No More McRadio!!!


root - Posted on 20 October 2003

The People protest the FCC vote at Clear Channel owned radio station KMEL. The FCC doesn't listen

by TJ Johnston/PoorNewsNetwork Community Journalist

Outside radio station KMEL in San Francisco on May 29, some 200 media activists (including several POOR Magazine (PNN) reporters and supporters) gave a shout out. The station, owned by Clear Channel, couldn’t help but hear us. Apparently, they turned down the volume in anticipation of the Federal Communications Commission’s 3-2 vote in favor of more media deregulation which happened on June 2.

On the eve of the FCC decision allowing the expansion of media empires, a coalition featuring Media Alliance, Global Exchange, The SF Bayview, Code Pink, the Youth Media Council and others jammed on stage to keep the airwaves free. The action was a reminder that KMEL should still be "the people’s station."

Bay View staff writer JR and Straight Outta Hunter’s Point filmmaker Kevin Epps drew a cinematic analogy for the Texas-based conglomerate: "(Clear Channel) is the Matrix plugging into people’s minds."

In case you’ve just joined us, Clear Channel is already the world’s largest radio broadcaster, concert promoter and billboard firm. It is also a symptom and symbol of what’s wrong when six companies own 80% of the stations we hear. Since the Telecommunications Act passed in 1996, their 40 stations ballooned to over 1200. In the Bay Area alone, they own nine stations and run several performance venues. If the FCC votes to further relax media ownership rules, this corporate beast will swell to Hulking proportions.

Clear Channel’s checkered past has invited public scrutiny. Here’s a short list of their misdeeds:
1) They fired KMEL’s community affairs director Davey D for interviewing antiwar Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In general, KMEL’s service to the urban community diminished under Clear Channel ownership.
2) Their infamous musical blacklist banned about 150 songs. According to a leaked memo, John Lennon’s "Imagine" and Cat Stevens’ "Peace Train" are banished from their frequencies. Just recently, innocuous country combo the Dixie Chicks got removed from their playlists for speaking against George W. Bush.
3) Their sponsorship of prowar rallies is only the latest example of their corporate editorial slant. President Glen Beck has little patience for dissent. In a Memorial Day address, he proclaimed, "If you five me any crap, (the police) are taking you down!"
4) Public service has been compromised. After a toxic spill in a North Dakota town, authorities called all the stations in that town to broadcast the emergency. Unsurprisingly, no one answered the phone at the Clear Channel owned outlets----most of the workforce was laid off after they were purchased.
5) Programming has become homogenized. Voicetracking, the practice of recording one voice for numerous markets, has become the norm. And did you ever notice the repetition of the same songs?

Our afternoon’s festivities were led by the lovely and talented Andrea Buffa of Global Exchange and United for Peace & Justice. Our hostess with the mostest led us through chants of "Whose airwaves? Our airwaves!" and "Monopolies don’t speak for me. Protect the airwaves, FCC!"

The Brass Liberation Orchestra provided musical interludes. The 12-piece outfit played Bob Marley’s "Get Up, Stand Up" and "Fala Kute." A band member said their gig reflects their belief in community music and radio.

Adorned in Code Pink, Global Exchange founder Medea Benjamin explained why the US is isolated from the world community: "It’s the media, stupid!" (I would point out it’s our stupid media). Citing the Dixie Chicks backlash, Benjamin declared the US media to be the most undemocratic in the world. Despite this adversity, she announced that so far the FCC website has had 428,000 comments posted, 98% of which opposed further conglomeration. Chairman Michael Powell, listen up! Benjamin closed her set by leading us into singing a John Lennon song. Care to guess which one?

A bit of vaudeville was performed as a performer dressed as Clear Channel CEO Larry Mays thanked us for our support (yeah, right) and gave a huge check to the FCC. "Just fill in the amount ," he said. As the rally closed, I passed a sign reading "No McRadio." In the wake of the FCC vote, a healthy media diet provided by independent media outlets like The SF Bay View and PoorNewsNetwork is more essential than ever .    

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