Supreme Court: Say no to the FCC and #SaveLocalNews!

 January 18, 2021

 
The last act of the Trump administration may prove to be the most damaging.
 
 


The Supreme Court will hear a case January 19 which, if decided in favor of the Federal Communications Commission, will accelerate this country’s mis- and disinformation crisis. In FCC v Prometheus, the FCC, under direction of Trump designated Chair Ajit Pai, is trying to change local broadcasting rules so one company could own the local newspaper, all or most of the TV stations and all or most of the radio stations - in the same town. One voice, one community, no opportunity for dissent.

The agency legally tasked to “serve the public interest, convenience and necessity” has acted to eliminate public debate for decades; those FCC actions over time have directly led to the crisis in the nation’s Capitol today.

The propaganda of World War II taught our leaders to safeguard the publicly owned airwaves from one single voice gaining too much power. The best way to serve the public interest was to ensure the public could have access to the airwaves we collectively own. So Congress established limits on how many stations a single operator could have to ensure diversity of voices. The FCC established the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio and TV stations to “afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of conflicting views on matters of public importance.” They established the Personal Attack rule, which provided anyone attacked personally on our publicly owned airwaves the opportunity to respond on the air. There was the Political Editorializing rule, which said if a station editorialized against a candidate for public office, it would offer an opportunity for a response.

Starting in 1987, the FCC took away the public’s opportunity for give and take by eliminating all those rules and more. The agency has even recently removed its prohibition of “incitement to violence” from its website.

In 1996, Congress allowed one operator to control as many radio stations as they could buy. Just a handful bought all the best radio real estate, then excluded liberal and moderate shows from being on the air.

That takeover of who may speak and who may not respond into microphones has literally divided our culture. Sean Hannity’s radio show (which has 15 million listeners, as opposed to the 4 million viewers he has on Fox News,) is rated by conservatives as the second most trusted news source in the country; Rush Limbaugh follows as third with his 15 million listeners (according to Pew Research.) Talkers Magazine data indicates 100 million people listen every day to what was once considered “Conservative” but now is clearly Right Wing talk radio hosts. Certainly there is some overlap of those listening to multiple programs, but that number is up from Talkers research showing 60 million listeners in 2016.

Six days after the 2020 election, Limbaugh told his audience, “There's simply no way Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. I just can't believe it. I do not believe it. Intellectually and as I look at what I have learned and what I have seen over the course of the past four, five days, there's simply no way.” Unlike yesteryear, no one was allowed an opportunity on the air to counter that fiction in a meaningful way (people can call into the program, but calls are screened, and generally only less informed callers are allowed on the air.) Same when Hannity told his radio audience on December 18, “There's no doubt this was stolen. No doubt whatsoever. I don't have any doubt in my mind.”

So people who listen to these programs on hundreds of stations nationwide dominating the drive-through states and brainwashing middle America, absolutely believe the election was stolen, even though Court after Court has ruled there is no evidence that occurred.

It doesn’t help that the FCC classifies Talk Radio as “bona fide news.”

Now the FCC is attempting to do to local TV news what it has done to radio. 

In an Amicus brief in FCC v Prometheus, Media Action Center details research proving the FCC is already allowing Sinclair to control three of the seven local TV stations in Columbus, Ohio, the State Capitol. Those stations are running exactly the same local news content on their websites. This pattern plays out in dozens of local TV markets across the United States, and not just with Sinclair.  

So the FCC allows a single operator to control virtually all the local reporting in any one community. What’s the worst that could happen?

In 2009, then Rep. Mike Pence told C-Span his “Broadcaster Freedom Act” would simply “take away the power of the Federal Communications Commission to restore the Fairness Doctrine without an act of Congress.”

I disagreed with him then, but I see the wisdom of it now.  Decisions like this are above the FCC’s pay grade.

Find the Media Action Center Amicus Brief at the Supreme Court detailing how the FCC is looking the other way while TV industry chief are quietly taking over local news here, and tune in to CSPAN tomorrow at 10 AM EST to hear oral arguments.  

#SaveLocalNews

Why Does the FCC Allow Sinclair Broadcasting to Violate Station Ownership Rules in Baltimore and Beyond?

 An investigation of FCC, SEC documents in a citizen-filed 'Petition to Deny' licensing for three stations controlled by the media behemoth may finally help put an end to the 'sham' control of our public airwaves...

originally posted September 23, 2020 at BradBlog.com 

Baltimore's crowded TV market highlights the shell game that media goliath Sinclair Broadcasting plays across the nation to illegally dominate the information Americans can consume over our public airwaves. The agency tasked with overseeing those airwaves, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has long turned a blind eye to allow Sinclair, the very powerful purveyor of rightwing propaganda, to violate US law. 

Congress passed the Telecommunications Act [PDF] so no single television company could dominate the news and information available to "We the People" in any single market or even nationwide. Under the law, a single TV company is permitted to reach no more than 39% of viewers in the United States over all. In a single local broadcast market, one company may apply to own two stations --- if there are nine or more stations in that market.

Baltimore has just eight stations, and three of them are actually owned by Sinclair: WBFF, WNUV, and WUTB.

Sinclair lawyers (who also represent Cunningham Broadcasting and Deerfield Media) will say Sinclair owns WBFF, Cunningham owns WNUV and Deerfield owns WUTB. But, in a September 1 legal Petition to Deny the renewal of all three stations' licenses, due to both the shell game and the lies Sinclair has told to protect its unlawful ownership, Republican attorney Art Belendiuk researched Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents to prove that both Deerfield and Cunningham are actually both controlled by Sinclair.

"Sinclair controls three television stations in Baltimore, while the FCC rules do not permit it to control more than one," the petition, filed on behalf of local viewer Ihor Gawdiak, argues, while detailing how the shell game of nominal ownership by the other two companies is simply meant to mask Sinclair's violation of federal law...

Radio Host Alex Jones promotes dangerous fiction. Stations should say so.

originally published in the Sacramento Bee 

In this Monday, April 17, 2017 photo, “Infowars” host Alex Jones, right, arrives at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. Jones, the right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist, is a performance artist whose true personality is nothing like his on-air persona, according to a lawyer defending the “Infowars” broadcaster in a child custody battle. (Tamir Kalifa/Austin American-Statesman via AP)


Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article222742110.html#storylink=cpy

 In this Monday, April 17, 2017 photo, “Infowars” host Alex Jones, right, arrives at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. Jones, the right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist, is a performance artist whose true personality is nothing like his on-air persona, according to a lawyer defending the “Infowars” broadcaster in a child custody battle. (Tamir Kalifa/Austin American-Statesman via AP) AP


Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article222742110.html#storylink=cpy

Even California’s wildfires have been wrapped into radio host Alex Jones’ dangerous conspiracy theories.

In a post on Jones’ Infowars website last year, a man identified as a fire captain suggested only an energy weapon could have caused Northern California’s October 2017 fires.

This summer, Forrest Clark, a mentally troubled Jones fan who had shared a theory on social media that California wildfires were part of an international conspiracy, was charged with starting the Holy Fire.

“It’s all going to burn like you planned,” he wrote in a text to a volunteer fire chief before allegedly starting the fire, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Jones occupies a central position in the realm of conspiracy, and has rightly been removed from major social media platforms for harassment, glorification of violence and child endangerment. But radio stations around the country still broadcast the dangerous falsehoods he promotes on “The Alex Jones Show,” which are contributing to real-world terror.

He told radio listeners nationwide that the Sandy Hook school shooting never happened.

Small Town, Big Smears, No Rebuttal Allowed

UPDATE: Yesterday, July 5, Publisher Jack Mitchell posted 
both my open letter and the Amador Fire press release online, 
and featured both links on the front page of the Ledger Dispatch. 
Thank you, Jack. 

Given the many questions posed in Mr. Frank Moreno's OpEd  
and by many others privately, I am calling on the Ledger 
Dispatch and its owner the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk 
Indians to hire an independent investigative reporter, someone 
without personal connections to the people involved, to answer 
the "Who, what, where, when how and why" of this very 
important story. Fire safety is the single most important issue 
of our time in this rural county, and we deserve the best public 
service we can have. Certainly there are excellent reporters close 
by who have worked for McClatchy news' The Sacramento Bee 
who would be willing to take this on, or perhaps given the state 
implications, someone from CalMatters.

Impeachment By Radio - The Elephant in the Room is NOT the GOP

February 14, 2020


     On October 24, 1998, a group of activists from across the United States gathered in Washington DC to protest the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton in the first rally ever organized on the Internet.
     Darrell Hampton's umbrella group "We the People" was generally outraged at Starr's excesses; White House staffer Bob Weiner railed against Ken Starr for subpoenaing him for eating ice cream with a fellow Democrat; the fledgling group "Censure and MoveOn" (later to become MoveOn.org) was featured; and my "Truth in America Project" focused on the biased media promoting the investigation, media which had recently gained its dominance from the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

     We all understood the long drawn out Grand Jury investigation of Bill Clinton had found no crimes, and so Starr et al manufactured a perjury trap to have an excuse to impeach the President. As I said on the Ellipse in front of the White House, "Is it okay for a big government attorney to work with a private civil lawyer to see if they can figure out a way to get a man to lie about his sex life so they can prosecute him for it?"
     But what was just coming to light, and what has had a lasting damaging legacy, is the effect of the 1996 Telecommunications Act on our political landscape.
     Brief history: When radio and television were first invented, broadcast pioneers and government officials recognized that radio had the potential to entertain and inform, but when used improperly, also to brainwash a population. So Congress passed the 1934 Communications Act, which limited any one owner in the United States to owning just 9 stations nationwide: 3 AM radio stations, 3 FM radio stations, 3 TV stations. The thinking was that by having multiple local owners, no one person could dominate the (publicly owned) airwaves with political rhetoric.
     Ah, those were the days...

Fakebook: Zuckerberg's Hands-Off Political Ad Policy Undermines American Democracy Itself

October 25, 2019

$10 billion should buy a lot of fact-checking on his social media platform. Instead it empowers the fake news he claims to oppose...


     There has been a battle between Elizabeth Warren v. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook since the social media giant started accepting incendiary paid advertisements from President Donald Trump in which his campaigns makes claims about former Vice President and Presidential candidate Joe Biden that are, to put it mildly, less than true.
     Recently, Warren, in a gutsy move, shot back with an ad that willfully lied about Zuck and Trump so she could make a valid point about Facebook's recent policy of allowing candidates' ads to run on Facebook without any vetting of facts.

     What is really at issue is whether laws developed for local broadcast licensees can --- or should --- apply to social media platforms and, really, whether any outlets should be allowed to make billions of dollars knowingly running ads that lie and purposely misinform the public.

Book Review: Reality (TM) 2048 by Derek Cressman

May 22, 2019

Note: I rarely write book reviews, but activist writer Derek Cressman has written a novel which so speaks to me as it portrays a future born of today's media manipulations.  Find it at Amazon.  
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Derek Cressman’s REALITY 2048 is a modern day horror tale disguised as a futuristic thriller. 
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Cressman’s novel is written in the same vein as George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty Four, but by the time the calendar turned to 1984, little of what Orwell predicted actually existed. 
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 REALITY 2048, on the other hand, offers an entirely realistic dystopian future which projects just past modern day headlines to a society brainwashed by corporate/ government propaganda which has traded security for freedom. It chillingly takes us into post-nuclear Los Angeles, but is at core an indictment of modern day media manipulation and indoctrination.  

Unfortunately, Alex Jones, Sandy Hook Did Happen #StopTheHoax


December 14, 2018

Last July, after Facebook and Twitter and You Tube banned radio host and performance artist Alex Jones from their platforms, I did a little digging, and found that his program and all his affiliate stations are breaking a longstanding Federal Communications Commission rule prohibiting hoaxes.  And what Jones has been doing goes way beyond the original 1938 Halloween broadcast of War of the Worlds, which prompted passage of the rule in the first place.
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The nationally syndicated radio host is currently being sued in Connecticut and Texas by at least eight families who have faced the unthinkable: losing their children in a school shooting. The Sandy Hook school shooting. The school shooting Alex Jones broadcast never happened.
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Court filings document the Alex Jones broadcast saying: “Children did not die, teachers did not die on December 14, 2012.”  “How do you even convince the public something's a total hoax?... The general public doesn't … know they had the kids going in circles in and out of the building as a photo-op” “… Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured.” Referring to video of the parents of children killed in the shooting, Jones stated that "they ... bring in actors to break down and cry.”  
Once Jones planted that seed, people began to attack the real grieving parents of small children. Among them, the parents of slain six year old Noah Pozner received death threats, had to relocate seven times, and now live too far to even visit their son’s gravesite.  “Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that despite our efforts at security, a determined conspiracy fanatic might gain entry to our home,” said Noah’s mother, in reports of her court declaration. Declared her husband, “Due to Mr. Jones’ broadcast, I have also suffered severe emotional distress and trauma which I cannot even begin to adequately describe. No human being should ever be asked to suffer through the torment Mr. Jones carried out.”  

Fake news is only the beginning. The FCC is about to let monopolies decide what local news you see


What would happen if the politician you love to hate were indicted, but your local news didn’t report it? No newspaper stories, no TV news, no radio news on the hour, nothing.
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Couldn’t happen? Think again.
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The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission will vote Nov. 16 to allow just one corporation to own the local newspaper plus nearly every commercial TV station in your town. Nifty way to reduce down to just one newsroom then dictate whatever information that corporation does – and does not – want you to know in this democracy.
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It’s exactly what’s happened with radio. Back in the day when lots of companies owned 40 radio stations, the broadcast industry made big promises that local information would be much more diverse if they could simply own many more stations. The 1996 Telecommunications Act resulted in a handful of corporations owning thousands of stations – and force feeding conservative programming down our country’s throats ever since, no debate, no opposing opinions allowed.
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The Media Action Center showed during the Scott Walker recall in Wisconsin that “conservative” radio giants there gave millions of dollars in free airtime to the GOP candidate – while refusing to allow a single Democrat on the air at all. GOP operatives there still gloat about radio winning elections for them. After 21 years of this kind of divisive public policy, 60 million people listen to conservative radio... about the same number that voted for Donald Trump.
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Media Action Center WIns $13.5 Million Victory Over Entercom

April 10, 2017
Originally published at BradBlog.com

Over the weekend, Dan Morain, editorial page editor at Sacramento Bee, wrote an article about what I've been working on, and writing about here at The BRAD BLOG and elsewhere, for many years now.
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Morain's article starts this way:
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From her home outside the no-stoplight settlement of Fiddletown, Sue Wilson tilted at a corporate windmill, and a funny thing happened.
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Sue from Fiddletown won, on our behalf. You can hear the sound of that victory at the end of the FM radio dial in Sacramento. Where there once was commercial pop music, hooting deejays and stupid radio stunts, there’s static.
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"We the People own the air waves," she said, and repeats: "We the People."
It's a very nice article, that begins with a tragic story. That story, however, now has at least a somewhat encouraging ending for, yes, We the People.
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Here's what happened...

New FCC Will Determine Your Internet Speed

August, 2017
This article is still accessible online at the Sacramento Bee, but in case it disappears, read below what is at stake when we talk about "Net Neutrality." With President Trump leading the way, the government may well allow corporations to throttle free speech on the internet just as they have on our publicly owned radio airwaves.
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Takeaway: Net neutrality means keeping the Internet as it has been since its inception. You may make a comment at the FCC until August 30, 2017.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/california-forum/article2674439.html#storylink=cpy


UPCOMING FCC DECISION WILL DETERMINE YOUR INTERNET SPEED

You’re enjoying your weekend java, wanting to learn what happened at last week’s school board meeting. Your local newspaper doesn’t cover that beat, but a local blogger does a good job, so you try to pull his site up on your laptop. Meanwhile, your 5-year-old opens up “Sesame Street” on her iPad, and on his, your teenage son is bringing up “Spider-Man” on Netflix. You instantly hear the sounds of “Spider-Man,” but your daughter is getting impatient, as her show hasn’t yet appeared. In another minute, the “Sesame Street” theme song finally plays, but your school board blog still isn’t up. You get another cup of coffee and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, the site fills your screen.
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This is what the Internet will look like if the Federal Communications Commission does not pass strict “Net neutrality” rules. While opponents have painted Net neutrality as government takeover of the Internet, it is actually meant to prevent a corporate takeover of free speech on the Web. Net neutrality means keeping the Internet as it has been since its inception, with users paying their Internet service provider a fee to access the Internet, and then freely choosing what to watch, hear, read or post – with no outside interference. Proponents include Google, Microsoft, AOL, Mozilla, eBay and thousands of small businesses. There is very little opposition to Net neutrality – except from the giant Internet service providers themselves.
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Verizon, ATT, Comcast and Time Warner Cable are among the chief opponents of the current model. They are now the largest Internet service providers and have devised a more profitable model (for themselves) called “paid prioritization.” They want to charge higher fees to content providers (writers, moviemakers, application developers) who have the means to pay. Those providers who cannot pay more will suffer slower speeds.

Battling the Genesis of "Alternative Facts" in Our Communities - NOW!

 January 28, 2017
Congratulations to Devil's Advocate for getting on the air in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to counter the right-wing "alternate facts" out out on our publicly owned airwaves every day! Now El Dorado Hills, CA has an opportunity to get it's own low power FM station. Going back into the archives, here is why it is important:
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FEDERAL RULES GIVE CORPORATION BACKED CONSERVATIVE RADIO ALL THE LOCAL VOICES
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originally published by the Sacramento Bee, May 11, 2008
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    There's a mournful hush in Sacramento these days, the empty sound of an entire political viewpoint quieted. More than 32,000 weekly listeners who once tuned to KSAC (1240 AM) to hear partisan Democrats beat up on President George W. Bush, now hear only Christian hip-hop.
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There's nothing wrong with Christian hip-hop; it's a great outlet for artists breaking out of the gangsta rap mold. But there are six other commercial radio stations licensed in the Sacramento area programming the Christian message. In the political realm, three local radio stations program 264 hours of partisan Republican radio talkers beating up on Democrats every week. Now, zero stations program any Democratic view whatsoever: 264-0.
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     This follows the national trend revealed in the 2007 Free Press and Center for American Progress study, "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio." Nationally, 90 percent of commercial talk radio is conservative; only 10 percent is liberal. (This study does not include Public Radio, which by statute is required to provide differing points of view. One is as likely to hear a Republican's views as a Democrat's. And NPR hosts don't beat up on anybody.)
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     KSAC shared another characteristic with other liberal radio stations: It had a tiny, 1,000-watt transmitter. Tough for a little station that barely reached Sacramento's suburbs to compete with 50,000 watt giant KFBK, whose signal stretches from Chico to Modesto, from Reno to that little town of San Francisco. Despite KFBK reaching millions more potential listeners, KSAC mustered an audience nearly 20 percent that of KFBK's. (Its ratings were double local conservative station KTKZ, which has a 5,000-watt transmitter.) And Arbitron showed the progressive station's audience was steadily growing. KSAC was the little station that could.
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Until it couldn't.