The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Thursday, December 21, 2000

Giving Community Radio The Corporate Finger

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: As most of us have learned, in this democracy money doesn't talk, it swears. So it's no surprise that, less than a week after W. became the president-elect, a plan by the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) to open the airwaves up for more low-power radio stations is being sabotaged by Congress, according to a report in Tuesday's (December 19, 2000) New York Times. The F.C.C. had planned to issue licenses for over 1000 low-power FM radio stations to community organizations, including schools and churches. But slipped into budget legislation that President Clinton is expected to sign is a new law, the Radio Broadcasting Act of 2000, which essentially lets Congress put the big kibosh on any new licenses. F.C.C. chairman William E. Kennard himself wanted to see more new low-power stations because he believes that the consolidation we've seen in the broadcast industry has led to what the Times characterized as "a sharp decline in the diversity of voices on the airwaves." "This is a resource that everyone has to share," said Kennard, interviewed by the Times. "We can't allow people who have the spectrum to use their political clout to shut out voices that don't have the same clout. This [the new law] highlights the power of incumbency. Companies that have spectrum guard it jealously, and they can use Congress to prevent new voices from having access to the airwaves." This is, of course, business as usual. The airwaves are effectively controlled by huge conglomerates — Chancellor Media Corp., for example, owns nearly 470 commercial radio stations, while Viacom owns something like 150 stations. No matter where you go in this big U. S. of A., you hear many of the same crappy songs on what are essentially clone stations — stations that copy the play lists of similar stations in other regions. Meanwhile, people are desperate for a more diverse offering, which is why Internet radio, delivering myriad genre stations, has quickly become a killer app, attracting millions of listeners. Community stations, which include college stations like San Francisco's KUSF and Berkeley's KALX, provide everything from unconventional philosophical and political perspectives to eclectic, non-mainstream music programming. Find me a commercial station that includes Johnny Cash, Death Cab for Cutie, Gilberto Gil, Deltron 3030 and Radiohead in its play list. If you were listening to KALX, you heard all of those artists during November, as well as Sun Ra, Ryan Adams, PJ Harvey and Tom Ze. The F.C.C. plan would have added many more voices to the mix. You could write your Congressman or -woman and let them know what you'd like them to do. I'd like to think that if the public made some noise, it might make a difference. Perhaps that's just wishful thinking. They're probably too busy bending over before their corporate benefactors to pay us any mind.

Datastream: Another side project from Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard is out of the hangar. The Howling Wolf Orchestra's Speedtraps for the Bee Kingdom is available off the GBV Web site. In addition to Bob Pollard and his brother Jim, this limited-edition album (500 copies) features drummer Jim MacPherson and guitarist Nate Farley. Songs include: "You Learn Something Everyday," "I'm Dirty," "Where Is Out There?" and "Is It Mostly? (it is mostly)."... R.E.M.'s fan club single this year includes a cover of the Beatles' "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," reports SonicNet. ... In case you haven't checked out the excellent film "Billy Elliot," the soundtrack (which totally suits what you see onscreen) includes a number of T. Rex songs — "Bang A Gong (Get It On)," "Cosmic Dancer," "Ride A White Swan" and "Children of the Revolution" — as well as the Clash's "London Calling" and the Jam's "A Town Called Malice."... Note that for the week ending December 6, 2000 the French top 20 included albums by both Johnny Hallyday and Eminem. Go figure.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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