FCC Fills Out
After months of manipulating him as a political pawn, the Senate finally confirmed Robert McDowell as the 5th and final FCC commissioner. McDowell, a republican, used to work as a telecom lobbyist and helped GWB's presidential campaign in 2000, but we have no idea where he stands on broadcast-related issues. The FCC was left with an empty seat when Michael Powell stepped down early last year, and the addition of McDowell means a full commission with a score of 3-2, favoring republicans. Chairman Martin will use the republican majority to his advantage; he's looking to relax media ownership rules so that one company can own TV stations, a newspaper, and radio stations in the same market, ultimately ending in Total Murdochian Domination. Ok, so I lied about that last part. I think.
Net Neutrality / NSA Dodgeball
Speaking of that scheming Kevin Martin... he was all set to have the FCC play dead on the tiered internet and NSA wire-tapping issues, but oh, those two items became unpopular real quick. Now Martin is getting some heat for trying to brush off the possibility of the FCC investigating the NSA's spying program. By some stroke of luck (Google lobbying dollars?) the net neutrality issue seems to have turned a critical corner, and now both teams in Washington are all for protecting the internet's integrity. (when did you ever think you'd read the words "internet" and "integrity" in the same sentence?)
Indecency Fine Hike Inevitable
During a sparsely-attended evening Senate hearing, Senators Frist (R-TN) and Brownback (R-KS) slid a new version of the Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Act (BDEA) past all remaining vegetables in the room. Now the House and Senate must decide whether 'fuck' is worth $325,000 or $500,000. On a related note, indecency complaints were up again for the first quarter of 2006 thanks to not one, but two, uptight christian groups. The Parents Television Council (PTC) and the American Family Association (AFA) were responsible for the overwhelming majority of the 275,131 complaints received. And this just in, the FCC has denied a reconsideration of CBS's $550,000 fine for the 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction (aka nipplegate), claiming that their definition of indecency is clear-cut (read the order here). Let's hope this move pisses off the networks enough to duke it out in court.
Non-Commercial Frequencies Available
According to our super-secret insider spies, the FCC is planning to open a filing window for new non-commercial educational radio station licenses around the country. This window will only last for 5 days, but the application process requires some time. If you are interested in building a non-religious community radio station in your area, contact Todd at Common Frequency to get more info and experienced help with the application process.
Other broadcast-related headlines from the past month:
- A community college-owned TV station in Orange County may be forced to re-sell its license to a high-bidding religious group instead of a non-profit organization made up of people currently involved with the station.
- A commercial radio station in Boston is attempting a full week of "ad-free" radio... sponsored by a certain beverage company. Guess it'll sound like NPR, eh?
- The RIAA sued XM over a receiver that allows listeners to record its programs, thus engaging the satellite radio company in a copy-protection battle that will be interesting to follow in light of recent issues on the radio-DRM front. Read the letter that XM sent to its subscribers about the suit on this post.
- Arbitron has unleashed a portable music tracking device that catalogs every tune you hear throughout the day and submits the data to a giant evil marketing computer.
- Talk radio great Bob Lassiter signs off.
- WUWU radio personalities dissect the satanic messages backmasked in Led Zeppelin records.
- Third Coast audio fest is seeking contest submissions.