Saturday, March 31, 2007

Party down with Nova M Radio

Tom Bustamante, Nova M Radio's investment guru, forwarded this press release, announcing a party to celebrate the network's first anniversary:

Nova M Radio Announces 1st Anniversary Party for Progressive Talk Radio Station 1480 KPHX
Wednesday March 28, 12:42 pm ET

PHOENIX, AZ--(MARKET WIRE)--Mar 28, 2007 -- Nova M Radio, a leading liberal and progressive talk radio network, is pleased to announce our 1st anniversary party for 1480 KPHX, our flagship station in Phoenix, AZ, Sunday, April 15, 2007 at 4pm.

Join Mike Malloy, Thom Hartman, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Jeff Farias, and 1,500 of our closest friends, to celebrate our first year of on the air progressive talk radio.

Mingle with the hosts, staff, and fellow liberal progressives. For more details and hotel accommodations go to
http://1480kphx.com/birthday.

Anita Drobny, the President and CEO of Nova M Radio, commented, "We are very excited to announce our first anniversary celebration to help launch a national progressive talk radio network, and we look forward to meeting with other liberal progressives in the area."

For additional investment information on Nova M Radio please visit --
http://www.ludlowcapital.com/reports/novam.html.

About Nova M Radio, Inc.

Nova M Radio, Inc. is in the business of building a national progressive talk radio network, with a partnership between the original founders of Air America Radio Network, Joe Trippi, ex-campaign manager to Howard Dean as media consultant, and John Zogby, the President and CEO of Zogby International. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Nova M Radio is currently broadcasting in 12 cities across the nation, on the Sirius Left radio network, and XM satellite will be onboard in May 2007, with plans for additional affiliates throughout 2007.
www.novamradio.com



An no, there's no word on what the other guys are doing to celebrate their birthday today.

The weekly "Sam Seder fired" rumor

Just a couple week ago, there were reported rumors of Sam Seder's demise at Air America Radio. And now, there's more.

After the close of yesterday's show, LTR has been inundated with emails wondering if Seder is indeed getting the axe. It started with one I got from Nancy Cunningham of Dallas Air America, a grassroots group. She was listening to the show via the "SammyCam" (his live video webcast) and heard something that could one think that the end is indeed here.

So, in other words, Seder has been fired almost as many times as Al Franken has quit to run for the senate.

From poster "mo lib" on Seder's blog:

With the Sammy Cam still on I clearly heard Dan Pashman say they will make a promo on Monday saying this is the last week of the Sam Seder Show. This sucks!

Sam will do fine without AAR . He's smart and creative. It's a real loss for the rest of us.

I hope he can stay on the radio. Maybe with Nova M. This is really sad news.


Adding more fuel to the fire, Seder allegedly posted an anonymous comment about wrapping up the show next week (taking off Tuesday and Wednesday for Passover), and that he is negotiating with Air America brass for a Sunday show. He also said management prefers "less substance" for the late morning time slot. Nothing has been officially announced.

Following the "Sammy Cam" revelation , other blogs picked up on it, including Brilliant at Breakfast and Morning Seditionists. And I was flooded with emails and Myspace messages pointing to this. But, as I usually do, I held off on sharing it, as I'm often a bit hesitant to throw rumors like that out there. Not to toot my own horn, but LTR is read by many people, inside and outside the radio industry. Staffers at Air America read this blog, as do radio station personnel and even some hosts themselves. With that comes a feeling of responsibility and accountabilty. And screaming "the sky is falling" whenever a shoe drops is a credibility killer. On vague rumors such as this, I feel the best approach is to sit back and see what unfolds. And since there is nothing official, and speculation is rampant in this case, I would say that this could be considered a 'vague rumor'.

So, let's take a step back and look at the whole picture. Sam and company left the cam on. Dan Pashman, one of the show's producers, was overheard on a 'hot' mic that they're cutting a promo announcing the end of Seder's show, and that he was moving over to produce Laura Flanders' show. Seder himself is allegedly planning to wrap up his show. What is going on here?

Now, I'm not saying Pashman is full of beans, but considering this is the last show prior to April 1 (APRIL FOOL!) I guess you could call me a bit skeptical. Pretty good prank, methinks. And, while I did not hear the whole exchange, it does sound way too convenient to throw this out at the end of the show.

Besides, who does Air America have in line as a replacement?

Is it legit? Is it all a put-on? Or a misunderstanding? Who knows? All I know is this is a rumor. Until something more concrete and semi-official comes along, I'm not ready to scream, "the sky is falling." And I don't want to give complete credibilty to unconfirmed rumors. At least not yet. Check back next week.

Oh, and happy 3rd birthday to Air America Radio. Yeah, they're still around.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

KOKE is alive and well, with new website and ideas

It's been awhile since we last checked in on KOKE (1600AM) in Austin, TX.

Previously, things were somewhat up in the air for the Texas Progressive Network, after changes at two of their three stations. KXEB in Dallas was sold in September to Guadalupe Radio Network, which specializes in Spanish-language religious programming. And in December, KTXX-FM, located far outside the San Antonio market that it targeted, flipped to a Spanish-language music format. Owner Border Media Partners still had KOKE, in addition to many other radio stations throughout Texas. And it looks like KOKE is getting a makeover.

First off, they hired a new program director and recently debuted a new website, along with a new station logo. Also in store is a new outdoor marketing campaign. And reportedly, more local and regionally-oriented programming will be added to the currently Air America-heavy schedule (they also air Ed Schultz live). This will probably happen after April, when their year-to-year contract with the network expires. Not to worry for Austin Air America fans though, since the new local programming will augment the syndicated fare still on the station.

KOKE's commitment to progressive talk is a bit ironic, since quite a few station owners have flipped to new flavor-of-the-month formats in the endless pursuit of the quick buck. In addition, BMP's stations tend to be targeted toward Spanish-speaking listeners (though they do program English-language formats on some). Nonetheless, this newfound commitment to progressive talk, as opposed to the lackadaisical approach by many other owners, is refreshing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The end of Radio Free Ohio?

NOTE: The following article has been updated on March 29. Toward the end, I even take apart Clear Channel's spin on the whole matter.

Ohio Media Watch is reporting that WARF in Akron, aka "Radio Free Ohio" is about to flip to the new AM radio format du jour, sports. And station management has confirmed it.

Clear Channel has already reserved the domain SportsRadio1350.com, and the flip will occur Friday morning.

Since there is already a glut of sports stations in the market, by way of ESPN-affiliated WKNR in Cleveland and low-powered FOX Sports-affiliated WJMP in nearby Kent, the only option left open for the station is Sporting News Radio. That will be combined with Westwood One live sports programming, including the NFL, NCAA basketball and whatever else. They also carry local lower-tiered sports teams.

Why the flip? As I mentioned, all-sports is the format du jour. And it's highly concentrated male demographic is highly desirable to advertisers who want to target male listeners. And sports talk doesn't even need substantial ratings to do this, which fits perfectly with the many neglected AM stations that dot the landscape. In the past year or two, radio station owners have come to realize this, hence the sports radio boom.

WARF is notable in that they served as Bill Press' very first affiliate. The station also carried other Jones Radio Networks offerings, such as Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz, sprinkled with a little bit of Air America Radio.

The station never became a ratings powerhouse in its almost two-year run, but they did have a devoted following, and ratings for the progressive talk format even eclipsed the station's previous incarnation as a FOX Sports-affiliated sports talker. Station management claims that ratings were higher prior to switching to progressive talk, but as I wrote in May 2005, sports-formatted WTOU consistently had mediocre showings in the Arbitron ratings From 2001 until the switch to progressive talk, overall ratings shares for the station were between 0.3 and 0.6. Following the switch, WARF launched with a 1.0 share for the summer 2005 book. Ratings for the station were often between 0.6 and 1.0, eclipsing the overall ratings for the previous sports format. In the most recent ratings book, the station dipped to a 0.6 share. It's doubtful the new 1350 will get those same ratings, but that's not why they're doing it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Harrison back on the air - for 5 minutes

The good news: Former KTLK/Los Angeles nighttime guy Cary Harrison is back on the air.

The bad news: You'll only get him in five minute bursts.

But hey, that's still not bad.

The former "Harrison on the Edge" host can now be heard on Pacifica's KPFK in Los Angeles, starting this evening (March 27) at 6:25P (PT). He'll provide five minute commentaries for the "KPFK Evening News". Hey, five minutes is better than none, right?

In addition, he's still doing his weekly one-hour podcast, and recently did a fill-in as host of Air America Radio's "Politically Direct." Also, KPFK, like other Pacifica stations, does an amazing job of archiving shows, and you'll be able to catch "KPFK Evening News" via their show feed or Harrison's site.

Attack of the Music Mafia

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” - Hunter S. Thompson

More and more people are listening to online radio these days, with overall listening time per person coming close to equaling that of terrestrial radio. Music aficionados are enjoying the eclectic and distinct genres that they can access with the simple click of a mouse. Listeners can also tune in terrestrial radio stations from other cities, in case they feel the KISS-FM in Chicago is better than the one in L.A. or Dallas. For many fans, this is about as close to heaven on earth as they can get. The ability to have so many listening choices at one's disposal was likely once a whacked-out dream inside someone's head. And with the growth of WiFi and portable technology, webcasting could someday go wherever we go.

But, things can't ever possibly be this good. A dark cloud looms over the horizon. Soon, music fans could be deprived of the rich sounds and wildly varied styles and genres of music coming through their computer speakers. They could be without the bossa nova, lounge and other forms of exotic content provided by LuxuriaMusic. Or the not-too-commercial content of FolkAlley. Or the deep selection of 80s new wave hits served up by Java Jane. Yes, this burgeoning media form could come to a grinding halt soon, if lawyers and lobbyists in Washington, DC get their way.

Even acclaimed non-commercial stations like WXPN and KCRW could shut down their webstreams. Heck, so could the big commercial guns like Clear Channel!

This is not a veiled threat. This is real. And it could very well happen.

SoundExchange, the D.C.-based trade organization (and arm of the Recording Industry Association of America) that collects and distributes royalties, half to artists and half to record labels, is advocating for an increase in the amount of royalties that webcasters, satellite radio providers and other forms of modern technology broadcasters pay. After all, if licensing firms such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC can collect song publishing royalties from broadcasters, satcasters, webcasters and whoever else, why can't they? But at least the music publishers are reasonable. If SoundExchange gets their way, royalties paid by webcasters to the recording industry will more than double, in addition to a $500 per channel per year fee. If this gets the go-ahead by the Copyright Royalty Board, and it possibly could, the very small hobby webcasters will be pushed out of business. Even multi-stream providers such as Pandora and Live365 will be bankrupted.

Terrestrial radio broadcasters are grandfathered in, and thus excluded from this money grab (though they pay royalties to ASCAP and BMI). They're not required to pay the RIAA-mandated royalties, unless they themselves stream their content over the web. But if SoundExchange gets their way, they too may have to cough up money. If that happens, well, I hope you really like talk radio.

And if you're one of the roughly 30 million people in the United States who listens to internet radio and are looking for sympathy and compassion from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or SoundExchange, well, don't hold your breath.

In fact, John Simson, executive director of SoundExchange, relishes the idea of paring down the webcast field, if it's beneficial to the artists.

"Is 10,000 stations the right number?" he asks. "Does having so many Web stations disperse the market so much that it hurts the artist? What's the right
number of stations? Is it 5,000? Is it less? Are artists better off having hundreds of listeners on lots of little stations, or thousands of listeners on larger stations?"

And if your webcast is a non-commercial hobby, well, find a new hobby. Simson says small operators who play music and don't try to sell ads "will have a hard time paying the rate" -- a change about which he's not shedding tears. Of course, he's living in a bit of a fantasy world, as webcast advertising is really in its infancy, and the vast majority of streaming stations are basically worth no more that the equipment they use. After all, AccuRadio is not AOL.

Many see a Utopian model where webcasting, like terrestrial radio, can work with the music cartel in a collaborative fashion. Meaning that the music getting airplay serves as promotion for the industry's goods, resulting in increased sales. Heck, the labels don't even have to bribe them to play their music! It would be a perfect world. Too bad the world really isn't perfect.

"The attitude that really has to change is the idea that the people playing this music on the Web are somehow doing artists a favor," Simson says. Artists want their music to be heard, of course, and the industry likes the concept of Web radio, but Simson rejects the concept that small webcasters are doing artists a favor by giving them exposure. He wants blood. And it doesn't matter how they get it.

Simson and his ilk are basically empty suits - lobbyists and lawyers doing the bidding of the RIAA (though they claim they are currently independent of them). Most of these goons aren't really true artists (though Simson did try to make it in the 70s as a singer/songwriter before chucking the dream and going to law school). They probably don't really care if musicians get paid or not. Most likely, they probably don't really care about music in general, as their minds have become clouded by figures and retainer fees. These people represent the dark, extremist side of the Music Mafia, the supercharged id of the industry psyche.

The music cartel thrives on control. And the very nature of the internet gives way too much power to the fans, power that the industry just doesn't want to fully cede. They'd much rather decide what we listen to, rather than us going out and discovering music that we might like better. The peer-to-peer file sharing boom earlier in the decade scared the bejeezus out of them. Sure, illicit file sharing is wrong on many levels, but this practice made the cartel paranoid of virtually anything on the internet controlled by parties outside their system of control. And that includes webcasting.

Just to warn you all, I'll be making much mention of file sharing, as it has been the 800lb. gorilla in the room throughout this rocky relationship between music and technology, and an example of how the industry dropped the ball with something that could have benefited them. But it most certainly has very little to do with the practice of webcasting. Although the industry has connected the two in the past, streaming music programming over the internet is really no different than terrestrial radio, only it's nature lends itself to niche programming and a more personal feel than corporate-owned radio. And it is definitely much more legit than music file sharing. Artists had every right to be hostile toward the likes of Napster, Kazaa and Grokster (though Metallica screwed the pooch in their poorly received response to it), but I'm sure all of them wholeheartedly approve of and support independent webcasting. In addition, many of them actually want to work with those nefarious peer-to-peer operators to legitimize their efforts and actually help the artists promote their works, while at the same time respecting their rights. But the music cartel, for the most part, is very timid.

(My son) kept saying it was wrong to steal the music (downloading from Napster)... (I said) If he wants to fight for my rights he could call up BMI and ask them why my broadcast-related payments were so low during the years The Who were in the top 10 AOR playlists. He might ask them why during the 1989 Who tour, when we paid a huge sum of money to BMI for the right to perform songs I had written, they eventually paid me (after a lot of complaining from my manager) a tiny portion of that sum, excusing themselves because their main payout area that year was Nashville. - Pete Townshend

Now, getting money to the very people who create the music is one thing. Only thing is, SoundExchange has had pretty mixed results in their distribution efforts. Last year, they posted a list of artists that have unclaimed royalties, giving a December 15 deadline to claim or forfeit. And who gets that forfeited money? Gee, one can only guess. Though, how hard could it be to find the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Here's a hint: they're in Utah. Or the Chicago Community Choir? The list is utterly hysterical. How about Clayton and Mullen? You know, the guys who did the theme for the first Mission:Impossible movie? Remember them? Hmm... I wonder where they are now. Well, it certainly can't be too difficult to find the rhythm section from U2! Ace Frehley? SoundExchange must think the former KISS guitarist is living under a bridge or something (oh wait - that's Peter Criss). Or, I wonder if New Kids on the Block know that they had money coming their way? Well, they'd have to look under 'M', since it's spelled "Mew Kids on the Block." Hey, isn't that Coolio on the list too? Or, speaking of washed-up 90s acts, how 'bout Gerardo, a.k.a. the "Rico Suave" guy? Well, he shouldn't be that tough to find. He's currently a friggin' record label exec for Interscope, part of one of the Big Four labels! As for any of the other artists on the list, I'm sure anyone with half a brain in their heads could go online and find contact information for many of them in mere minutes. No wonder why a budding competitor, the more reasonable Royalty Logic, is fighting against their questionable tactics. Of course, SoundExchange used their government clout to stick it to their budding rival.

"In a game where the ‘other' guys in suits and ties and 4 super-corporations control the bottom line in this culture, my stance is to dismantle that dominance and add parity across the board. The lawyers and accountants who've assumed the exec positions stand to lose the most when that happens." - Chuck D

So, am I advocating that artists should go pound sand and be thankful that they get any airplay at all? Absolutely not. But the recording industry should realize that, as hard as they try, they cannot work against technology. It didnt' work with the sheet music publishers and their wars with radio in the 1920s and 1930s. It didn't work with recordable tape and the rise of FM radio. And it didn't work with digitally compressed audio files and the internet. What did happen in every case is that the technology helped them grow even more. Even today, the recording industry is starting to make money via legitimate digital distribution of their music via iTunes and the like (and it took someone with the clout of Steve Jobs to finally make it work), after the fizzling of half-assed industry-controlled efforts such as MusicNet and PressPlay. Illicit downloading, believe it or not, may have actually helped them, as albums from Radiohead, Eminem and Coldplay shot to the top of the charts even after being fully leaked in advance online.

"In Mozart's time, word of mouth built an audience. People found him and heard him play. Then someone came along and said, 'We can sell this experience.' Right there, you've got trouble. Music comes from the spirit, but where does the guy selling the music come from?" - Prince

The music industry and its lobbyists and lawyers have to realize that new media (as in satellite radio and webcasting) is really helping them stay alive. Here are ten suggestions for the recording industry on how all parties involved can coexist:

1. Just like radio airplay, webcasting, satellite, Muzak and whatever other distribution technologies out there can actually help promote your stuff. And they can help sell it. Heck, AccuRadio, with 20,000 listeners at a time tuning in to 320 different music streams, claims that they help to sell $40,000 worth of CDs per month via direct links to Amazon.com. But with over 300 streams, the new rates will drive them out of business. Is this what they really want? Record labels have had no qualms in the past actually bribing stations to play their useless crap, so why take it out on the little guy who actually wants to play it? And it won't cost the labels baggies of weed, suitcases full of cash or hookers to do it. Tell the lobbyists to be reasonable about this whole royalty business and stop being so anal about it. The money will come. Trust me.

2. Recording industry lobbyists such as Simson claim that the music on webstreams are 'perfect digital copies.' That's nonsense. Music on webstreams is highly compressed and non-lossless. Meaning that they are degraded. Most webcast at rates of 128K or lower, in various streaming formats. That's roughly the equivalent of FM, without the excess compression and occasional static. The closest one could get to CD quality would be at a rate of 320K, which has minor degradation. But very, very few stream over 128K, due to exhorbitant cost of bandwidth and the inability for most people to listen to it. Again, webcasting is not the same as file sharing. Far from it.

3. The RIAA claims that people can 'rip' streams and make their own digital copies with widely available software. This is true, but the rips are still highly degraded. And doing this just to get a few individual songs is a real pain in the ass. I've never heard of anyone doing this. Besides, it's just as easy to record off the air (maybe even easier) to your computer with an external FM radio and an inexpensive connector plug from Radio Shack, if someone really had the time and energy to do that.

4. Choking legitimate royalty-paying webcasters out of business will jump back to bite the music industry in the ass. These are the ones who go out of their way to support you, via 'buy' links on their site where someone can actually buy the song they're hearing with a mere click. Getting rid of the webcasters who are succombing to your extortive tactics will only open the door wider to lower-tech 'pirate' webcasters who don't pay royalties. Think these people are going to put 'buy links' on their site for people to purchase the stuff they play? Think again.

5. The music industry also has to realize that most webcasters out there aren't in it to become zillionaires. The webcasters realize this. They do it as a labor of love, and some, like Bill Goldsmith of Radio Paradise can scrape a living out of it, all the while paying his royalties. And revenue streams for webcasters are far from becoming reality. Most webcasters spend more money than they make, but they do it because they believe in it. They're looking to support their favorite artists, not exploit them. This isn't the same as peer-to-peer providers like Kazaa selling advertising and spyware on their heavily-trafficked sites and services and pocketing all the loot. Music execs are more likely to rip off their artists than webcasters are. And they have.

"They wouldn't recognise art or artistic integrity if they bounded over and bit them on the arse... The real truth is that record companies have been screwing the public for years and they're now terrified that they might lose the odd dollar here and there."
- Dunstan Bruce, Chumbawamba

6. The availability of online music, whether it be in webcasting, legitimate and illegitimate downloading or on-demand streaming is not what's really hurting the music cartel's bottom line. Sure, they're groaning about that 20% loss in sales over the past year, but have any of these people really looked to see what could be the real root of the problem? After all, the movie industry, also waging their own war against internet piracy, experienced a 5% increase in business in 2006, despite $10 tickets and $7 buckets of popcorn. Rather than blame everyone else, has the music industry taken into account other factors such as the increased competition from other media, including the widespread success of the DVD format for movies? Or the pricey video games available for all those gaming consoles (with several high-profile system launches in the past year)? Lots of stuff out there competing for that same dollar. Or the rise in sanctioned downloads from services such as iTunes? How about the tight playlists that dominate our corporate airwaves, depriving listeners of hearing talented artists rather than the current 'flavor of the month'? Or have they taken a look in the mirror at the very product they're pushing? There's lots of good music out there, but they seem content at merely pushing the mass-appeal mediocrity that they think is an easier sell. Blaming it all on the internet is short-sighted. And if new media is hurting your bottom line, perhaps you should learn how to take advantage of the vast marketing opportunities available with it and stop trying to fight technology. Remember, technology will always win.

"As the technology changes and the distribution channels evolve, artists are going to become free,"
Clint Black


7. Take care of your own. People have to wonder if your aim to collect royalties for deserving artists is true when the artists themselves are getting burned on expected royalties. Take the Bay City Rollers (...please!). They were pretty big in the 70s, and sold roughly 70 million units sold around the world. Yet all they've gotten in royalties in the past 25 years is a measly $254,000. Tsk, tsk. Or the Chambers Brothers. They released a bunch of records but scored only one real hit. And what a hit it was. "Time Has Come Today," written by Joe and Willie Chambers themselves, still gets tons of airplay, has been used in over 30 films, included on at least 125 compliations and even used in commercials. Yet, they haven't gotten a penny for it, or anything else they recorded in the 60s and 70s either. Is this how you take care of your own? Where does all this royalty money go anyway? We hear so many horror stories of artists getting screwed out of their money by unscrupulous execs, to the point that some of the very same people who built the business through their hard work died penniless through record company incompetence. Rhythm and blues pioneer LaVern Baker was still performing to her dying day while in a wheelchair with both of her legs amputated due to diabetes. Why? She needed the money for her artificial legs. Funny, I've never heard of a record exec falling on hard times. The industry screaming about webcasting cheating deserving artists is utter hypocrisy! So walk your talk. Practice what you preach. If it is indeed the artists' money, give it to them. And that means the money you stole from them too.

And if the recording industry is so concerned about the plight of the artists, allow the many musicians out there to be able to participate in the same health plans and perks that RIAA and label staffers have access to. NARAS, another music industry trade concern and host of the Grammy Awards, provided their former president Michael Green with a million dollar country club membership, a Mercedes and hush money for a sexual harassment suit. Musician Victoria Williams couldn't even get medical treatment for multple sclerosis on her own.

"The RIAA represents the interests of the majors. The interests of the majors are contrary to the interests of artists. The RIAA does not represent the interests of artists, and to suggest this is fundamentally dishonest." - Robert Fripp

8. The music industry will not gain much sympathy by alienating the people who support it most. Meaning people who listen to and buy your products. Calling your supporters thieves and slapping lawsuits on them will not endear them to you. Neither will cutting off their favorite listening options (i.e. webcasts) or inconveniencing them. And certainly not filing lawsuits against stroke victims and 7-year olds. Stop telling kids to drop out of college so they get a McJob and send you $3,000 or whatever you claim they owe you. And the 'settle-o-matic' feature on your website for the guilt-ridden and paranoid downloading crowd is piling it on a bit thick, don't you think? Let's face it, none of that money will ever see the hands of the artists whose music was snagged. Piss off your supporters (aka music fans) even more and they might do something rash, like form really bad opinions of you, boycott you, or even worse - ask questions you don't want to answer, such as why your artists only make less than a buck on their CD that sells for $15-18. Shaking down your fans is a big, big mistake.

"Record companies as we know them will soon be gone. There are too many other ways to distribute music, and once those are established there will be no place for record companies and their pigeonholes. They can take that as a threat if they like. It will be a big change. But as an artist I love change. Who needs ‘em?" - Keith Richards

9. Let go. Stop trying to be the gatekeeper to the entire music universe. I doubt this whole charade really has much to do with artist royalties. The labels have been shafting artists for decades. Rather it's a method of control. The industry wants to be the ones to decide who makes it and who doesn't, in order to target their cashflow and give the beancounters and shareholders something to wrap their minds around. They want all the power, and the ability to decide who gets airplay and promotion and who doesn't. With only a select number of radio station owners out there, and a heavy reliance on corporate-mandated playlists, this makes promotion very easy. Much more simplistic to shove bland, shitty mass appeal bands like Nickelback and Hinder down everyone's throats than Bright Eyes, who has recently garnered quite a bit of attention and rave reviews despite little mainstream airplay (except for non-commercial radio and webcasting) and being distributed by a small independent label out of Omaha.

But that would be too complicated for the industry. Much easier to promote and market what they know - crass, predictable crap. Like the Pussycat Dolls, a Las Vegas burlesque troupe who are in a rather unique situation - they are record company employees! Yes, you read that right. Rather than being 'works for hire' or indentured servants like every other act out there, they were hired and are employed by Interscope, meaning that the image, songs, musicians, videos, promotion, etc. are provided by the label, and all the girls have to do is show up in the studio, on the video set, on stage and to the reality show (yes, the reality show). Well, two out of three ain't bad. Supposedly, it's only one girl singing lead and backup on all the songs on their record (though two more out of the remaining five are given credit for backup vocals). Have we learned nothing from the whole Milli Vanilli fiasco? They also market this group heavily toward young girls, going so far to team with Hasbro to produce a toy line. Hmm... Las Vegas burlesque marketed to 11-year olds? Is this where they got the idea? But that's another rant for another time.

The labels are killing themselves with their increased reliance on mass appeal mediocrity. Think of it this way: In 25 years, who's going to be elected into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame? Certainly not Justin Timberlake. The innovative artists are the ones on the ground trying to do it themselves. Heck, there could be another Led Zeppelin out there, waiting for their big break. And likely, in the modern day environment, with the RIAA holding the keys to the gate, controlling distribution, support and radio airplay, it will never happen. And they're still a bit uncomfortable with fan-driven webcasters and sites like Myspace taking matters into their own hands. That's a chink in their armour! An affront to their authority!

"Somewhere along the way, record companies figured out that it's a lot more profitable to control the distribution system than it is to nurture artists. And since the companies didn't have any real competition, artists had no other place to go. Record companies controlled the promotion and marketing; only they had the ability to get lots of radio play, and get records into all the big chain store. That power put them above both the artists and the audience. They own the plantation." - Courtney Love

10. If you don't do it, someone else will. There's a reason Prince left Warner Brothers, Garth Brooks left Capitol and Public Enemy left Def Jam to strike out on their own. And there's a reason Ani DiFranco shunned the major labels and currently enjoys complete artistic freedom and over $4 per album in royalties by distributing her own music. Just last week, Paul McCartney, perhaps the most famous musician still alive, left EMI after more than four decades, even turning down a reported £25 million advance (or $49 million - like he needs the money!), to sign with Starbucks' upstart independent label, because he felt they could more effectively promote his new music. Yes, that Starbucks. It's about control. It's about freeing themselves from restrictive indentured servitude contracts. It's about determining their own destiny, outside of the Big Four. It's about trusting their destiny to a company that actually cares about promoting their new product.

Today, there are many more avenues available to artists that didn't exist in the past. No longer do major labels and corporate-controlled radio stations have to get involved. Artists and independent labels can simply cut out the middle man, by going to independent webcasters and sites like Myspace and Last.fm. The extremely talented Terra Naomi scored a major label deal with Island Records via a widely seen homemade music video on YouTube. These are more direct grassroots marketing channels that artists can utilize themselves, meaning less control for the music mafia. They're being rendered obsolete. No wonder why the industry is so timid of the internet!

Here's what can happen if the major labels just open their minds and support new media. A Chicago band, OK Go, was sitting on an album that was getting virtually no attention. Unimpressed with the predictable promotional efforts of their label, Capitol Records, they created a silly music video in their backyard for one of their songs as a joke (at a cost of roughly $5), emailing it to friends and acquaintances while never really intending to officially release it. Capitol could have sued for many, many copyright violations when the video spread and became a massive success on YouTube. Or they could have put their foot down when the band started handing out homemade DVDs featuring the video at their shows. Instead, figuring they really had nothing to lose anyway, Capitol stepped aside and just supported the band's efforts. OK Go got even more creative, shot another low-budget homemade video (this one intentional) and uploaded it to YouTube, without the knowledge or consent of the label. The result? "Here It Goes Again", another hilarious effort featuring a single long take and a choreographed routine on treadmills, was a web phenomenon, viewed over 13 million times on YouTube alone. It also won a Grammy for Best Video and resulted in a sales spike of 180% and widespread airplay for a year-old album, a very rare feat. To their credit, the Capitol brass gave in, let the band to their thing and even supported it, going so far as to allow the music on a medium they loathe - on-demand internet access. Yes, this stuff does work. The internet is a powerful tool that can be utilized to give a much-needed shot in the arm to a sagging music industry. This is even bigger than MTV! Killing the goose that laid the golden egg is sheer lunacy.

Major labels aren’t going away, but until they figure out how to lead the Internet rather than chase it, the mainstream music scene is destined to just get even duller and safer than it already is. - John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants

So, what can we as the general public do to save internet radio? Well, fighting the music industry lobby and the politicians they have sucking at their hind teats is intimidating, but it can be done. You can go to this link at Congress.org, copy the text letter there and by just entering your zip code you can send the letter directly to your congresspeople. You can also find more information about the Music Mafia shakedown of the internet at these sites:

Save Our Internet Radio
Save the Streams - includes petition
Kurt Hanson's Radio and Internet Newsletter
Another petition

Or you could even let the SoundExchange shakedown artists themselves know how you feel about their fatwa on webstreaming and other heavy-handed tactics. You can email Simson here and contact the rest via this web page.

And yes, the Music Mafia and new media can coexist. And flourish. If only they stop fearing it and stop trying to kill it. And work with the public, rather than against it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Maron's through with Air America

After a couple canceled weekday shows, after all the ups and downs of the network, after the unfulfilled offers of a new show and various fill-in gigs, and after a long period of stringing him along, Marc Maron has made the decision for them.

He's done with Air America.

In an email to fans this morning, Maron explains that it was he who came to the decision:

Well, Friends-

Here some sad news out of the gate. I will not be returning to Air America Radio. Today will be the last time I call in on Sam Seder's show. I will not be guest hosting any Air America shows in the future. This is all my choice. No conspiracy here. I'm just done with that company. My relationship with AAR is officially over. Thank you all for your support over the last couple of years. I've got to let go and move on.

There are some things percolating at HBO. I have no real news about what or when or if but there is percolation.
In the meantime, Maron will concentrate mostly on his burgeoning standup comedy career.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Air America streaming links updated

Okay, here's the scenario.

You've been trying to tune in Air America Radio in the past several weeks but been stopped dead in your tracks, often running across a message telling you to 'try back another time.'

Hey, I'd be pissed off too!

Well, it looks like things have definitely improved since I previously posted about this little dilemma.

According to Bob at Air America Place, the network has changed streaming providers, and with that change comes new streaming links. So now, instead of hopping across the country via various affiliate webstreams, you can now safely go back to Air America and tune in from the source.

For Windows Media Player listeners, you can go here.

Real Player listeners can listen here. Or better yet, install a decent media player. Okay, just joking about that last one.

These links will directly open a web-based player, also accessible at this link. I don't have direct player links yet that you can add to your media player bookmarks or presets, but I'm working on it.

However, a poster at Air America Place was kind enough to dig up a pretty good mp3 link, which you can access here or here. Not sure if it's an official one from Air America, but hey, it works well and sounds great. Clicking on the link should open the stream in the mp3 player of your choice, whether it be Winamp or iTunes (depending on your computer's default configuration).

The previous streams you had bookmarked no longer work. The ones provided do. In addition, these links have been added to the left-hand column, so you should be able to click on them with no problems.

Of course, you can also stream from an affiliate, and several links to live streams can be found on the left side of the page as well, including ones for each individual show.

Yahoo! Widgets geeks also have a new option. Someone has created an Air America widget, which sits on your desktop and enables you to listen from there. So far I tried the Windows Media stream from it, and it works pretty good. It's 16MB, so it's pretty easy on resources. You can download that here. Note that the widget will offer the option of either the WMP or Real stream, and will open it in the media player of your choice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Those damned Sam Seder rumors

NOTE: This one will likely be updated a lot.

Dan, a reader in Atlanta, sent me an email over the weekend. He went to see Marc Maron do his standup routine at a local comedy club last week. And something that Maron said shocked quite a few of his fans.

In the email, he stated:

I am a longtime Morning Sedition and Air America fan from Atlanta. I now stream, but only occaisionally, mostly to Sam Seder, at first because he has Maron on every Friday. I saw Marc Maron perform the other night at the punchline and at one point in the show, he started talking about Air America because a fan was talking to him about it before he went on or something and Maron said that Air America wanted to hire him to replace Sam Seder and that it was awkward. I'll say. Marc said he turned them down but that Seder was going to be fired.
In a nutshell, Air America told Maron that his friend Seder was being dropped and that they wanted to hire him as a replacement. Maron felt a bit uncomfortable being put in that kind of situation and said no.

I hesitated to report on this, since this was rather vague, no time frame was mentioned (did this offer to Maron happen months ago? Weeks ago?), and nobody's saying anything else about it. It's really just hearsay. So, I decided to wait and see on this one.

Well, a few people picked up on the rumor, most notably Michael Hood at BlatherWatch. He got a few emails too. Still, the rumor was pretty vague, and I make it a policy to only report rumors that have at least some credibility, preferring to leave the fiction and bullshit to the bottom feeders who lack the self-confidence to actually deal in truth. But since many come to the World's Greatest Liberal Talk Radio Blog to find out the 411, and many of Seder's fans have been visiting here as of late, thanks to a link on Seder's site, I felt it necessary to at least make mention of this whole deal.

A possible contradiction of this rumor could pertain to the recent management changes at Air America. David Bernstein was hired last week by new Air America president Mark Green to oversee programming, and in an interview with the New York Daily News, published today, he stated that he wasn't prepared as of yet to overhaul the on-air roster. "...As a product, it's too early to say if we're going in the right direction," said Bernstein. "It may be that in the end, we're already giving people exactly what they want. That's what I'll be looking at." New program directors often don't make radical changes this early in the job, and it's likely that the network would like to avoid a listener-alienating controversy such as the one that ensued with the Mike Malloy debacle.

UPDATE: And BlatherWatch has posted Maron's side of the story, and not surprisingly, it sounds like it was a bit of a misunderstanding. "They [Air America] made me an offer. Initially it was unclear what time slot I would fill," he said. Initial plans were to put Maron in Seder's slot and move Seder back to evenings. Being close friends, Maron turned it down and told him what had transpired. As far as Maron knows, Seder has not been fired.

So there you have it. It's a pretty weak rumor, and extremely vague on top of that. No, it doesn't look like Sam Seder is getting the axe. It's all just a misunderstanding. If anything changes, you can find out the real story at LTR.

WURP/Pittsburgh sold

1550 The Edge's days may be numbered.

WURP, the Pittsburgh-area 'hot talk' station and longtime affiliate of Air America's The Young Turks has been sold to Business Talkradio.net Inc., a company that programs a 24/7 business/general talk format.

The deal is pending until approved by the Federal Communications Commission, but Business TalkRadio.net plans to install their own programming, which consists of business news, talk shows such as Doug Stephan's Good Day and Ray Lucia, and various lifestyle programming. The station will also carry some local programming, including news and sports. The purchaser will take over management via an LMA as of April 15.

WURP is not a liberal talk station. They do air The Young Turks and some Air America weekend programming (another Pittsburgh station, WPTT, carries Thom Hartmann's Air America show), but they also carry a hodgepodge of shows from conservative G. Gordon Liddy, 'hot talkers' Tom Leykis and Don and Mike, and a feed from Sporting News Radio.

The Turks have been carried on the station for several years, predating their signing with Air America last fall. Recently, the station added additional programming from the network to fill gaps in the schedule. The station has never been a factor in the Pittsburgh ratings due to a very weak signal that covers only a small fraction of the terrain-challenged market. A construction permit has been granted to move the transmitter closer to the city's center.

Morning Edition competition?

NPR's "Morning Edition" soon may not be the only public radio choice in the morning.

New York's WNYC is teaming up with Public Radio International to produce a national morning radio program that will compete with National Public Radio’s long-running and popular "Morning Edition."

The program, as yet unnamed, will also include assistance from BBC World Service, the New York Times and Boston public radio station WGBH. BBC correspondents and reporters and critics for The New York Times will contribute on-air reports for the live news program and take part in what is expected to be its more informal, conversational format.

Creators say the new morning program will depart from the pre-recorded interviews and long features approach long employed by "Morning Edition," and will be a bit more free-wheeling and personality-oriented.

But the new PRI/WNYC endeavor will have more competition to contend with. NPR itself announced in January it's intent to develop an alternative to "Morning Edition" aimed at a younger audience (25-44). That program, also unnamed, is to begin in the fall and promises many of the same elements as the new WNYC program, including more integration with a companion Web site. The new NPR show's co-host will be Luke Burbank, an NPR reporter who had served as an interim host on the network's humorous quiz show, “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!”

"Morning Edition" is one of the most popular morning radio shows in the country, with 13.2 million listeners. The show is widespread and often a staple on public radio stations, sometimes airing on competing stations in a market. Obviously, this leaves an opening for other morning show options.

The PRI/NPR show will debut by early next year.

See also: A press release regarding the PRI/WNYC show.

Harrison lives!

After being dropped from KTLK in Los Angeles a few weeks ago as the station did a drastic overhaul of their on-air roster, Cary Harrison of "Harrison On The Edge" has certainly not gone away.

Harrison and company, with help from sponosor Aveda, have put together a new one-hour podcast to fill the gap inbetween radio gigs. And they promise a major announcement very soon that will likely please fans of the show.

Earlier, KTLK management had said that they are considering bringing back Harrison for weekends.

In the meantime, Harrison will back on the radio Tuesday night, as he guest-hosts Air America Radio's "Politically Direct", subbing for regular host David Bender.

Bernstein ready to pilot the new Air America

David Bernstein, who last week was hired by Air America Radio to be their new vice president of programming, already has an idea what he wants the network's new era to be about.

In an interview with David Hinckley of the New York Daily News, he says he doesn't see Air America as a purely political engine, or as some kind of broadcast pep rally geared to 'energize the base.' And if it does, it's merely coincidental.

"I don't think of Air America in those terms," says Bernstein, a 32-year radio veteran best known in New York for programming WOR several years ago. "I want people, after they've heard Air America, to say they learned something - that whether they agreed or not, we gave them honest information they didn't have before." Furthermore, he adds, "We want to talk to everyone and help everyone make the right choice."

Bernstein is optimistic about Air America's new owners, New York real estate magnate Stephen L. Green and his brother Mark. "They have a vision," says Bernstein. "Just as they know it needs to be a successful business to work, I think they wanted a radio guy in programming.

"They're committed. They certainly put their money where their mouths are."

Bernstein isn't ready to make any on-air changes yet, preferring to simply listen and take it all in.

"I'm familiar with Air America the way I'm familiar with most other radio, because I listen," he says. "But as a product, it's too early to say if we're going in the right direction.

"I want to get feedback not only from people around here, but from programmers and listeners around the country, because the real question is what your listeners want and are you giving it to them.

"It may be that in the end, we're already giving people exactly what they want. That's what I'll be looking at." He notes Air America is still young, reaching its third anniversary on March 31. "Like anything in radio, it grows, changes and matures," he says. "It's much different than it was in May of '04, say. But one of the things about Air America is that it's a known brand. People have definite opinions on it, for and against."

Read more about how Bernstein perceives the importance of being a liberal network, competing with conservative radio, how big talk radio will be for the next two years and how happy he is to be back in radio programming at the New York Daily News.

Friday, March 16, 2007

If a radio station falls in the forest...

Okay, I ran across this one yesterday. I was in a bit of a hurry, and didn't get around to posting about it. Then again, I admittedly didn't really care. Actually, I'm not the least bit surprised by this move at all.

What is this? Well, we finally heard some vague, cryptic message from the powers-that-be who run KHRO in El Paso, TX. And the news ain't good for anyone who listens to Air America on 1650AM (if anyone even knows that they are an Air America Radio affiliate, that is). It seems the station is looking to shake up the on-air lineup, and adding a few local shows.

Paul Strelzin, a longtime El Paso radio personality, has been doing a morning show for the station since last June. "El Paso on the Move" airs weekdays from 7-10AM. Station management decided to program a conservative counterpoint to Strelzin's liberal commentary with the addition of local blogger David Karlsruher, a frequent caller on Strelzin's show. His one hour show will be called "The Other Side" and will air immediately after Strelzin's. According to Strelzin, “David K. has no radio experience and has never even been on the radio before, and David Candelaria (general manager at Entravision) gave him a show. He’s a Republican and will give another a view.” All fine and dandy, but station management has other plans in store for KHRO as well, and it looks like Air America will not be a part of those plans.

Candelaria says he "wanted to have a democrat, republican and moderate. We are also talking to Sito Negron as the moderate host. We want to keep people in El Paso to be better informed and have two main shows that can come together and talk about the issues in a friendly debate fashion. I would like to call it 'Radio Free El Paso,' from 7AM to noon, and at 12 o’clock flip it to 50s and 60s oldies. The music part starts in April, and Air America will end. El Paso is way behind the eight-ball when it comes to local talk."

So, why didn't I care? And why am I writing about it now? Well, KHRO ain't much of a station. Their previous new rock format didn't play well on a weak AM station on the 'extended band' (1600AM+), so they blew it up early last year and added a straight Air America feed. They didn't do much with it. In fact, their website, who's domain name hasn't changed from the rock format, has consisted solely of a white page with a solitary link to Air America. Heck, they didn't even bother to take down the rest of the site! Hopefully, they didn't pay a webmaster to do all this.

If you guessed that the station didn't do a whole lot of promotion for the station,then you get a cigar! And remember kids, just because you build it doesn't mean they'll come. Which is why liberal talk's weakest links have been falling by the wayside in recent months. In fact, aside from blurbs announcing broadcasts of UTEP sporting events, this is the first time I've read about KHRO in the press. Actually, management has been thinking of dropping Air America since last December.

KHRO has had an uphill battle with their liberal talk format. In a market where people of Hispanic origin make up roughly 82% of the population, an Anglo-oriented talk format was obviously going to struggle. On top of that, Entravision, a relatively large broadcasting company programming mostly Spanish-language formats on stations across the country, didn't even bother to announce the initial flip to talk in the local media. Or promote it. Or even slap up a website.

Same could be said about KCCT in Corpus Christi. The 1,000 AM station has also reportedly dropped Air America programming from the schedule and replaced what little of the network's programming it still aired with oldies and a few more local shows. On a positive note, they are keeping some of their left-leaning local hosts, though it would be nice if owner Manuel Davila could shell out a couple bucks and slap up a station website, instead of relying on staffers to do it themselves. KCCT wasn't much of a station. Listeners have informed LTR that the station occasionally disrupted Air America programming to run a shopping show (or something loosely resembling a shopping show) and infomercials during the weekday. On-air hosts often joked about how the station couldn't sell advertising. In essence, the station itself is a joke, though it deserves credit for airing local progressive programming.

I've said many times before that it is very possible to succeed with liberal talk on the radio. Of course, just like with any other format, even cash cows like country or sports, it won't go anywhere without proper promotion. That means press releases to the local media, advertising, publicity, and even a working website. The fact that they're going to flip formats once again should come as no surprise to anyone.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The FOX News Hall of Shame

The funniest blog entry of the day comes from Larry Johnson at No Quarter, by way of 'jurassicpork' at Welcome to Pottersville, who has compiled many of the most ridiculous FOX News screen caps of recent memory. A good laugh to get you going this morning. Enjoy!





And this one says it all:



See more at Welcome to Pottersville or No Quarter.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

KDXE/Little Rock switches to sports

In a move that had been predicted for the past few months, KDXE in Little Rock has dropped its mostly liberal talk format, as the station's lease-management agreement (LMA) with Nova M Radio has ended.

Gone as a result of the switch is the regionally-syndicated Pat Lynch and the co-syndicated "Arkansas AM" with Grant Merrill. Both shows were dropped by the station Tuesday, but will continue on other affiliates throughout the state. Programming from Air America Radio rounded out the rest of the day.

According to Lynch, the owner of the station has assumed control once again, and with the departure of Nova M, returns the station to its former ESPN Radio sports talk format.

KDXE is owned by Simmons-Austin LLC, a division of Salt Lake City-based Simmons Media Group LLC, and has been managed by Nova M under an LMA since last April. Aldous Tyler of Nonstop Radio reported on his podcast in December that there were problems regarding the agreement and other issues, that Nova M would not be renewing their LMA, and the station would be changing formats. Partly because of that, and mostly due to technical problems, the station never carried any of Nova M's syndicated offerings, such as Mike Malloy.

Tyler also claimed that WPYR in Baton Rouge is in danger of being flipped soon, as the station's owner, Clear Channel Communications, had struck an agreement last year to deal the station to another company, Pamal Broadcasting. The station will likely change hands by April. As for the format, nothing is known, but Clear Channel plans to keep the progressive talk format for as long as they own it. When Pamal officially takes over, who knows?

Obviously, right-wing bloggers who don't know any better will crow about this and blame it on Air America's recent issues, but this move is independent of that.

Air America hires talk radio veteran as new VP/Programming

Green Family Media has made their first major management personnel move at Air America Radio since taking over the network by hiring veteran talk radio programmer David Bernstein for the newly created position of VP/Programming.

Bernstein has extensive experience in the radio industry, particularly talk radio. His 32-year career has included stints at New York's WOR, Boston radio stations WBZ, WRKO and WAAF, WTIC in Hartford, WDBO in Orlando and WPRO in Providence.

Most recently he has been head of his own company, Bernstein Talent, dedicated to the development and training of broadcast media personalities, Bernstein also teaches a course in radio broadcasting at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. He will continue his current teaching and training work in addition to his new role at Air America.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Air America Radio officially offers to host Republican debates

Only a week into the job, Mark Green is keeping quite busy as the new president of Air America Radio. And he's still maintaining a good sense of humor.

In an obvious jab at the FOX News Channel over the recent Nevada debate debacle, Green sent a personal letter to the chairmen of four state Republican parties, offering to sponsor and host the state parties' upcoming presidential debate.

Green, in a serious letter to the Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Republican chairmen, claimed that an Air America-sponsored Republican debate "would allow Republicans to differentiate themselves from Democrats."

Last week, the Nevada State Democratic Party dropped plans for Fox to broadcast an August debate after furious pressure from online activists and Roger Ailes' 'foot-in-mouth' disease. Green turned down an invitation from FOX to be the token liberal at the Nevada debate, but did offer to partner with FOX or another conservative outlet for a potential Air America-sponsored one.

According to Green, writing at Huffington Post, "After Nevada Democrats dropped Fox as a host of its Democratic presidential debate - and after Fox denounced the move as anti-free speech and "Stalinist" - I thought...damn right! How dare the progressive party in America not allow the conservative Fox to air its presidential debate. So I today contacted key Republican party chairs in the four early primary and caucus states to ask that Air America host their Republican presidential debates. A blow for speech and against Stalin in one swoop."

Here's a text of the letter:

Dear Republican Chairman Ray Hoffmann of Iowa, Republican Chairman Paul Willis of Nevada, Republican Chairman Katon Dawson of South Carolina and Republican Chairman Fergus Cullen of New Hampshire,

As the new president of Air America, I'd like to offer to host or co-host one of your upcoming presidential debates.

Why us? First, this would allow your debate to reach many voters. Combining our 2 million radio audience, along with our satellite, internet and web audiences, means that some 2.5 million Americans would hear or read about the debate..

Second, it would allow Republicans to differentiate themselves from Democrats – embracing a debate hosted by a progressive media outlet after Nevada Democrats canceled a debate scheduled to be hosted by the conservative Fox Cable News Channel. The MoveOn organization spurred 265,000 people to complain about the original plan, calling Fox a “mouthpiece for the Republican Party.” In reply, Fox’s Mort Kondracke called the Nevada Democratic Party's rejection of Fox a “Stalinist” violation of “free speech and free debate.” So should you accept Air America's offer, Republicans would both embrace free debate and stick it to Stalin at the same time.

Third, our offer permits you to include any other national media company as a co-host -- like Fox. For example, a panel with Fox representing the conservative viewpoint and Air America the progressive viewpoint would make for a very "fair and balanced" debate -- not to mention that Fox's viewers per evening are coincidentally comparable to our 2.5 million listeners, meaning that several million unique people would hear your debate (assuming next to no overlap between our two disparate audiences).

We would be honored not only to co-host such an event; but also to broadcast it live without commercial interruption on the day that you choose.

I look forward to your response and to working with you on this important event.

Yours,

Mark Green
President, Air America Radio


Further reading: Here's a new Village Voice article about Mark Green taking the reigns at Air America. The article shows how the Greens' deal to buy the network came together, how keeping CEO Scott Elberg was a no-brainer, the whole debate thing, and a little tiff with the opinion page editor of the New York Post. Definitely worth a read.

License challenges to FCC fall on deaf ears

The efforts by disgruntled listeners who have petitioned the FCC regarding political bias on conservative talk radio stations have met with indifference by the governing body.

In a clearing of the docket yesterday, the FCC rejected five informal objections to the license renewals of Clear Channel talk stations KFBK and KSTE in Sacramento. The objectors claimed that the stations' content is politically biased. However, the Commission pointed out that it does not involve itself in such matters.

Likewise, Clear Channel's renewal for WISN in Milwaukee was approved over the objections of a listener complaining about host and frequent Rush Limbaugh fill-in Mark Belling's derogatory use of the term "wetbacks" on his show back in October 2004.

In their decision on WISN, the FCC said the First Amendment and federal code "prohibit the Commission from censoring programming material or interfering with broadcasters' free speech rights. This holds true even if the material broadcast is insulting to a particilar minority or ethnic group in the station's community." Furthermore, "if there is to be free speech,it must be free for speech that we abhor and hate as well as for speech that we find tolerable and congenial." Apparently, raunchy language, provocative programming and 'wardrobe malfunctions' are not protected in this manner, though offensive racial slurs are.

Finally, an individual's complaint against the renewal of Clear Channel conservative talker WTVN in Columbus on the grounds of a "rapid qualitative decline in the programming and broadcasting" on the station was also dismissed.

Webcasters, broadcasters fight for internet radio

Not only are internet webcasters up in arms over planned royalty fee increases for online music streamers, but traditional broadcast concerns are fighting the ruling as well.

Lawyers for National Public Radio (NPR) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) are in Washington this week, planning legal action aimed at overturning a ruling from US Copyright Royalty Judges which raised royalty fees for webcasters high enough for some to predict the demise of Internet radio.

"Right now the thought is that the initial response needs to be a legal response," General Manager Roger LaMay, of NPR affiliate WXPN, told internetnews.com. WXPN is a non-commercial member-supported radio service of the University of Pennsylvania, and programs an innovative music-heavy format.

"If this were to go into effect it's going to have public radio stations looking for ways to cut back what we do, as opposed to expanding. Now, there is significant dis-incentive when you're talking about services that are committed to public service," LaMay said.

Commercial Internet radio broadcasters were equally upset. "Left unchanged, these rates would be disastrous. It will not only end Internet radio, but will also stifle innovation as entrepreneurs and investors will abandon this space - leaving a vacuum that will be quickly filled by illegal unlicensed services with no intention of creating legitimate businesses," a spokesperson for commercial webcaster Pandora said in an email. Pandora founder Tim Westergren said his company plans to follow NPR and CPB into court.

Willem Dicke, a spokesperson for SoundExchange, was on the defensive. "We're all fans of Internet radio. We don't want to see Internet radio go away. These are negotiations. We're not trying to stick it to anybody. In terms of what happens next? Either side could appeal to the U.S. District court," Dicke told internetnews.com.

LaMay claims that the proposed rate hike will hurt independent musicians, who rely on Internet radio to expose their music, the most.

That's not SoundExchange's goal, Dicke said. "We just want them to play fairly when they use the work of musicians and artists and ultimately the market place is going to determine who succeeds and who doesn't." Dicke said.

"There's nobody in public radio that's making money overall on their [Web] streams," LaMay said, "We're doing them because we think it's the right thing to do."

You can read the rest at Internetnews.com.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Maron returning to radio?

LuminoMagazine, a Chicago entertainment site, recently published a profile of Marc Maron, who's in town doing a stand-up comedy gig. In it, he talks about his comedy career, life in L.A., Myspace, politics and of course, Air America Radio.

In fact, he discloses that he's still talking with Air America (he still does on-air appearances and fill-ins). He's already done two shows for the network, and rumors still abound that there could be a third.

"I don’t know if that’s going to happen yet," Maron said. "They’re trying to get me to go back, but when you’ve been in a difficult relationship it’s hard to keep going back. We’ll see what happens but I certainly miss doing that. I miss getting up in the morning and doing all kinds of funny stuff and breaking news and yelling…I miss doing the morning show... I’ve done two shows for them. I’ve done an evening show and a morning show and they want me to come back and I’m still talking to them about it. I just got back from the Aspen Comedy Festival in Colorado and I’ve enjoyed not being a cave dweller. When you do radio you’re up in the middle of the night and you’re in a box for three hours a day. I kind of like being back on the stage and talking to people face to face. [In radio] you develop a little crew and no one’s really up at your hours and it’s a very intense job and I enjoyed doing it, but it’s nice sleeping like a normal person...maybe if I do another radio show I could do it out of my garage and I’d never have to leave my house."

You can read more at LuminoMagazine.com.

Democrats to FOX News: Drop Dead

It still had a chance. Then Roger Ailes had to open his big fat mouth.

And now, the Democratic Presidential primary candidate debate, slated to be carried by FOX News in August, is officially kaput.

When Nevada Democrats initially announced the deal with FOX News, many Democrats and liberals were shocked. They likened it to a pact with the devil. Liberal websites and blogs worked feverishly to stop this. One of the candidates, John Edwards, bowed out. Another candidate, Bill Richardson, who initially stated his intent to participate, changed his mind. State party leader Tom Collins tried a little damage control, trying to hold the whole thing together by offering to allow the Air America Radio affiliate in Reno to simulcast it. He even offered the radio network a seat on the panel, an offer Air America president Mark Green declined.

But the straw that broke the donkey's back and killed the whole shindig was the former GOP operative, chairman of FOX, and head of the 'news' channel, Roger Ailes, who obviously has not learned the concept of tact in his long career. At an awards banquet on Thursday, he told a crude joke about Senator Barack Obama, a prominent candidate. In a series of jokes about various public officials as part of a speech, Mr. Ailes said, "It is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, 'Why can’t we catch this guy?'" Note to Roger Ailes: Now we know why FOX News' new comedy show isn't funny.

Following Roger the Hut's ill-fated attempt at stand-up comedy, the Democrats were livid. Collins and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who represents the state, wrote a letter to FOX executive producer Marty Ryan, claiming that Ailes' comments crossed the line. And they gave FOX the boot:

"We cannot, as good Democrats, put our party in a position to defend such comments,” the letter said. “In light of his comments, we have concluded that it is not possible to hold a presidential debate that will focus on our candidates and are therefore canceling our August debate. We take no pleasure in this, but it is the only course of action."

Doing the oh-so-typical FOX spin dance that has become almost a network trademark, David Rhodes, vice president for Fox News, said in a statement: “News organizations will want to think twice before getting involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus, which appears to be controlled by radical fringe out-of-state interest groups, not the Nevada Democratic Party. In the past, MoveOn.org has said they ‘own’ the Democratic Party. While most Democrats don’t agree with that, it’s clearly the case in Nevada.”

Edwards' campaign subsequently spelled out the Democrats' response effectively. In an email sent to supporters, Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince Fox countered Rhodes' spin by stating that those so-called "radical fringe" groups are grassroots Democrats who "objected to Fox's long history of spreading Republican propaganda at the expense of Democratic leaders." He also took issue at the network lashing out at Edwards for backing out and for giving face time to the likes of Edwards nemesis Ann Coulter.

"Enough is enough," the email continued. "It's time to send a clear message to Fox News and their allies that their right-wing talking points and temper tantrums won't go unchallenged anymore - when it comes to what Democrats should do in the Democratic primary, we'll decide - no matter what they report."

"Now it's time for Democrats to stand together and send a clear message to Roger Ailes, Fox News and all the rest of them: bias isn't balance, but turning tables is fair"

"...this campaign is about responsibility and accountability, and we need to send the message to Fox that if they want to be the corporate mouthpiece of the Republican Party more than they want to be an impartial news outlet, they shouldn't expect Democrats to play along."

Democrats growing a backbone? Now this campaign is starting to look interesting.


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