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September 22, 2000
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Live Coverage

Check out pictures from the NAB convention


Low-power radio meets high-powered lobby
By Arthur E. Rowse

Rich Media, Poor Democracy
An interview with Robert McChesney
By Daniel Zoll 09.19.00


In this issue

By Tim Redmond

Protest the NAB

The public's airwaves
By Chris Witteman


Radio Rat Poison

The dark side of Disney: nasty, vicious hate radio in one of the nation's most tolerant, progressive markets.
By Daniel Zoll

Savage family values

By Daniel Zoll

Power surge

How the National Association of Broadcasters and government engineer a corporate media wasteland.
By Ben Clarke

NAB moves to kill Low Power FM

By Ben Clarke

Broadcast blackout

How merger mania silenced ethnic radio.
By Andrea Buffa

Future schlock

New radio technologies could democratize the dial. But don't hold your breath.
By A. Clay Thompson

Protest Guide

By Camille T. Taiara

Change the channel

By Genevieve Kramer


Other Resources

The San Francisco IMC has continuing NAB coverage.

Direct action info at Media Alliance

FAIR's page on the NAB

Read the open letter from Janine Jackson, Noam Chomsky and more.

Eight is Enough

By Daniel Zoll

At first, I thought the electronic sign outside San Francisco's Moscone Center was put there by the National Association of Broadcasters to welcome their keynote convention speaker.

"Welcome Colin Powell," flashed the sign. But if you kept watching, that message was followed by "Together We Can Defeat Capitalism."

The gag sign was the brainchild of one of San Francisco's own guerrila agit-prop groups named, appropriately, Together We Can Defeat Capitalism. In fact, the protesters' press conference -- which attracted about 100 people-- outside the National Association of Broadcasters convention Thursday morning was everything corporate radio rubbish is not: diverse, creative, informative and commercial free.

Tuxedo-clad Rob R. Baron of Millionaires for More Media Mergers, told us why media consolidation is important.

"Too many ideas are not only dangerous, they are unproductive and inefficient. That's our motto: 'Two ideas are one too many'".

Baron was accompanied by Lowly Mays, President and CEO of President and Chief Extortion Officer of UnClear Channel Communications (Not to be confused with convention speaker and media mogul Lowry Mays, CEO of Texas-based Clear Channel Communications, the largest owner of radio stations in the U.S.) a member of the National Association of Brainwashers.

"We own a thousand radio stations and we are acquisitin' more as soon as we can get 'em," she said, imitating Mays' Texas drawl.

On a more serious note, Janine Jackson of New York-based Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting explained how the current media structure serves only the interest of the media corporations.

"We've had enough of our public airwaves being served up to corporate interests so that they can enrich their bottom line at the expense of our democracy," said Janine Jackson of New York-based Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

I'm not sure if Colin Powell saw his welcome sign or not, but he certainly made it clear where he stands on the subject in his keynote address. Powell, (who must have stayed up late the night before filling in the word "radio" in the blanks of his keynote speech) about meeting Mikhail Gorbachev toward the end of the Cold War. He said he knew the American system had triumphed the night he saw Gorbachev in a television commercial for pizza hut.

"Is capitalism great, or is capitalism great?" Powell gushed. Powell's son Michael, a Republican member of the FCC, apparently shares this view. Michael Powell recently voted to approve the recent merger of Clear Channel and AM/FM, creating the biggest radio empire in history.

Later that morning, at a session entitled "Radio Ownership: How Many Ways Can You Count to Eight," a panel of Washington D.C. attorneys explained to owners how to get around those oh-so-onerous ownership restrictions that limit chains to owning eight stations in one market. Roy Stewart of the Federal Communications Commission was the lone voice of reason, explaining that the FCC still has a public interest mandate.

Stewart provided some sobering statistics. Since the 1996 Telecom Act was passed, he said:

  • There are five percent more radio stations and 22 percent fewer owners
  • In March of 1996, the biggest group owner owned 57 stations. Now, the biggest - Mays' Clear Channel - has more than 1000.
  • In 170 of 278 Arbitron radio markets, the single largest owner controls 40 percent or more of the advertising revenues. In 32 percent of radio markets, the top company owns more than 80 percent of ad revenues.

Later that day, the real Lowry Mays of Clear Channel showed himself to be beyond parody. Mays was interviewed by Lou Dobbs, former Moneyline host. Dobbs asked mostly softball questions. But he did toss Mays one about the impact of consolidation on diversity on the airwaves.

"You have at this juncture much more diversity on the radio than in 1995," Mays replied. "Sure, consolidation has brought on fewer owners but it has not taken away opportunity of the entrepreneur that can own one station." Sure an entrepreneur with a spare $100 million who doesn't mind being lowballed by Mays on advertising rates.

When Dobbs asked for questions from the audience, nobody in the auditorium of several thousands raised their hand.

"That's because we all work for him," one woman yelled out, to laughs from the audience.

Its no joke, at one scheduled NAB session, entitled "Structure: the Core Values of Clustering (NAB-ese for owning a cluster of stations in one market), the moderator and all three panelists are Clear Channel employees.

I stood up and asked Lowry if he thought government should put any caps on station ownership at all. He said no, that he supports further ownership deregulation. He tried to support his position by reminding us that in the original Telecommunications Act there were no ownership limits. A senate committee added the 8 station cap at the 11th hour.

I followed up by asking the CEO if he thought diversity would be even better served if one company owned all the radio stations in the country.

"Could we increase diversity by owning 100 percent of the stations in a market? Very possibly that could happen," he said, with a completely straight face.

More NAB coverage.

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