fundraisers they claim to give listeners a voice in programming decisions which does not actually exist. As in our two-party system, listeners must choose from a tiny menu of programs when they vote with their pledge dollars. More “audience research” is being done these days to determine the needs of listeners. However, the Arbitron rating service used by many stations measures the average number of people who listen to existing programs, not audience needs.

All in all, a good read and ominous in its implications for what still lies ahead. There’s also information about how some citizen groups then organized to fight the trend.

What Can I Do?

  • It is categorically wrong for public money to be used to subsidize a monopoly such as iBiquity, proprietary licensor of HD radio. Millions of dollars of funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have been used to promote the spread of HD radio by grants to local public radio stations for conversion to a substandard IBOC system, which not only fails to deliver on claims of superior quality but also interferes with signals from adjacent stations. Even FCC Commissioner Michael Copps 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.”
  • On the local level, funds from local communities are being diverted to bring up and fill additional HD stations with canned product from entities such as NPR, PRI, and the BBC — at the expense of local personalities, shows, and concerns. This group comprises people from five cities so affected, and at least a dozen other cities so afflicted have been identified. Protests by concerned citizens in these locales have either been ignored or given short shrift by those in station management, who often justify themselves using the junk science propagated by the troubled company Arbitron, source of ratings for commercial stations (whose “new, improved” methodology for determining radio audience, the PPM, comes with this disclaimer: “PPM ratings are based on audience estimates and are the opinion of Arbitron and should not be relied on for precise accuracy or precise representativeness of a demographic or radio market”).
  • The business of public radio should, in fact, be the airing of music and other content not heard on a thousand other stations. The looming homogenization of our local public radio is anathema to the very spirit of community-based radio and should not, in any event, be bankrolled by taxpayer money.
  • As NPR has engaged in an questionable alliance with iBiquity solely to shore up its own bottom line — at the expense of local shows, local personalities, and local sensibilities — we ask that the CPB be prohibited from extending any further funds to the advancement of such an extremity. Further, we would request that public radio stations receiving taxpayer money be required by law to completely disclose their finances — to wit, forms 990 to be posted on their websites as they are filed. As a great majority of public stations are affiliated with universities — and therefore may hide behind various state laws — many choose to ignore any kind of public oversight. The Congressional Budget Office might best be able to judge how public money is being used and whether there is any malfeasance involved.

Where does the money come from? Here are the subcommittee members in the two houses of Congress who preside over funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Their email addresses are provided so you might drop them a line and let them know how you feel about this. Feel free to steal any and all of the bullet points above or make up your own.

Here also are links to the House and Senate.

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee:

Chair: David R. Obey (D-WI)

Nita M. Lowey (D-NY)

Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT)

Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL)

Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI)

Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)

Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Michael Honda (D-CA)

Betty McCollum (D-MN)

Tim Ryan (D-OH)

James P. Moran (D-VA)

Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)

Dennis R. Rehberg (R-MT)

Rodney Alexander (R-LA)

Jo Bonner (R-AL)

Tom Cole (R-OK)

Jerry Lewis (R-CA)

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee:

Senator Tom Harkin (Chairman) (D-IA)

Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI)

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA)

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH)

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL)

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)


What follows is a letter emailed to Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on the subcommittee governing the funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Though tailored for the Texas senator, the basic text will also be sent to every senator and congressperson in the subcommittees of the House and Senate, as listed in this category, to the extent that their websites accept messages from people out of their districts. Get involved! Draw freely from this letter and/or the bullet points on the home page and compose your own letter. Send it to everyone you can. Only through action can the word get out — most notably to those in control of the purse strings. And only from a widespread response of this sort can we get the attention of those who could actually do something about this. Actions speak louder than words.

To the Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
Dear Senator Hutchison:

In this time of increasing financial distress, we would submit that the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in its oversight of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is doing a grave disservice to the American taxpayer. The CPB, in its actions, is subsidizing the proliferation of HD radio by bankrolling the sole proprietor of the IBOC technology, iBiquity, wholly to shore up the bottom line of National Public Radio and its partners — at the expense of local jobs, local radio shows, and local interests. Millions of dollars from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have been used to promote the spread of HD radio by grants of from $75,000 to $95,000 to local public radio stations for conversion to a substandard IBOC system, which not only fails to deliver on claims of superior quality but also interferes with signals from existing stations.

These are supposed to be the public airwaves, and for them to be held hostage by a monopoly company — at the behest of a national news organization or of any single interest — is anathema to the original principles of radio. Unfortunately, the FCC has been complicit, as detailed in a Radio World article (which also ties NPR in with some behind-the-scenes dealing) and on a national website ( formed to publicize this travesty. This national website brings together members of five cities so compromised by this action and willing to demonstrate opposition — Boston, Austin, Seattle, Gainesville (FL), and Johnson City (TN). And additional cities, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Nashville, Winston-Salem, Fort Myers, Birmingham, Urbana-Champaign, and Hartford, have so far been identified as also impacted.

On the local level, funds from local donors are being diverted to bring up and fill added HD stations with canned product from entities such as NPR, PRI, and the BBC — to the detriment, once again, of local personalities, shows, and concerns. This, in addition to money channeled at the direction of NPR into increased local news coverage (through its CPB-funded startup of “Project Argo”), part of the company’s solution to sagging revenues over the past decade (chronicled in this examination of the changes at KUT-FM in Austin:

We would urge you to look further into the documentation of these and other pertinent websites, and implore you to enjoin CPB from further subsidization of HD radio and its monopoly overlord. This suspect technology is soaking up tax dollars, causing untold job losses in local economies, and adversely impacting the quality of radio nationwide.

In addition, it is abhorrent in our system of government that some of these public radio stations are allowed to operate in the dark, as independent entities without any public oversight whatsoever. Not only do they receive taxpayer funds in the form of CPB grants; they also solicit tax-exempt pledges from the public during semiannual pledge drives. Yet some of these — including KUT, owned by your own University of Texas — choose to hide behind state law and withhold any substantive information on station finances. In contrast, some like organizations post extensive records (see, for instance, the audit reports available for public viewing at the website for the American Public Media Group, We would request that any public radio stations receiving taxpayer money be required by law to completely disclose their finances — to wit, audit reports to be posted on their websites as completed.

We sincerely hope that you will give thought to this abuse of taxpayer money and the role your committee might play in the redress of these grievances.

Respectfully submitted,

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