Some of our SOUND OFF's in years past



My late good friend Bill Gavin was a man of great ethics not given to retreat when faced with opposition.  Recognizing my own steps of going against the flow, he cautioned me to be prepared for a chorus of dissention, but that time usually proves one�s point.   

So more than ten years ago when I became outspoken on the pitfalls of radio�s deregulation, my thoughts returned to Gavin�s wisdom, without which I could not have continued the battle.  His words, �Time will prove you right� kept echoing each time I felt like the lone ranger on a horse going nowhere.    

The arrogance of the broadcast bigwigs stuck in my crawl. When I threatened going to the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission I was actually taunted with, �there is no FCC, there is no DOJ, you idiot�.  It was especially difficult when I discovered they were correct.  Both the Department of Justice and the FCC excused my complaints and volumes of evidence advising me I was going against the flow.  Deregulation was in vogue and anyone unable to march in lock step, was dismissed as a trouble maker by both the chieftains of the industry, the NAB and the very agencies in charge of guarding against such abuses. Gone was the blood of true broadcasters, replaced instead by those who valued dollars over common sense.    

It became obvious to me more than ever our society must have laws and regulations with teeth or the greed of man would prevail over ethics and decency. Imagine the highways without guidelines for motorists and no police to enforce them. 

- Janet Gavin - John Rook - Bill Gavin
(Las Vegas Gavin convention, 1968)

My own elected officials, senators and congressmen, who previously hung out in my station's lobby, begging for free air time, disappeared, intimidated by the power of the new media monopolies. Most trade publications refused to question the damage being done for fear of being blackballed by a flood of subscription cancellations from the very companies enjoying their lack of attention.  

Only in recent weeks have the words of Bill Gavin returned to remind me the importance of what time delivers. While the media giants hoped the public would sleep through their grab of even more power, almost overnight they have realized their payoffs to public officials have met their matches.  

The public is speaking and those in our nation�s capital are listening.  Let�s hope the White House hears the thunder of dissent to their desire of further deregulating the media.   

Thank you Bill, for those words of long ago.  I hear them � LOUD AND CLEAR!


Darkness lights deregulation issue.


Deregulation, once again is blamed for the biggest power blackout in our nation�s history.  During the march to deregulate in recent years, our elected official$ were pur$uaded to let the owners of power company�s regulate themselves.  The resulting cutbacks in personnel and services allowed the voltage barons to pocket the savings instead of plowing the profits back into the fail safe service they had promised.   


With at least 50 million people in the dark, congress will be forced to shed some light on how democrats and republicans failed to agree on a workable plan for modernizing the nation�s electrical grids. After they get through placing the blame, don�t be surprised if another issue catches the attention of the public, allowing this vital problem to remain unsolved and swept under the congressional rug. Its how business is done in Washington.                  


The white house wagons have circled FCC chairman Michael Powell, who even with a stacked deck has failed miserably pushing the Bush doctrine of media deregulation.


Thanks to the internet, the congressional pendulum has swung in the favor of the public who now realize the media barons are only leasing � the public owned airwaves.


As the season for vote counting approaches, President Bush may begin to realize �regulation� is a word he might want to brush up on.


Lend your voice to regulate deregulation


�Race to the bottom�





Last August WNEW-FM in New York ran an Opie & Anthony show which allegedly contained a broadcast of sexual activity at St. Patrick�s Cathedral as part of an on-air stunt.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received numerous outraged e-mails and phone calls complaining that this broadcast violated a federal law against indecent programming. 


One year later the FCC has failed to even address these complaints.  Commissioner Michael J. Copps reacted: �When we allow complaints to languish for a year, the message is loud and clear that the FCC is not serious about enforcing our nation�s laws.  Congress expected action from the FCC, but all too often our citizens� complaints are ignored.�   


Copps continued: �I wonder when the FCC will finally take a firm stand against the �race to the bottom� as stations continue to push the envelope of outrageousness even further.�  Recently, the FCC proposed a mere $27,500 fine against another station owned by this same company � on WKRK-FM in Detroit � after it aired some of the most vulgar and disgusting indecency that the Commission has examined.


Copps stated: �Nothing has changed over the past year in the FCC�s enforcement of the indecency laws.  And at the same time, the Commission�s actions have ensured that things will get even worse.�  Instead of enforcing indecency laws, the FCC recently rewarded giant station owners by dismantling the FCC�s media concentration protections.  The FCC took this action without even considering whether there is a link between increasing media consolidation and increasing indecency on our airwaves.  Copps explained: �It stands to reason that as media conglomerates grow ever bigger and control moves further away from the local community, community standards go by the boards.  It is a time to increase, not diminish, our vigilance and our enforcement of the law.� 


Copps concluded: �The time has come for the Commission to send a message that it is serious about enforcing the indecency laws.  Yet, we continue to turn a deaf ear to the millions of Americans who are fed up with the patently offensive programming coming their way so much of the time.� 


Lend your voice to regulate deregulation


Mel�s Media Message



Larry Flynt and Jerry Springer weren�t invited to attend the telecommunications summit recently held in Aspen Colorado .  The marquee indicated the event was organized by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a Washington DC think tank.  Missing yes, but both Larry and Jerry were there in the spirit of Viacom/Infinity�s Mel Karmazin, who used the stage to take credit for his company�s socially redeeming contribution - Howard Stern.  Why he didn�t include Opie and Anthony and Deminsky & Doyle in his list of accomplishments, is a surprise.  Both have surpassed the vulgarity of Stern. In fact, the Detroit duo of D&D have been awarded top billing in broadcasting's decline to slime, with FCC commissioner Michael Copps saying their programming was the �most vulgar and disgusting indecency� he had ever heard since joining the toothless agency.


Mel�s adult book store of radio is better suited for Viacom�s cable distribution than on the public�s airwaves.  With a lifetime of sales in his veins, Karmazin has proven for years that dollars are more important to him than decency.  He�s Wall Street�s Flynt and Springer.


Prior to FCC chairman Michael Powell�s arrival, the agency penalized broadcast licensee�s who fed the fine meter.  Owners who pushed the limits on indecency seldom were given the right to add more stations to their stable.  Licenses were denied and instead rewarded to those who passed the FCC review board and demonstrated a commitment to provide quality programming. Mel seems oblivious to the number of red flags Infinity has received from the agency responsible for granting additional licensees.

�It�s really cool to trash the media�, complains Karmazin responding to setbacks in his need for congressional and public acceptance.  He should know�he�s been feeding the media trash for years.



If anything comes from the awakened public outcry of concern for too much media deregulation, perhaps it can come in the way of a totally reformatted Federal Communications Commission.

Like so much else these days the agency given the responsibility of regulating the public airwaves has been exposed for what it really is, a political football controlled by those it is charged with overseeing. 

As we have noted many times before - man is greedy, an inch of leeway will turn into a mile with the help of an aggressive lawyer. As with so much else in our society, instead of following the law as intended, politicians and the media will do whatever it takes to bend or change the rules to better serve themselves, with little thought given to serving the public interest.

The misdeeds of those who serve as underlings and commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission are well documented by The Center for Public Integrity and other respected organizations who speak on behalf of the public. We will attempt to not focus on the lack of ethic�s and/or corruption itself, but to suggest changes at the FCC that will better do what that agency should be doing - protect the public�s airwaves.

The Federal Communications Commission was once one of the most respected regulatory agencies in Washington, D.C.   It wasn�t that long ago, broadcasters realized what the agency gives, it can also take away.  The past dozen years not only spawned deregulation of the media, it also gave away to almost a total disregard for the rules and regulations of the FCC. 

Appointed officials have proven to be obligated to serve agendas of special interests, not the public.  The Federal Communications Commission today is controlled by the party in power. Perhaps future FCC commissioners should be chosen by a direct vote of the electorate. At least one of the elected officials could be an �independent� with no party affiliation.  These commissioners should be subjected to a similar �review of performance�, as licensees of broadcast facilities are.  How to achieve this is a question yet to be answered.

The rules limiting controlling interest of newspapers, television and radio should continue.  This is especially true in smaller markets, where monopolies limit dissent.

Deregulation, without a strong regulatory agency willing to enforce it, has proven to be ineffective in protecting the public�s airwaves.  The first goal of the Federal Communications Commission should be to the public, not the industry it regulates. Broadcasters should concentrate on serving the public interest at least equal to the financial interest of the licensee.

Receiving a license without paying a spectrum fee, does little to create value for the right to �use� the public airwaves.  Competitive bidding for leasing the use of the public�s airwaves should be considered.  A lesser fee could serve as an incentive for providing programming or service not duplicated by another facility in the community of license.  Above all, a prospective licensee must be accountable for providing local news and information to the community they pledge to serve.  Seeking out issues of importance to the community and inviting comment, should be an important part of a licensees responsibility.

Deregulation has led to a decrease in local news, information and public service programming, with licensee�s largely aiming their programming to attract what is referred to as �the money demo� � the audience advertisers pay premium rates for.

This has given to an abundant duplication in programming, with several stations in a given market each competing for the same audience.       

The rush to deregulate now places the onus on the public to prove a broadcaster is unworthy.  That should be reversed.  Before renewal, a licensee should be required to prove they have provided an exemplary service, possibly in open hearings in their community of license.  This would do much to direct a licensee toward truly providing local service.  A licensee should provide documentation detailing the expense of local news and services provided.  Bartering programming from distant sources may enrich the finances of a licensee, but it pales in comparison to the service local programming can provide.  

Local programming is the key to radio�s success�past and future.  Satellite radio is staking it�s claim on national programming.  Local radio had better do what it can do best�concentrate on local programming.

We welcome your thoughts on this important subject of reformatting an agency whose deregulation of the media has done little to address the needs of the local community.


Rating Ratings

In my five decades of programming, Hooper, Pulse and finally ARB were often cited as the reason for making a change in programming. A client complaining a new talent was a reason for not advertising, shortened more than one career too. The DJ attracting the most attention received the least appreciation�until a delayed "get out of jail" rating book provided the onus for even more creativity. Upon receiving a new ratings report, I often complained of an industry that "actually believes this crap".

Interesting, looking back on it all, most who required an ardent defense, became radio superstars, some still entertaining all these years later.

Early experiences on Hollywood film lots and recording studio�s gave me a totally unique vision of what a director�s contribution should be. Memos were not my idea of communication and most would say my personal direction helped grow their talent.

Consistent, exciting programming delivered ratings, so I left the study of the ARBible to those who worshiped it and concentrated on the job at hand�programming.

But it would also be a continual battle urging patience for programming on the verge of success.

Even in those early days when programming seemed to drive radios engine, top management often dismissed talent as overpaid animals, who even with ratings success seldom received a financial reward as large as those who made a living selling the audience they attracted. Surveying my competition, most talent just beginning to take an exploratory step in improving their act, would be jerked like a dog on a choke chain by top management guided by a disgruntled advertiser or a program director held hostage by a pay check. As an intermediary between talent and top management, seldom did a day go by that I didn�t have to explain why patience was so important in waiting for rating success. However, giving talent "room to breathe" was reason for some talent to seek my stage.

A good talent or program director unappreciated by one owner, most often would be snatched up by one of several competitors. Not true today, as deregulations winners have sadly reduced the available stages for tomorrow�s superstars of radio to hone their talents.

Urged by sales in need of a printout to show clients, it seemed to me the selling of radio became the selling of ratings. Over time a program director who once put the audience in first place, began to allow Arbitron to actually program the station. Much of the sterile programming of today�s radio results.

Programmers have complained for decades about the unreliable data delivered by a ratings company. Meanwhile, those few on-air positions in this day of satellite fed programming are still laboring to achieve rating success from a terribly flawed research effort.


CC Clear Channelized

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced today that it has agreed to be acquired by Clear Channel Communications (CCU) of San Antonio, Texas.

In announcing the deal, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said "This transaction will greatly expedite the demise of the antiquated concept of local ownership of media outlets. Critics of deals such as this need to understand that Clear Channel embodies all that is good and decent in the broadcast industry, and anyone that believes otherwise clearly isn't listening to the news."

In a statement issued today, Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays said "This acquisition is a perfect strategic fit for Clear Channel. The FCC has been a wonderful business partner for the past several years, and has carried out our directions with great enthusiasm. We are proud to welcome the FCC into the Clear Channel family of companies."

Although terms of the deal were not immediately available, It is said that the acquisition will include all components, operating units and assets of the FCC, except for its soul, which was sold in a prior transaction to Satan, Inc. in 1996.

Clear Channel, which owns broadcast facilities, shopping malls, billboard advertising, and concert promotion units all across North America, has been on an acquisition binge for the past several years, and has recently broadened the scope of its acquisitions to include government entities. In a recent deal, CCU purchased a 50% interest in the U.S. Congress, and is reportedly close to striking a deal to purchase The White House. Clear Channel already has been integrally running the George Bush presidency.


THANK YOU, SENATORS McCain and Hollings !

WASHINGTON, 6/13/2003 � A measure introduced by U.S. Sen. John McCain bans industry-sponsored travel by FCC commissioners and staff, according to a statement from the senator�s office.

McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee, attached the measure to the Telcommunicatio0n Act of 2003 introduced June 13. The Arizona Republican also wants to allocate funds to audit the FCC�s troubled �E-Rate� program, used to fund Internet access for schools, and would also impose a one-year lobbying ban on FCC employees.

On May 22, the Center released a report detailing FCC Commissioners and staff received nearly $2.8 million in travel and entertainment expenses over the past eight years, most of it from the telecommunications and broadcast industries that the agency regulates. McCain referenced the information in the report in his statement, addressed to President George Bush.

The bill was co-authored by South Carolina Democrat, Sen. Ernest Hollings.

In one other reform provision, McCain wants to impose a one-year lobbying ban on high-level FCC staffers who leave the agency�s employment. The Center explored the FCC�s close relationship with the industry it regulates in its Feb. 19 report, � The FCC�s Rapidly Revolving Door.�

Five years ago we began providing documentation to both Senators MCain and Hollings, showing this terrible conflict of interest not only from FCC staff, but with most elected officials. It wasn't until the Center for Public Integrity got involved with this issue that it finally begin to receive the attention needed. 

The woes now being blamed on Telecommunications 1996 would not be with us  today, were it not for the millions of dollars paid to our nation's lawbreakers in a legalized payola.  It's about time we hold them to the same standards that they expect us to live with. 

Payola should be against the law in any form, especially when it greases the "hear no evil, see no evil" palms of those who say they are serving us in government. FCC Commissioners and all regulatory agencies should be above being on the take, but given the greed of man, they are not. At least the aforementioned bill could bring about an improvement to what has become accepted behavior in our flawed system of checks and balances.

It's a small step but one taken in the right direction.


Now at this late date, FCC chairman Michael Powell, �applauds� the prescription senators McCain and Hollings are about to force feed him.  How this servant of the public, formerly responsible for upholding the law at the DOJ, could not have uncovered the stench of payola at his own FCC , is beyond me.


And guess what � he threats retaliation for having been exposed with a smug warning,  the trips are valuable and the bill may shift some of the burden to taxpayers�.


No kidding Mr. Powell, that�s the way it�s spose� to be.  But your response couldn�t possibly admit an error�You�ve been caught with your hands in the cookie jar. Accepting what broadcasters in the past were told was payola. And not by some poor guy promoting a record, instead you have been paid off by the regulated�those you are responsible for regulating.   

I�d hope senators McCain and Hollings put someone in charge of Michael Powell full time�he�s one regulator that needs regulating..


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