People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

Raise the volume: Raze corporate media

Posted by schroeder915 on December 14, 2006

I’m going to ramble here for a while on some media thoughts I’ve been having lately.

Every once in a blue moon, when I write a post which offers what I think are revealing facts or perspectives which aren’t being offered in the local mainstream media, I have occasionally posted a link in the NOLA.COM town hall forums.

A couple of days ago, I posted a link to “We all sink or swim together” in the Jefferson, Orleans, West Bank, Uptown, Gentilly, and Mid City town hall forums. As of this evening, all but the Uptown posts were deleted — by NOLA.COM I presume.

Are they merely protecting their readers from leaving the NOLA.COM pages? Is this a form of private censorship? Or is it just a stupid business model?

How many people will be interested in returning to the forums once they discover that the posts are being monitored by a gatekeeper who can arbitrarily delete anything?

I tuned into WIST yesterday afternoon for not more than about five minutes of Kaare “stop shouting” Johnson’s show before I had to change the channel when I heard him say he had been talking to a caller who studied “economy.” What? Economics? It makes me wonder what the qualifications are to be a talk-show host.

Yesterday morning, Bob Delgiorno introduced John Spud McConnell as someone who’s “very opinionated,” elaborating that that’s why Spud’s a talk show host. Huh? Spud McConnell is a redneck yahoo who’s ignorance and contempt for intellectual discussion is daily vindicated by listening to Rush Limbaugh, another mental midget who dutifully recites his lines from the RNCC daily talking points. I’ve heard Spud matter-of-factly say that he doesn’t actually read the newspaper. He just reads the the headlines. Taking a guy who forms opinions without being educated, and turning him out over the airwaves to influence the views of millions of citizens isn’t just bad programming — it contributes to bad public understanding, bad public policy, and it erodes the foundation of our democracy.

A few days ago, I heard Garland Robinette make a pitch for a very worthy cause — Children’s Hospital — by joking that he’d “hit the bong” (rather than “hit the gong”) if anyone called in to pledge $500. A slip of the tongue? He continued to repeat the line as though it was funny to his listeners, or somehow amusing to Children’s Hospital. This is from a guy who never stops talking about himself in almost every segment as being a communications professional who once had a communications business.

With the exception of some notable and distinguished reporters at The Times-Picayune, I have to ask: Where are the real media professionals in this town? I mean, people who have earned their credentials after rigorous formal training, who are seasoned (not hardened) by their years of experience, and who demonstrate that their profession continues to offer opportunities to learn and grow and mature. Anyone?

I think of Bob Marshall, Mark Schlefstein, and Gordon Russell at The Times-Picayune. There are some new potential stars rising at The Times-Picayune as well, like Michelle Krupa.

Were there another major daily, I might be able to point to other professionals who are providing a critical eye on what’s happening in our city. Unfortunately, The Times-Picayune is just too damn big. They’ve sucked all the air out of the region with their bureaus distributed over five or six parishes. Maybe that’s the only way a newspaper can survive these days, but spread so thinly, I’m not sure they can really do a good job.

There was a time when radio and television did more to uncover stories with their investigative news bureaus — never on a par with what newspapers could do, but still, they were there pounding the pavement and demanding answers. WWL TV is the best at it these days (as far as television news goes), but how much can really be done in the occasional two-minute feature?

For its pathetic lack of hard news outlets, New Orleans is really not much different from most urban centers around the nation. There was a time when things were different, when there was more than one paper, and talk shows weren’t dominated by self-aggrandizing angry white men with an ax to grind.

Having multiple sources of information enriches the dialog on vital issues, and gets us to the answers we need faster. For people trying to make sense of what’s happening in New Orleans post-Katrina, we’re starved for information like catfish writhing around at the bottom of a pirogue sucking wind. At this moment when we vitally need a vibrant press to keep tabs on public officials, and to tell us what the hell is going on, we’re stuck with a single daily newspaper, self-promoting TV news personalities, and dim-witted right-wing talk show freaks.

If you take a step back and put it in perspective, we deserve better than what “the market” has given us. We citizens are now paying the true price of the deregulated corporate media-consolidation revolution ushered in by Ronald Reagan, and taken to new extremes by Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress with the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

We need to roll back that deregulation now! We need more localism in our print, radio, and television media. We need more community control, and more diversity of perspectives in the media. We need the Fairness Doctrine. It is, after all, our media, and those bastards ought to listen to what we have to say.

As has become apparent over the last few weeks, I have a particular vendetta against local radio. The biggest targets of my scorn are Entercom and Clear Channel, which own a combined 13 radio stations in the New Orleans market. Until recently, only WWL was offering its uneducated, one-sided interviews with public officials. Then Clear Channel decided to finally change the format of one of its seven radio stations to talk radio, but gave us more of the same raving lunatic angry white men, including convicted insurance commissioner Jim “can’t stop lip-smacking” Brown and Sean Hannity. It’s the absolute epitome of the uninspired programming decisions that come out of corporate boardrooms, not in response to what the community wants or needs, but what they can throw out there to minimize their costs and maximize their ad revenues. Meanwhile, Entercom decided in the last couple of months to kill the only alternative to right-wing talk, Air America Radio, opting instead to broadcast the same content on three of its radio stations.

We don’t need more syndicated hate radio shoveled at us. We need answers to local problems. We need rational, civil conversation, supported by empirical facts, and including a wide-ranging diversity of viewpoints, in order to figure out how to get us out of the mess we’re in. We need to celebrate our local community and culture. We need to have more say in programming decisions and press coverage.

I envision a future in which ubiquitous broadband wireless forces radio stations to finally stop dumping the same repetitive music and syndicated programming on affiliates across the country, because when you can tune in your wireless radio at home or your car, to any station in the country, then every station around the country will be competing for the same potential listeners. I think the result would be more variety, as stations try to identify niches that both capture local audiences, as well as interest national audiences.

WWOZ offers an excellent example of a station which has a niche found nowhere else in the world, and its live internet stream probably entertains tens of thousands of listeners around the globe. It found that niche not because it intended to create programming that appealed to world listeners, but because it was responding to the unique musical culture of New Orleans. Every community has creative roots which could flourish in an innovative new market.

As I’ve been making these arguments for more community input into what we get from our media, I’ve been repeatedly reminded that we also need to fight to retain net neutrality. It’s true. The vision I just described of a more dynamic radio market supported by internet broadcasting won’t happen if we allow corporate gatekeepers to control the content that’s piped over the internet.

That vision is also predicated upon the establishment of more community control over broadcast licenses.

I’ll repeat it again: We should demand that commercial broadcasters hold public hearings now to demonstrate how they’re serving the community (print media should be listening to us as well). The FCC should step in and demand that commercial broadcasters justify their right to hold the licenses which we own — not them. If they can’t prove that they’re adequately serving the community (and how could they), we should demand that they hand over their licenses to more responsive organizations.

Imagine what could be done if we gave the microphone to the neighborhood activists to talk about what’s on their minds. There’d be no hiding from them, and it’d be some of the best radio ever. It would also, I have argued, be completely commercially viable, since the audience would be comprised of precisely the kinds of people rebuilding their homes and their communities who big advertisers want to reach. All that’s lacking is an FCC license, which we as a community are entitled to, and which we should speak up for.

I attended a forum on Louisiana public policy and perception Tuesday at St. Dominic School. The panel of speakers included Berkeley engineer Bob Bea and LSU scientist Ivor Van Heerden, who have both been crusaders for truth against obfuscation by the Corps of Engineers. Both said that we as a community need to be responsible for generating the momentum needed to create the kinds of innovative engineering projects required to protect our city and our state from future storms. A radio station would be an extraordinary way to unify and amplify our collective voices.

We’ve been floundering in the recovery of our city and region thus far, not because we don’t want things to move faster, but because our public officials are so damned incompetent. We need to raise our voices so they can hear us loud and clear in City Hall, Baton Rouge, and Washington.


“And you didn’t punch her in the face?”

“We shall beat our plowshares into swords”

WIST is an “entertainment” station

Kill corporate media

No harm done when you’re already braindead

Better dead than blue

How corporate control kills media democracy

Whoring for WWL

Dems win, Entercom kills progressive radio

22 Responses to “Raise the volume: Raze corporate media”

  1. Jimmy Lebouf said

    Conservative Clear Channel Host Calls New Orleans Survivors “Scumbags”…

    Nationally syndicated Clear Channel radio host Glenn Beck referred to survivors of Hurricane Katrina who remained in New Orleans as “scumbags.” Also, after acknowledging that nobody “in their right mind is going to say this out loud,” Beck attacked victims of the disaster in general and the families of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying: “I didn’t think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims.”

    From the September 9 broadcast of The Glenn Beck Program:….

  2. jeffrey said

    I wonder if the NOLA forums delete outside links as part of a rigid anti-spam policy.

    Also.. the sad fact is that once net neutrality goes out the window.. the internet will end up looking much like our local radio landscape does today.

  3. Jimmy Lebouf said

    Thanks for the heads up , I have been doing some reading and what I find disturbs me:

    Censoring Satchmo?

    While some African-American radio broadcasts are down as much as 50 percent, ratings for WWL’s news talk format are “through the roof,” Habisreitinger said.

    Kick Them When They’re Down: New Orleans is struggling to regain its population base and rebuild its ravaged city. But don’t expect a lot of compassion from BellSouth. BellSouth executives reportedly withdrew their offer of a building to serve as police headquarters in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. The reason for the abrupt about-face? The New Orleans city government had announced plans to build a municipal wireless network as a way to help the city get back on its feet.

  4. Schroeder said

    Great links Jimmy! “Personality-based news”? Isn’t that an oxymoron? News is *supposed* to strive for balance and objectivity. If these stations don’t have a news bureau, but merely pick and choose copy they feel like reading, is it news, or propaganda? Note as well that the reason Clear Channel is firing all of their local talent is because it’s cheaper to do. The talk format may be the least expensive format to run, especially when it’s just syndicated content. Of course, as in the WHUD case, it proves beyond any doubt that media ownership concentration has been devastating for communities and community organizations. Where’s the FCC? Public hearings anyone?

  5. J Lebouf said

    Yes and how do artists feel about having some board room or small committee of elitist overly-religious suits decide that they should not play a particular song across all the radio stations in the entire country? Virtually taking them completely out of the entire market.

    They are allowed to make these decisions about what should and should not be played without regaurd to the individual local markets? Think about what they will do if they don’t like your blog or some news source and they can just tier it back to a slower link of the Internet?

    I can hear them now:,

    “we don’t make money on the slow links and the routers are in dire need of upgrading, if you want more speed on the slow links the Government or somebody needs to bail us out of the costs.”
    You see, they really won’t want them upgraded anyway, because that takes away any potential new clients motivation for paying extra to have access to the faster excluxive private link.

    We are already watching oil companies tell us that the pipelines are down and need repairs so we end paying more for oil. Why would believe that these guys are any better?

  6. has bigoted censors. I have many logins there because I get shutdown most of the time.

    As for our MSM: I don’t bother. They are less than worthless, especially the radio stations.

    I will open requests for folks who wish to discuss New Orleans on my Internet radio station (commentary and news to debut soon), but that’s mainly a national listenership.

  7. Schroeder said

    I hear the sentiment GG, but I’m not so willing to concede that a public space should continue to be privatized and converted into a toxic wasteland of strictly pro-right-wing Republican viewpoints. It’s like state-run Pravda, or Granma — the press isn’t supposed to exist to defend the governing class. It’s supposed to be a counterweight to the propaganda power of the government.

    Does anyone pay attention? The people who agree pay attention, and become raving lunatic self-righteous a–holes. The rest might start nodding their heads, or in a complete turnaround of “politically-correct” speech, become brainwashed into learning what the “right” catch phrases are, or more willingly put themselves on the side of an issue that’s framed for them by the right wing.

    The right isn’t always wrong. A Republican argument isn’t always wrong. But they positively *aren’t* always correct, and that’s dangerous.

    When the one political party seizes control of the means of communication, and citizens no longer hear alternative viewpoints, it’s all over for democracy. We’re already headed down that path as ownership of the most powerful forms of communication becomes more and more concentrated.

    What’s more, we’ve become accustomed to being abused of our right to have a say about what broadcasters do. It’s as though a horse breeder was given permission to exercise his horses in City Park in exchange for free pony rides to kids, then begins treating the park like a private domain, eventually selling his right of access to a pig farmer who turns the whole place into one giant mud hole that no one but people who love pigs and mud appreciate anymore.

    Anyway, what you’re doing is great. The more contrary voices of reason out there, the better.

  8. Under the Radar said

    business groups are in bed with Bush and are trying to make it harder for shareholders and government prosecutors to sue or prosecute criminal coporations like Enron.

    Check this out

  9. Under the Radar said

    Oh , I forgot to mention form that podcast they have : Why Gulf Coast homeowners can’t get insurers to pay for Hurricane Katrina damage — the latest scam by the filthy-rich insurance industry: Ed Zebersky, president of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.

  10. Breaking News Breaking bariers said

    That sure seems to be the message coming from a protest held in Madison yesterday, where demonstrators are fighting a decision by Clear Channel Communications to dump libtalk in one of the nation’s most extreme lefty markets. Though The Mic FM generated fairly decent ratings, company executives pointed to a lack of advertiser support, both nationally and even locally.

    With several hundred protestors, including groups such as the Madison Pagan Unity Council said to have gathered outside the company’s local offices, the event even made national news, with this AP coverage:

    Clear Channel doesnt care about Madison

  11. Breaking News Breaking bariers said

    I argued earlier that all the emphasis on success was wrong headed and that Mic as well as other progressive radio were being censored by corporate america. Tyler more or less acknowledges this censorship in the following quote.

    “There are many advertisers, local and national, who have been at conflict with the programming or stay away from controversial programming that has led to less than reasonable results,” Tyler said in an e-mail Friday. “Our sales team successfully sells the overall top talk station in the market (WIBA AM 1310) and it ranks in the top 5 in market in revenue.  There are obviously similar sales struggles with other progressive talk outlets in the country, including what the base network Air America Radio is currently going through with their bankruptcy.  This is leading to other stations and ownerships dropping the format or modifying the lineup.”

  12. I only wish Fox News was dumped when it was operating in the red for 10 years.

  13. One problem is the lack of promotion of Air America Radio. I know a lot of people who would have tuned in if they knew it was being broadcast in New Orleans. By contrast, Entercom pumps a lot of money into advertising WWL. That may be the only thing keeping it afloat with the idjuts they have for hosts these days.

  14. Ho HO Ho said

  15. Bodreaux and Thibideaux said

    The fact that further consolidation is even being considered is a testimony to how out of touch the FCC really is. Consolidation has failed radio. Radio has failed it’s listeners — especially the next generation. Wall Street no longer considers radio a growth business — unless or until it can consolidator further (hint…hint) at which point investment banks will be happy to go around again. While greedy radio companies and the FCC conduct this dance, other mediums are compromising radio’s future. Even by Wall Street’s greedy standards if you can’t build shareholder value when you have a virtual monopoly, do you deserve another bit at the apple? If you love radio, say no. The Future of Music Coalition report will be posted at at 12 noon on December 13, 2006.

  16. More burning questions: Why dump the liberal voice – and the entire liberal talk format from WSAI-AM (1360) – after Democrats just won control of the Hamilton County commission, Ohio governor’s office and Congress? Why dump 20 experienced radio people, and then a week later hire an attorney without full-time radio experience for the WKRC-AM morning show?
    Kopp says he was told the decision was based on “revenue, not ratings.” Guess that means Clear Channel figures that continuing the Thomas name on WKRC will bring in more bucks than keeping Kopp.

  17. Air America said

    here we go.

  18. Go Wu said

    Concerns about monopoly power in communications and commerce predate the telephone, and we can learn much from history.“Tim Wu, professor at Columbia Law School and co-author of Who Controls the Internet?, said that concerns about monopoly power and the internet have a long history.He said that when the telegraph came into operation, it reduced latency from days to hours. At the time, the telegraph was particularly important to newspapers. Western Union, Wu said, gave the Associated Press an exclusive deal to use its network, in return for which the AP agreed to never criticize Western Union or support its competitors.The effects of this early network discrimination were political as well as economic. “The AP was close to the Republican party of its time, and its strategy was to support the Republican party, which was a different Republican party than today” Wu said.”The AP did not offer biased news. Instead, it did not offer news about the Democrats for about 20 years….”

  19. F P said

    Here is a great long article about Clear Channel, how it started and the whole history of it, check it out:

    this piece reads: “There was resistance on Capitol Hill, but broadcast conglomerates argued that more media concentration would actually improve the variety of radio programming. For instance, they claimed, if ABC Radio owned one “classic rock” station in a market, and ABC or, say, Infinity Broadcasting (two prominent rivals at the time), bought the other locally owned classic rock station in the market, there would be little reason for two classic rock stations. “Diversity” became the industry’s buzzword for promoting the bill….”

  20. Larry Stevens said

    To celebrate his return to Sirius Left, Sirius Backstage has a great interview with radio talker Mike Malloy. In it, he talks about how he got involved in radio, Air America Radio’s problems, life after Air America with Nova M Radio and Sirius, his political beliefs, who should/shouldn’t get the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 and being a liberal talk show host vs. a conservative one. It’s a highly recommended read.

    ..(Air America) was a great idea to begin with, but a sad story. The founders were pushed out by new investors who didn’t know anything about radio but wanted to play radio executive. There was a huge disparity in pay: Al Franken was making 2.6 million per year, but Mike Malloy was making 88k. I think Al Franken contributed to the demise of the network. At one time he had a staff of 20 or 30 people, writers and workers and all this other bullshit. There were many factors that caused Air America to go into bankruptcy: The executives didn’t know what they were doing, and when they hired radio people who knew what to do, the executives weren’t listening, and the radio people left. They couldn’t get investors because they didn’t have a viable structure as it is now. It would have been easy to be a success. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon to snipe at Air America, from Hannity and Limbaugh to all the others in between. It built an instant brand overnight. I still have friends who work there, they were talented people like Rachel Maddow, Randi Rhodes, Sam Seder, and many others. As far as the company itself, I’m really pissed.
    …I define myself as a traditional Democrat. I am pro-union, only 13% of the workforce is now unionized compared to 35% 50 years ago… I believe in the equality of the law. Gays have the same rights as everyone else, and that all these constitiuional amendments to ban gay marriage are bullshit and bigoted. I believe in racial equality as well, at least in the workplace… [Affirmative Action] is the way Bush got into Yale. His father was there, so Bush got in. I also believe there should be regulatory agencies to watch the federal government. That’s what I mean by traditional Democrat….As far as liberals are concerned, liberals in radio are marginalized, and that’s why it’s so difficult to find them. The marketplace isn’t saying “we want conservative talk”, it’s utter bullshit. Take a look at the recent elections, take a look at polls, and see if the country wants conservative talk. Those decisions to make shows come from the top, and it is done by one of the five radio companies who control over 90% of the airwaves. The right winger will tell you that the marketplace determines what brand of butter you buy, what radio show people want, and its not true. If 70% of the nation hates George Bush and 80% of talk radio hosts support George Bush, there’s something fucked about that. I don’t know how to counteract that other than the talk radio I do is decisive, its hard hitting, and when the managers don’t screw with what I say, I have come up pretty big with a 6, 7, 8, 10 share in markets like Chicago and Salt Lake City. Another problem is advertisers. If advertisers don’t like what I say about the Bush crime family, there is nothing I can do about that. Again, if all things are equal, if you have a talented liberal and an average conservative, you will see the conservative picked up by the radio company. If you look at these no talent hacks like Sean Hannity, or Limbaugh who is a drug addict, they’re on 300 stations, why is that? Because he has a phony ass Christianity belief, supports the war. It’s a real shitty situation out there. It is not an equal field.Read more of this interview at Sirius Backstage.

  21. Abi said

    Awesome, man

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