USA, FCC: poche locali potenti e tante microstazioni?

Il presidente della Commissione Kevin Martin, potrebbe avere un piano B


da Radio Passioni

Mentre (vedi post precedente – in calce, ndr) ferve il dibattito sulla opportunità di allentare ulteriormente le norme che regolano la proprietà delle emittenti radiofoniche negli Stati Uniti, un altro articolo apparso sulla stampa di Seattle (dove oggi la FCC incontra i rappresentanti delle associazioni di categoria e della pubblica opinione) rivela che il presidente della Commissione Kevin Martin, potrebbe avere un piano B. Da un lato consentire ai grandi gruppi proprietari di stazioni regolari il possesso di un numero addirittura superiore di emittenti. Dall’altro però favorire anche lo sviluppo di stazioni FM a bassa potenza LPFM, una cateogoria fissata nel 2000 che prevede una potenza massima di 100 Watt in antenna.
Mi sembra un atteggiamento un po’ schizofrenico, si toglie un po’ spazio alle stazioni locali con buona copertura e in cambio si dà il contentino di tante micro-stazioni a carattere non commerciale, magari confidando che queste nuove stazioni non vengano aperte da nessuno. Ma se questo passa il convento forse ci si può accontentare. Come riferisce anche il sito del Prometheus Radio Project, la Commissione Commercio del Senato americano si è espressa a fine ottobre in favore di una proposta di legge che porterebbe a migliaia di nuove stazioni comunitarie LPFM:

The United States Senate Commerce Committee voted this afternoon to substantially expand the number of community media outlets in the United States. In a consensus vote, the Committee moved to report Senate Bill 1675, the Local Community Radio Act of 2007, to the full Senate — and opened the door for thousands of new community radio stations to be built in America’s largest cities, and smaller communities across the nation.
Senate Bill 1675, the bill designed to ‘implement the recommendations of the Federal Communications Commission regarding Low Power FM’, was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). This bill is designed to allow thousands more Low Power FM community radio stations to reach Americans in cities, and all across the country.
The Senate Commerce Committee had moved twice in the past to expand low power FM radio opportunities to community groups in America’s cities. This year, the bill is accompanied by a strong House of Representatives companion (House Bill 2802, sponsored by Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE)) with 55 cosponsors, and diverse bipartisan support from Georgia to Guam.

La storia che segue, invece, è stata pubblicata sul Seattle Post Intelligencer.

On Radio: FCC turns up volume on local radio

November 7, 2007 7:44 p.m. PT
By BILL VIRGIN

While there’s likely to be an abundance of verbal posturing and sniping at Friday’s Federal Communications Commission hearing Friday in Seattle on media ownership, there’s one issue on which many of the parties are actually in agreement: putting more local content into local radio.
To that end, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has in recent weeks talked about reviving a concept that at one time generated considerable excitement but in recent months has been largely dormant: low-power FM stations.
In testimony last month to the House Committee on Small Business, Martin said that “low-power FM provides a lower-cost opportunity for more new voices to get into the local radio market. The commission currently is considering an order that would ensure that LPFM stations have reasonable access to limited radio spectrum.”
There’s been other action on the LPFM front. Earlier this week, reports Radio-Info newsletter, the Senate Commerce Committee voted in favor of a change in spectrum licensing that could effectively open up more room on the FM dial for more stations. The Senate version of the Local Community Radio Act of 2007 was co-introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Low-power FM stations are non-commercial outlets that operate over a limited area with up to 100 watts of power (KUOW-FM/94.9, by contrast, operates at 100,000 watts of power). The FCC created the category in 2000, took in hundreds of applications and approved some to go on the air.
The theory behind LPFM was that the stations could be put on the air relatively easily and cheaply by governmental, community, educational, religious, cultural and other non-profit groups to provide local coverage and programming abandoned by many larger, commercial broadcasters.
In reality, the concept collided with competition from established broadcasters who argued the proliferation of LPFM stations would generate interference with their existing signals.
There’s also the matter of competition for limited spectrum. As Radio-Info recently noted, LPFM stations will, in metropolitan markets such as Seattle, be going up against broadcasters trying to shoehorn new stations onto the FM band, and AM stations looking for FM translators for their signal. Radio-Info predicts a lobbying collision between activist groups such as the Prometheus Project, which is pushing for LPFM’s expansion, and the National Association of Broadcasters.
One example of the competition for spectrum is KCFL-LP, a low-power station that operated in the Fall City area. That station’s allocation has been caught up in the effort to move an Oregon station to this region, and then to move its transmitter closer to Seattle. The uncertainty over the station’s future “made it impossible to raise money,” says Sandi Woodruff, a broadcast consultant who has worked with LPFM stations in the region. Consequently, KCFL isn’t operating.
Even if those issues get resolved, LPFM faces one other major challenge: sustaining and paying for stations once they’re on the air.
Many of the LPFM stations operate with volunteer help, but they still need some sort of financial support to get by.
Woodruff says one station she has worked with in Aberdeen shifted in May from an oldies format to talk with a left-leaning perspective.
Studio and transmitter space is donated, with community contributions funding operating expenses.
What that station learned, Woodruff says by e-mail, is that “people need an emotional attachment to a program in order for them to donate.” They won’t contribute just to keep a station on the air, but they will for a specific program. “People have to fear a show’s loss enough to make a contribution or the station doesn’t make it.” A unique music format, she says, “will fail to generate much income.”

La mia radio (locale) suona il rock

La FCC americana sta cercando di cambiare, per l’ennesima volta, le norme che regolano la proprietà dei conglomerati mediatici e la sensazione è che il chairman, il repubblicano Kevin Martin, punti a due obiettivi: favorire ulteriormente i grandi proprietari di stazioni a scapito dell’emittenza locale e indipendente, e soprattutto votare il cambiamento entro fine anno.
Oggi, a Seattle, è stato fissato uno dei periodici incontri attraverso cui la FCC si confronta con le comunità locali, invitandole a esprimere un parere prima che la Commissione prenda le sue decisioni. Ma a Seattle ci sono state proteste, appoggiate dagli stessi commissari democratici della FCC, perché il meeting è stato organizzato con soli cinque giorni di anticipo. Ieri sul Seattle Times è apparso un op ed di Scott McCaughey, che ha suonato in molte band della tipica tradizione alternative rock di questa città. McCuaghey, che ammette di dovere molta della sua notorietà proprio alle radio locali, ne prende appassionatamente la difesa.

Localism and diversity should be FCC’s priority

By Scott McCaughey
Special to The Times

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin has a lot on his plate, what with his rush to alter existing media-ownership rules in favor of giant media conglomerates. He’ll be in Seattle on Friday for the sixth and final public hearing on media ownership, which will examine the prudence of relaxing current stipulations. Jet lag is tough, but the crowd Martin will encounter here is likely to be even tougher.
The Seattle proceedings were announced at the last minute, giving citizens little time to prepare arguments. Many question whether Martin is sincere in his assessment of public opinion — which, when it comes to further media consolidation, is decidedly negative.
As a longtime member of the Seattle music community, I know firsthand how important radio is for musicians. My bands, Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5, both preceded and participated in the alternative music explosion of the 1990s, and got a major boost from college stations.
Other prominent Seattle acts, such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Presidents of the United States of America, benefited tremendously from both local and national airplay.
Of course, this was before the Federal Communications Act of 1996 ushered in an era of unprecedented consolidation. Since then, we’ve been left with ever-shrinking playlists and a lack of ownership diversity.
Seattle is still a major force in American music. Some of today’s biggest groups, including Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse, call the Emerald City home. Local label Sub Pop Records is internationally celebrated, and the underground scene is a never-ending source of worthy bands.
But, even the most successful of these acts have had less opportunity for airplay on mainstream radio than did their alt-rock antecedents. This is a direct result of media consolidation. Today’s radio conglomerates aim to aggregate the largest possible number of listeners in a targeted demographic so they can sell ads. Their numbers-driven approach to programming has led to the homogenization of the nation’s airwaves, and has a negative effect on culture. Localism and a spirit of adventure are all but missing from the dial.
That is, except for non-commercial broadcasters, such as KEXP and others. Their continued commitment to programming diverse music, as well as news and community-oriented fare, is a ray of light in an otherwise bland and uninspiring spectrum. These stations should not only be celebrated, but also nurtured. There is tremendous opportunity for media to reflect the interests of the public, if only Congress and the FCC make localism and diversity their priority.
Public sentiment couldn’t be clearer. In 2003, former FCC Chairman Michael Powell attempted to ram through changes to media-ownership rules, which resulted in reprimands from Congress and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Regular citizens voiced near-unanimous opposition to further consolidation in the form of millions of comments filed at the FCC.
Musicians haven’t stayed silent, either. At both formal and informal hearings, artists such as Chuck D., Tom Morello, Ted Leo, Tift Merritt, Jenny Toomey, the Indigo Girls and Mike Mills of R.E.M. have offered their views on media ownership, the importance of community and low-power radio, net neutrality and payola.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Mac McCaughan, co-owner of North Carolina-based independent label Merge, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing titled “The Future of Radio.” In his testimony, McCaughan — whose imprint is home to acts like Spoon and Arcade Fire — spoke of the importance of community and noncommercial radio. “For a label like ours,” he said, “and many other musicians out there, the support of noncommercial radio, which is programmed by people as passionate about music as we are, is essential.”
Although the effects of radio consolidation are grim, the Internet has allowed for new methods of exposure for musicians and labels. Technological innovation continues to uncover new and exciting ways through which artists can connect with listeners. That’s why net neutrality is so important.
Unfortunately, Big Telecom wants to change existing structures in order to charge a fee to content providers for the faster loading of their sites. This could drive those who couldn’t afford to pay a “toll” right off the road. The consolidation of radio perfectly illustrates the effects of Big Media-imposed bottlenecks — let’s not make the same mistake with the Web.
Instead of rushing to loosen or eliminate current media-ownership rules, the FCC should instead expand and strengthen opportunities for community and noncommercial broadcasters. Policymakers need to recognize not only the failures resulting from previous consolidation, but also the public’s overwhelming rejection of further moves in that direction.
It’s nice that Martin is bothering to hold hearings — his predecessor didn’t care to. But, these events need to be more than just puppet shows to appease dissenters. Congress needs to make it clear that changes to media ownership rules will not be tolerated until the issues of localism and diversity are reconciled to the benefit of the public, whom the FCC is mandated to serve.
Seattle-based Scott McCaughey has performed for more than 25 years as a singer/songwriter and instrumentalist in bands including the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5, Tuatara and R.E.M.

Queste invece, secondo Associated Press, sono le regole che la FCC vorrebbe rendere ancora più elastiche

FCC’s Media Ownership Rules

By The Associated Press

The Federal Communications Commission soon will vote on the rules that govern how many broadcast stations and newspapers a single company may own.

The current rules:

_National television ownership: No entity may own television stations that in the aggregate reach more than 39 percent of the country’s television households. (Limit set by Congress, not subject to FCC review.)

_Dual network ownership: Common ownership of two of the top four television networks is prohibited.

_Local TV multiple ownership: One entity may own two television stations in the same market as long as their signals do not overlap, or as long as one of the two stations is not in the top four and at least eight independent stations remain following the combination.

_Local radio ownership: In a market with 45 or more stations, the limit is eight; between 30 and 44 stations, the limit is seven; between 15 and 29 stations the limit is six; in a market with 14 or fewer stations, the limit is five; below five, the limit is no more than half the stations.

_Newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership: Common ownership between a daily newspaper and a full-power broadcast station is prohibited.

_Radio/television cross-ownership: In a market where at least 20 independently owned media voices remain post-transaction, a single entity may own two television stations and six radio stations or it may own one television station and seven radio stations.

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