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

 

 

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Engineer-Speak for “Dud”

This post, “Radio’s digital dilemma: broadcasting in the 21st century,” on the University of Illinois website, pretty much says it all — Big Money (and NPR) muscled compliant FCC into a system designed to make a few people rich and thwart competition, ends up being trash:

The interaction of policy and technological development in the era of “convergence” is messy and fraught with contradictions. The best expression of this condition is found in the story behind the development and proliferation of digital audio broadcasting (DAB). Radio is the last of the traditional mass media to navigate the convergence phenomenon; convergence itself has an inherently disruptive effect on traditional media forms. However, in the case of radio, this disruption is mostly self-induced through the cultivation of communications policies which thwart innovation. A dramaturgical analysis of digital radio’s technological and policy development reveals that the industry’s preferred mode of navigating the convergence phenomenon is not designed to provide the medium with a realistically useful path into a 21st century convergent media environment. Instead, the diffusion of “HD Radio” is a blocking mechanism proffered to impede new competition in the terrestrial radio space. HD Radio has several critical shortfalls: it causes interference and degradation to existing analog radio signals; does not have the capability to actually advance the utility of radio beyond extant quality/performance metrics; and is a wholly proprietary technology from transmission to reception. Despite substantive evidence in the record clearly warning of HD Radio’s fundamental detriments, the dominant actors in the policy dialogue were able to quell these concerns by dint of their economic might and through intensive backstage discourse directly with the Federal Communications Commission. Since its official proliferation in 2002, HD Radio’s growth has stagnated; some early-adopter stations are actually abandoning the protocol and receiver penetration is abysmal. As a result, the future of HD Radio is quite uncertain. Domestically, the entire process of HD Radio’s regulatory approval can be seen as a capstone in the history of communications regulation which favors neoliberal ideology over empirical engineering data and a vocal public interest. However, the apparent failure of digital radio is not confined to the United States: the dilemma of DAB’s adoptive weakness is a global and technologically agnostic phenomenon. Perhaps this says something about the inherent necessity of digitizing radio, and invites significant confusion over the future identity of “radio” as we know it today. If DAB were to fail, the outcome would invite entirely new ways of thinking about the future of broadcasting in a convergent media environment.

Glenn Greenwald on Real Reporting

What NPR means by “reporting”

A video art work displays Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel  (Credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

It is well worth listening to a 4-minute NPR story from this morning (embedded in linked story) on the grave and growing menace of “state-sponsored Terrorism” from Iran. NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston does what she (and NPR reporters generally) typically do: gathers a couple of current and former government officials (with an agreeable establishment think-tank expert thrown in the mix), uncritically airs what they say, and then repeats it herself. This is what establishment-serving journalists in Washington mean when they boast that they, but not their critics, engage in so-called “real reporting”; it means: calling up Serious People in Washington and uncritically repeating what they say (see here and here for the episode when Temple-Raston voiced that basic claim to me, as she boasted of special knowledge she possessed about Anwar Awlaki’s guilt obtained when unnamed government officials whispered assertions to her in private which she then uncritically repeated: that’s real reporting).

This morning, Temple-Raston began her report by noting — without a molecule of skepticism or challenge — that Iran is accused (by the U.S. government, of course) of trying to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil (a plot traced to “the top ranks of the Iranian government”); there was no mention of the fact that this alleged plot was so ludicrous that it triggered intense mockery in most circles. She then informed us that Iran is also likely responsible for three recent, separate attacks on Israeli officials. These incidents, she and her extremely homogeneous group of experts from official Washington explained, are “red flags” about Iran’s intent to commit Terrorism — red flags consistent, she says, with Iran’s history of state-sponsored Terrorism involving assassinations of opposition leaders in Europe during the 1980s and the 1996 truck bombing of an American military dormitory in Saudi Arabia (note how attacks on purely military targets are “Terrorism” when Iran does it, as are the assassinations of its own citizens on foreign soil who are working for the overthrow of its government; but if you hold your breath waiting for NPR to label as Terrorism the U.S. assassination of its own citizens on foreign soil, or American and Israeli attacks on military targets, you are likely to expire quite quickly). All of this, Temple-Raston announces, shows that Iran is “back on the offensive.”

Iran is on “the offensive.” There is no mention in this NPR story — literally none whatsoever — of the string of serious attacks on Iran, from multiple explosions on their soil to the training and arming of a designated Terror group devoted to its government’s overthrow to the bombardment of its nuclear facilities with sophisticated cyber attacks to the multiple murders of its civilian nuclear scientists. These attacks on Iran — widely reported to be the work of some combination of the U.S. and Israel — literally do not exist in the world that NPR presented. Iran is simply sponsoring and launching “Terror attacks” out of the blue against the U.S. and Israel: presumably because they’re Evil Terrorists. Meanwhile, we learn from Temple-Raston that “what worked so well dismantling Al Qaeda” — like drone attacks [it ‘worked so well’ doing things like this]  – won’t work on this kind of Terrorism.” Fortunately, though, the U.S. has vast powers of eavesdropping and banking surveillance that it can and must use against this “old adversary”: Iran. Imagine Bill Kristol delivering this “report” on Iran and try to identify how it would have been any different.

What’s most amazing about this isn’t just that people like Temple-Raston think that uncritically airing, amplifying and repeating the government-subservient views of a few homogeneous former U.S. officials constitutes “real reporting,” though that is quite remarkable. What’s most amazing is that NPR has an obsession with what it considers “neutral” reporting, and I guarantee you that Temple-Raston’s response to these criticisms would be to insist that she is neither a partisan nor an opinionist, but rather a “straight reporter” who simply presents facts without bias. She would undoubtedly believe that this report to which she just subjected the world — one that is about as one-sided, biased and opinionated as can be: Iran is offensively launching Terrorism at the world and the U.S. must stop it – is a pure example of objective reporting. That’s because “objective reporting” to such people means: endorsing, embracing and bolstering the prevailing views of the U.S. government and official Washington in order to inculcate the citizenry to believe them. Doing that can be called many things: “objective” and “real reporting” are most definitely not among them.

There’s one prime reason why Americans are so uninformed about what their government does in their name around the world (Why do they hate us?). It’s because “news stories” from “even liberal media outlets” like NPR systematically obscure those facts, disseminating pure propaganda from America’s National Security State masquerading as high-minded, Serious news.

 

Love Stinks

I’ve had the blues,
The reds and the pinks
One thing for sure
Love stinks !

—J Geils Band

It’s Valentine’s Day again, that wonderful super sweet holiday designed just for the lover in all of us .The one day of the year dedicated to that most special of all emotions, the one thing that keeps the whole wide world a-turnin’. Yes we’re talking about love. Love, the most elevated and high minded of all emotions, the one sure fire dividing line between us and those lowly animals who will never know the thrill of just sharing space with that one incredible being who lights up your life, opens up your heart and lets the light of the cosmos shine down upon you.

And if you believe all of that then you either haven’t hit puberty yet or you are the most gullible person that Hallmark Cards has ever seen coming down the pike. Love’s a bitch, and a dirty back-stabbing one at that. Pat Benatar once sang that “Love is a Battlefield,”  but that assumes a chance of actually winning somehow. Love isn’t a battlefield, it’s a myth. A rumor, not to be believed. Sure, you hear of people finding their one true love, but you also hear of people being taken up in flying saucers. And I put about the same amount of faith in each. Back in high school I read the book Love Story. The author said that love meant never having to say that you’re sorry. Mainly I was sorry that I had wasted my time reading such a load of crap. If you never want to say you’re sorry then I’d recommend a massive bank account, not true love.

Of course one could say that I’m somewhat cynical. . . . But if so then I’m hardly the only one. Have you ever looked into the content of love songs? For every “Unchained Melody” there are at least two “Heart of Stone”s. For example, a few Valentines ago I was suffering from a major case of lust (not love, sorry) and set out to put together a mix tape of “Love” songs for someone. And I soon discovered it was damn near impossible to put together 20 songs about love without a good percent of them being about the down side of it all. The side that rips the beating heart out of your chest just so you can feel the pain, the part where that bottle of sleeping pills looks more and more delicious by the minute. I finally did get that tape put together and sent it off to the object of my desires and . . . two days later she was back with her ex and I haven’t heard from her since. So maybe the love songs did have an impact, but hardly the one I intended. And that’s love in a nutshell. Just as soon as you believe in it, you can count on it twisting and turning and becoming the one thing you fear the most — love gone away. And that leads to the other love songs, the ones designed to help you deal with the reality, not with the myth.

So a few years ago I was really happy to discover a celebration of those dark, disturbing songs, the ones that outnumber the sappy ones, the ones that would win any election due to sheer numbers  alone. And it’s on February 15th, the day all the sweetness comes crashing down. I was first turned onto this dark celebration by KUT-FM Eklektikos host John Aielli. He dedicates his post-Valentines show every year to love’s bad side, and he starts off every year with the incredible “Love Stinks” by the J Geils Band, maybe the best stinkin’ love song of all. I say maybe the best because once you start digging into them the list is amazingly long, and it just keeps growing. Apparently one of the top growth industries every year is that of heartbreak and disillusionment; new entries just keep coming in. So John’s celebration of the bad side of love always stays fresh, there’s never any shortage of material.

But this year I’ve been worrying if another shortage might hit the Love Stinks celebration — that being a shortage of show host. John Aielli has been hospitalized twice in the past 30 days or so, heart issues of a whole different stripe. The first occurrence was an actual heart attack the night of January 4th, and he was hospitalized and was off the air for a couple of weeks while recovering. He returned for a few days but then on January 30th he had another episode while preparing for his show and was hospitalized again, thankfully returning on February 6th. We here at the site are big fans of John and wish him a full and speedy recovery, as his contributions to the arts here in Austin are immeasurable. John has been with KUT for over 40 years, and his ability to roll with the punches is almost as astounding. I can’t even count how many changes in management he has seen. I’ve always figured that John would weather the current regime as well, and here’s hoping he does. I don’t want to rehash our problems with current management in this piece. I think instead I will just say how happy I am that John is still on the air, and that we hope for more shows like these. I don’t know what Valentines Day would be like for me now without John. Not the stupid Hallmark Holiday on the 14th of course, but that wonderful return to cynical reality the next day. Love Stinks indeed . . .

To salute John this year I’ve put together a top 10 list of my own favorite stinking love songs, with of course “Love Stinks” at the top. But other than that they are in no particular order. So take a look, maybe put your own list together. And then keep them in mind when you’re eyeing that new sweetie, the one you know you could always love all of your life. And then remind yourself that these songs didn’t write themselves — think of them as those warning signs you see around high-voltage wires. Or those labels on pill bottles . . .  Then wise up and remember

LOVE STINKS ! ! !

Here are Rev Jim’s stinking love songs. I hope to hear them time & again forever.

  1. Love Stinks   J. Geils Band
  2. Heart of Stone   Rolling Stones
  3. Heartbreak Hotel   Elvis Presley
  4. Alison   Elvis Costello
  5. It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way   Willie Nelson
  6. Empty Handed Heart   Warren Zevon
  7. Love Has No Pride   Bonnie Raitt
  8. Thin Line Between Love and Hate   The Pretenders
  9. Roses in the Fire   Rosanne Cash
  10. Why D’ya Do It   Marianne Faithful

—Rev Jim  February 2012

NATIONAL PENTAGON RADIO

This morning NPR’s Morning Edition did a piece about an Iraqi woman, described as fiction (so one wonders why this would appear on a “news” program), who says when she saw the American troops coming to invade she “cried tears of joy” (listen here if you want to hear propaganda so extreme that FOX News would reject it).

NPR spread the lies of the Bush regime about weapons of mass destruction to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, and its talking heads, particularly Scott Simon, pushed for war week after week leading up to Shock and Awe.  At the time, we are proud to say, LUV News was reporting facts by the world’s foremost experts on Iraqi weapons saying there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (we also opposed the war beforehand and ran opinion pieces by peace activists who were not allowed into the mass media).

Hopeless propagandists, NPR is still spinning the war, having, as far as we know, never apologized for the lies that resulted in so many deaths, so much destruction, leaving millions still refugees.

Hip Deep in the Big Muddy of HD Radio

A correspondent sent this link along about the latest developments in HD radio, along with a scathing commentary about what this latest insanity portends:

From http://www.radio-info.com/newsletter/html/tri-11302011.html this morning (11/30):

HD RadioImproving HD Radio reception is the goal of an FCC Public Notice on “Asymmetric sideband operations”, and now we’ve got the comment dates. Comments are due by December 19, with reply comments due January 3. This is the story TRI told you about on November 2 – “’Asymmetric’ may not sound sexy, but it might be one key to improving coverage for HD Radio FMs.’ Basically, the Commission says “a significant number of FM stations are precluded from taking advantage of the full 10 dB digital power increase permitted by the order, due to the presence of a nearby station on one but not both of the first first-adjacent channels.” If stations could run an “asymmetrical” signal – stronger on one side – they could raise digital power.

So the Federal Cookie Company is moving ahead with this idiotic idea.  It won’t improve “HD” coverage significantly, but it will increase interference to adjacents, at least on one side of the analog channel.

The “HD” signals are not sidebands in the literal sense of the word. They are two independently generated digital signals, one occupying the closer half of each first-adjacent channel.  And they are not synchronized.  That accounts for both for the excessive time delay imposed on the analog signal, which is necessary to keep it synchronized with the digital output at the receiver, and for the “HD” system’s relative (not absolute) advantage in the face of multiplex under some (not all) conditions.  (The two “HD” signals seldom suffer identical interference, and an “HD” receiver delays the two side-channel signal, picking and choosing whichever parts of each signal seem most intact to reconstruct an undamaged digital stream.)

Of course, that won’t work if one of the two digital side-channel signals is too weak to use!

So where could this increase the coverage range for “HD” FM?  Only on fixed (not mobile) receivers with (presumably) outdoor antennas.  Indoor antennaswould be subject to the effects of people — or pets? — getting too close and interferreing with marginal signals.  So who has that?  How about translators?

I can see no practical purpose (and I use the word “practical” loosely!) for asymmetrical “HD” except to enlarge the area where a network of analog translators could be used to make it possible for a signal from an HD-2 or HD-3 subchannel to reach a real audience.

NPR Plays Lapdog During Occupy Protests

THE EMPIRE ATTACK ON PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

The propagandists of NPR began their Morning Edition program this morning by describing yesterday’s Occupy Wall Street protesters as “mostly peaceful.” This is the way they discredit the movement, by insinuating that one should expect violence from those opposed to corporate greed at any cost. NPR did not notice anything amiss from the police, who they did not describe as “mostly peaceful.”

“Many protesters complained of police brutality,” pointed out al Jazeera, “pointing to one image of a man whose face was bloodied during his arrest and another of a woman who was dragged across the sidewalk by an officer, Reuters news agency reported.

“’They tried to use a lot different tactics against us. They kept putting blockades within the movement to stop people from moving freely. They are almost treating us like cattle instead of human beings,’ said Sergeant Shamar Thomas, a veteran of the Iraq war and a protester.

“Somebody was hit in the head with a baton. It is not that police doesn’t have the right to arrest. It is the excessive force that they use — if you have a man on the ground, why are you hitting him in the head with a baton.”

Police also attacked journalists without NPR noticing, journalists who were trying to report what is really happening around the corporate media propagandists who see the world through the eyes of the ruling Forces of Greed and National Security State.

“Lucy Kafanov, a reporter for the RT television network, said she was hit with a police baton while trying to film the protests. She told another reporter for her network that she had her press credentials clearly visible, but was still struck. She also said that she witnessed another reporter from the IndyMedia network being “slammed against the wall” and arrested.

“It does not seem police are making a distinction between press and protesters,” she said. Other journalists reported similar incidents.

“Saw NYPD hitting a man with a nightstick. Tried to take a picture but police grabbed me and shoved me across the street,” DNAInfo editor Julie Shapiro tweeted. “The NYPD just slammed a barricade into a photographer,” another report read.

“The Daily Caller also said that two of its reporters were ‘assaulted’ with batons.”

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