President Obama recently nominated Tom Wheeler as the new Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the federal agency tasked with protecting the public interest in broadcasting, particularly over our public airwaves.
One of the first questions Wheeler's FCC will have to (reluctantly?) decide: Is Talk Radio the same as "bonafide news"?
More than three quarters of the American public say no, according to Pew Research, and one would think an agency sworn to protect the public interest and its airwaves would agree with that vast majority. But will Wheeler choose to put the public interest first, or will his FCC continue to simply turn a blind eye, as the agency has done since the Reagan administration?
After what we documented last year in Wisconsin, and after official complaints were filed in turn with the FCC about how corporate radio stations there appear to have abused their licensed privilege to broadcast over our public airwaves, that question may finally have to be answered by the federal agency tasked with enforcing the law over those very airwaves...
It's a beautiful and maddening film, featuring many voices --- such as Julian Assange, John Nichols, Dan Rather, Amy Goodman, Robert Parry, Robert McChesney, Dan Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds and many more, including even yours truly --- who will be familiar to readers of The BRAD BLOG. While aspects of a number of the stories told in the film may be familiar, there were elements that even I hadn't heard about it, in just about every one of them.
I had planned to ask Tremblay about his struggles finding commercial theatrical distribution for the film in the U.S. I'd presumed that, at least, would be next to impossible, given the subject matter of the film (the corporate takeover/merger of the near-entirety of our mainstream media in collusion with the highest levels of the U.S. government.) What I hadn't counted on --- what caught me completely off-guard --- was that Tremblay said that, while the film has been featured at prestigious film festivals around the world, the bulk of the major festivals in the U.S. had turned the film down. Yes, those supposedly "independent" film festivals are, apparently, not quite as independent as they used to be, it seems.
Our conversation, today, was the first, as I understand it, that Tremblay has been able to have in the U.S. media about this important film which has been several years in the making. (I was interviewed for the film about three years ago as I recall.)
The good news: We were able to talk about all of that today, unencumbered by any corporate filter and over our public airwaves on Pacifica Radio in L.A. (and over 110,000 blazing FM watts across much of Southern and Central California!)
The even better news: You can watch the film, in its entirety, streaming on the Internet as of tomorrow, Thursday, April 4 at Shadows.KCETlink.org. (You can watch a number of clips from the film there already.)
And, the even better news still: Shadows of Liberty will air on actual television, beginning Friday, April 5th at 8pm ET and PT on independent KCET in Los Angeles and nationwide on Link TV (DISH Channel 9410, DIRECTTV Channel 375).
Until then, you can listen to my conversation with Tremblay from today's BradCast, which includes a number of clips from the film --- along with a few more items of note in the news week (such as concerns about the 100% unverifiable voting systems set for use in the race of Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, in her run for the U.S. House in S. Carolina against former Gov. Mark Sanford; the Virginia GOP voter registration worker who was caught tossing registration forms into a dumpster just before the Presidential Election last year, but who seems to now be getting off the hook, and, of course, a visit from our own Desi Doyen, as usual, with the latest Green News Report) --- all right now here.
P.S. Please be the media and spread the word. Thanks. P.P.S. If I haven't "sold" you enough on the film here and in the radio show above, see the official trailer embedded below. Those of you who know my voice will recognize it a few times...
I am extremely proud that The BRAD BLOG is now a part of Pacifica Radio's nearly 65-year legacy, as highlighted in the new, very cool video above.
My own show, The BradCast, airs on Pacifica's Los Angeles affiliate, KPFK 90.7 FM on Wednesdays at 3pm PT, and it's an honor that our broadcasts are now part of Pacifica's long and crucial legacy of broadcasting in the public interest over our public airwaves.
While both Brad Friedman and Sue Wilson have written in detail here at The BRAD BLOG about the recent closure of progressive talk radio stations in cities such as Portland and Seattle, along with the FCC's failure to enforce the public interest obligations of the conglomerates that own those stations, there's an interesting development on the other side of the dial, at least in Boston, where the demise of right-wing talk radio --- in a region where the format once dominated --- hints at a downward spiral for a key element of the conservative entertainment complex.
The latest sign of right-wing radio's malaise may be seen in the apparent demise of Boston's WTKK-FM.
Friedman and Wilson have shown conclusively that good progressive radio is not being allowed to succeed --- that the national corporate interests of these large media conglomerates (just as predicted by some media observers decades ago, following the passage of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996) are being placed ahead of the local public interest obligations which broadcast licensees are required to meet in exchange for their use of our public airwaves.
With the challenges now being faced by good progressive talkers facing obstacles stacked against their success, is there anything wrong with enjoying the spectacle of seeing bad right-wing radio fail, as appears to be the case in Boston at year's end?...
[Now UPDATED below with tonight's audio archives.]
It's our final night this week of guest hosting for the nationally-syndicated Mike Malloy Show. Mike will be back LIVE on Monday! (A grateful nation rejoices.)
For the last time this week, we'll again be BradCasting LIVE from 9pm-Mid ET (6p-9p PT), coast-to-coast and around the globe from L.A.'s KTLK am1150 in beautiful downtown Burbank. Join us by tuning in, chatting in, Tweeting in and calling in! Our LIVE chat room will be up and rolling right here at The BRAD BLOG, as usual, while we are on the air. Please stop by and join the fun while you're listening! (The Chat Room will open, at the bottom of this item, a few minutes before airtime, see down below, just above "Comments" section.)
PLUS! Much more, including whatever it is that you and/or I might be thankful for this time of year, and as many of your calls as we can possibly get to over your public airwaves at 877-520-1150 and your tweets to @TheBradBlog!...
The Mike Malloy Show is nationally syndicated on air affiliates across the country and on SiriusXM Ch. 127. You may also listen online to the free LIVE audio stream at our Sante Fe affiliate KTRC 1260, or our Minnesota affiliate KTNF 950 (tell them you're from "Minnesota" when asked). Also, you should be able to listen live at WhiteRose Society if the radio gods are with us.
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POST-SHOW UPDATE: Thanks to all our listeners, callers and chatters for a great Thanksgiving week filling in for Mike and Kathy. My thanks, especially, to them! The ad-free audio archives from tonight's show are now posted below (along with the chat room archives). Enjoy 'em all over the holidays and have a great Thanksgiving....until we meet here again...
On Friday, as the news was breaking, and even as the unannounced flip was occurring before it had otherwise been planned, I detailed the outrage of Bain Capital-owned Clear Channel killing KPOJ, the only commercial Progressive talk radio station in Portland, one of the nation's most progressive cities, while leaving their two "competing" Clear Channel-owned Rightwing stations in the same market intact.
They flipped the station, one of the first and most successful Progressive talk stations in the nation, over to the Fox Sports format, which, I have since learned, is also syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio, further underscoring the unenforced anti-trust issues that seem to be in violation of, among other things, the 1948 U.S. v. Paramount Supreme Court decision I also briefly discussed in my Friday night coverage.
In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Paramount Pictures was in violation of anti-trust laws because it was unfairly leveraging its chain of movie theaters around the country to keep films made by competing movie studios from being exhibited. The vertical integration, controlling both the production and means of distribution, was the very definition of a monopoly. In this case, as I've argued, Clear Channel is using the very limited public airwaves broadcast licenses that it receives for free from the government --- in exchange, supposedly, for serving in the public interest --- in order to push its own Premiere syndicated programming, even when other, non-Clear Channel owned shows and formats both garner higher ratings and, arguable, are far more in the public's interest than a third sports talk station in the very same market.
More to the point, as I have noted many times in the past, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed companies like Clear Channel and a handful of other mega-corporations to buy up control of licensing rights to theoretically "competing" stations in the same market --- Clear Channel, for example, owns both the Rightwing and Progressive talk radio stations in many major markets --- assures that there is no real free-market competition in the Talk Radio business. While Rightwing talk radio is allowed to propagandize over our public airwaves in favor of supposed "free-market" competition, there is no such free-market competition in the talk radio business itself. The game is as rigged as it would be if Coca-Cola had the sole distribution rights to both Coke and Pepsi in the same major market.
Shortly after running my piece on Friday, I was informed by someone inside the business, in a very good position to know, that "the Seattle station is next." They were referring to Seattle, Washington's KPTK am1090 Progressive Talk station, owned by CBS-Viacom. On Monday morning, Stephanie Miller, whose very successful show is heard on that station, and many others, along with appearing on Current TV, told listeners the same thing, that the progressive Seattle talk station, in another very progressive market (in a state that just approved the recreational use of marijuana, for chrissakes) was expected to flip to the newly introduces CBS Sports format on January 1...
[UPDATE: As of 6:00pm PT, the KPOJ website has now flipped to "Fox Sports AM 620 Portland".]
This is horrible. Tonight, without warning, Clear Channel Communications-owned 620 AM KPOJ in Portland, Oregon, one of the most progressive cities in one of the nation's most progressive states, has flipped from its years-long progressive news and talk format over to Fox Sports as of 5:30pm local time.
KPOJ was the only commercial progressive talk radio station in Portland. The city will still have several other Rightwing talk radio stations, including one owned by Clear Channel, and they already have two sports stations, but the Bain Capital-owned media conglomerate is now killing yet another progressive voice from our publicly-owned airwaves.
The BRAD BLOG can now confirm that KPOJ has flipped its programming format and website to Fox Sports as of 6:00pm PT tonight.
When one company owns "competing" talk radio stations in the same town, and gets to decide which one enjoys a stronger signal and which one receives promotional dollars (and which one doesn't), "competition" in the market place is a mirage. It's the equivalent of a Coca-Cola distributor owning the sole rights to distribute both Coke and Pepsi in the same town. Which one do you think is going to sell better there? That's precisely what talk radio is like in almost every major market in the country now. One company, usually Clear Channel, generally owns both the "Right" and "Left" talk stations. (In Portland, Clear Channel owns Rightwing talk outlet KEX as well as KPOJ.) Promoting one station would likely decrease listeners and ratings --- and, thus, ad dollars --- for the other. Thus, there is no "free market" competition in talk radio.
This is hardly the first time that Clear Channel has done the same thing, in very progressive cities, underscoring yet again that there is no real, "free market" competition in talk radio over our publicly-owned airwaves. The market place is decidedly rigged...
The New York Times is reporting, and the campaign of Green Party Presidential nominee Jill Stein is confirming, that Google TV Ads is lifting its block on an ad for Stein featuring a partially bleeped "obscenity".
Google TV Ads, which, according to the Times, "fills advertising slots for television stations", had "initially rejected the commercial...citing the use of 'inappropriate language'".
"Never mind that these ads already comply with F.C.C. regulations regarding appropriate content," the Green Party had argued, "what Google does not seem to understand is that federal law prohibits broadcasters from censoring ads submitted by candidates for public office."
The Times reports that Ben Manski, Stein's campaign manager, explained that the "ad was primarily intended to be shown on cable and satellite channels, like MSNBC and Comedy Central, which, like the Internet, are not subject to government regulation of objectionable language in the way that words and images broadcast over the airwaves still are."
Here is the shocking ad. Be sure to remove all young children, or the faint of heart, from the room before hitting the play button...
In the meantime, there continues to be no prohibition against blatant lies being told in campaign ads by Presidential candidates or any others. Go figure.
[Now UPDATED with tonight's audio archives below!]
It's our penultimate (second to last!) day in our latest week-long sting filling to guest host the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show, as Mike and Kathy enjoy a much-deserved vacation. So we're making noise again tonight over your public airwaves, on the Internet (streaming links below) and on SiriusXM ch. 127!
Once again, we'll be BradCasting, LIVE from 9pm-Mid ET (6p-9p PT), coast-to-coast and around the globe from L.A.'s KTLK am1150 in beautiful downtown Burbank. Join us by tuning in, chatting in, Tweeting in and calling in! Our LIVE chat room will be up and rolling right here at The BRAD BLOG, as usual, while we are on the air. Please stop by and join the fun while you're listening! (The Chat Room will open at the bottom of this item a few minutes before airtime, see down below, just above "Comments" section.)
POST-SHOW UPDATE: A surprisingly fun show tonight. Surprising (and fun) to me, at least. Hopefully you'll agree! The audio archives are all now posted below --- and ad-free, because we love you! Enjoy 'em, or your money back!...
Whatever questions remain about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recall election, there is no question that his campaign was built on big money, the likes of which we've never seen in a gubernatorial campaign before. And where did all that money go? Right into thin air - OUR air.
And as owners of the air - our public airwaves, to be precise - there is plenty we can do to combat the corrosive effect of big money on our elections, by holding our partners in broadcasting, local TV and radio stations, accountable to the communities they serve.
Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions, is the reason huge amounts of money poured into the Walker camp from third parties like the billionaire Koch Brothers and others, (compared to the relatively paltry sum given to his opponent Mayor Tom Barrett by unions and others.)
Focus will turn to the unprecedented amount of dark money raised and spent in the election, with Walker's campaign raising at least $30.5 million (a majority of it coming from out of state) to Barrett's $3.9 million. That, of course, is just the money raised by the two campaigns themselves. It doesn't take into affect the extraordinary amount of money spent by outside groups on behalf of the candidates, largely in support of Walker by a reportedly outsized ratio of 25 to 1.
So the Walker recall gave us the first glimpse at how the infamous Supreme Court ruling will affect campaigns for years to come unless something changes. . There is a large and growing movement now from organizations such as Move to Amend, to amend the Constitution to help put the brakes on the unlimited spending allowed by Citizens United. Such an effort, however, will take years to accomplish, if it ever happens at all.
But what's not being talked about is where most of this unrestricted money goes: about half of all campaign dollars go directly into your local radio and TV stations' wallets --- local broadcast stations which get licensed in the public/private partnership of broadcasting ONLY IF they "serve the public convenience, interest, and necessity."
As to the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has also ruled, in Red Lion v. FCC that "it is the right of the viewing and listening public, and not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."
Nonetheless, until Citizens United is changed or overridden in some fashion, things are only going to get worse --- unless we the people do something about it now with a few, still-unused tools that remain at our disposal...
Anyone remember a time when radio seemed friendly and informative, rather than hostile and manipulative?
I do. And I remember when it changed in 1996, after Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act into law, and suddenly, huge corporations like Clear Channel began using our public airwaves --- those scarce radio frequencies which are owned by us ALL --- as a hammer to pummel Clinton and all other Democrats.
I've been working to correct the problem ever since 1998. I've advocated rewriting the Telecommunications Act, made the film Broadcast Blues to educate people about the problem, founded the Media Action Center to get local groups communicating with their local broadcasters, filed petitions to deny stations' licenses, and more.
But now, I believe I have found the legal means to put Talk Radio on trial at the FCC --- and perhaps eventually at the Supreme Court --- and, ironically enough, we just may have embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to thank for it...
Progressive radio will be allowed to remain on our public AM airwaves in San Francisco, though with major schedule shake-ups, the removal of its popular progressive branding and several bizarre additions to the line-up, including far Rightwing extremists such as former Fox "News" phenom Glenn Beck in the place of what had been one of Green960's most popular morning shows.
The latest move in the strange back-and-forth saga follows on radio giant Clear Channel's announcement just over two weeks ago, that Green960 --- the only AM Progressive Talk Radio station on the dial in San Francisco, one of the nation's most progressive cities --- would be banished from the popular public airwaves and sent to the radio-ghetto of the little-known and even lesser-received HD2 band. Its progressive programming --- featuring the likes of popular lefty-ish talkers such as Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, Norman Goldman and Mike Malloy --- would be replaced (with the exception of Rhodes, who is syndicated by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio) by yet another so-called "conservative" talk station, featuring extremists such as Beck and other Fox "News" regulars.
The move by the media conglomerate, now owned by leading GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, LLC, was to occur on January 3. The move would have left Rhodes as the only progressive voice on the entire AM dial in San Francisco, as of the first business day of the new Presidential Election year.
But a funny thing happened on the way to 2012 on Bay Area talk radio...
[UPDATE 12/21/11: Confirmation that Clear Channel will keep most of its progressive programming on the AM airwaves in San Francisco --- though with some bizarre changes --- is now detailed here...]
The only progressive AM talk radio station, Green960, in one of the nation's most progressive cities, San Francisco, may be allowed to stay on the public airwaves after all in the 2012 Presidential Election year!
Last week we detailed corporate radio giant Clear Channel's plans to remove Green960 (call letters KKGN) from the AM dial and send it to the radio ghetto otherwise known as "HD2," a band that requires a special receiver that very few people actually own. Adding insult to injury, the 960 spot on the AM dial would be replaced with Glenn Beck and other Rightwing talkers from Clear Channel's "conservative" talk station "Fox News Radio KNEW" which is currently on 910, but would move to the 960 frequency.
In the 910 slot, Clear Channel had planned to launch a new talk station, which would also include some Fox talkers, branded as "San Francisco's Talk 910 KKSF."
If plans move ahead as previously announced, the end result would be that --- except for progressive talker Randi Rhodes, who is syndicated by Clear Channel's syndication arm Premier Broadcasting and who would be allowed to keep her live Noon-3p PT slot on both the new KNEW 960, as well as the "HD2" schedule where the current Green960 line-up would be sent to --- there would be no progressive AM talk station on the air in San Francisco.
The entire shuffle was set to occur at the beginning of the 2012 Presidential Election year on January 3rd, a move that had raised at least a few eyebrows, as Clear Channel is now owned by the Mitt Romney-founded venture capital firm, Bain Capital LLC.
Well, now that entire plan, according to one industry website and several insider sources I've spoken to today, may be on hold and Green960's popular line-up of progressive talkers like Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Norman Goldman, Mike Malloy (for whom I am a regular guest-host, including on tonight's show), and others may be allowed to stay on the AM air after all!...
[UPDATE 12/16/11: Clear Channel may now be re-thinking their plans to dump Green960! Details now here...]
The only progressive AM radio talk station, Green960-KKGN, in one of the nation's most liberal cities, San Francisco, is being taken off the AM dial by radio behemoth Clear Channel Communications, Inc. --- a media conglomerate now owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, LLC --- at the beginning of the 2012 Presidential election year.
Adding insult to injury for progressives in the Bay Area, the 960 slot on the dial is being replaced by Clear Channel with the likes of Glenn Beck, Fox News Radio's John Gibson and other radical Rightwing talkers, according to a press release [PDF] issued by the media giant last week, touting, in somewhat Orwellian terms, their "goal of expanding talk radio in San Francisco."
"We saw the opportunity to expand our footprint in this crucial arena as we head into an election year and a population increasingly engaged in local, state, and national events and activism," says Clear Channel's San Francisco Director of Operations Don Parker in the release.
The expansion will amount to moving Green960's current schedule of progressive talk shows off the AM band, and on to FM's HD2 radio ghetto where it will become a largely automated "robo-station," according to several radio insiders familiar with the station and Clear Channel's plans for it. The station which was formerly Green960 will have the catchy new name "FM Progressive Talk 103.7-2" at its new home, if listeners can find it.
The new Rightwing format taking its place on 960 will be known as KNEW, which is currently at 910 on the AM dial featuring a number of Fox News Radio programs. The 910 position will then be filled with a new talk format being developed by Clear Channel called "San Francisco's Talk 910 KKSF," which will also include some Fox News Radio veterans.
One bright side for progressives in San Francisco, the popular Randi Rhodes, who is syndicated nationally by Premiere (Clear Channel's syndication arm) will continue in her current live Noon to 3p PT slot on the new KNEW-960. She'll also remain in the same live slot in the progressive line up on the HD2 band, though few are likely to hear her there, as very few Americans actually own an HD radio receiver.
Rhodes tells The BRAD BLOG there could be a potential upside to the format change which will leave her progressive voice, as well as Bill Press' in the pre-dawn hours, sprinkled in among the far Rightwingers.
"I never want to see Progressive voices lose ground, but hopefully we can build on the new HD channel," Rhodes told us via email on Friday. "It does look like the beginning of the end of 'conservative format purity' has started. That's a change in the industry that I've been fighting for for a long time and I'm happy to be part of it."...
In apparent response to GOP leaders of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee who requested in June that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Julius Genachowski "strike the Fairness Doctrine from the agency's rulebook," the former corporate media executive has announced exactly that today, striking the rule, and 82 others, from the official FCC rulebook...