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The Past Week In Radio

Catch up on stories you might have missed from the past week in radio.

Dirty Money

Talk radio’s biggest names are paid millions of dollars to “use a script, outline or set of talking points,” according to a new report. The Heritage Foundation pays roughly $2m for Rush Limbaugh and $1.3 for Sean Hannity. Glenn Beck has an endorsement deal with FreedomWorks and Mark Levin is sponsored by Americans For Prosperity. One leader of a conservative grassroots group decided buying endorsements from talk radio hosts was both too expensive and ethically suspect. “I wish more of the grassroots knew the reality,” the unnamed source told Politico, that “these guys were getting paid seven figures a year to say this stuff.”

Photo by dbking, from WikiMedia Commons

According to Politico, some talk radio sponsorships include “embedded ads.” No doubt weaving specific initiatives, fundraising pleas, even guest spots for officials from the highest bidding groups into program content has certainly paid dividends. Last year Limbaugh and Hannity brought in over 40,000 new Heritage memberships starting at the $25 level and 50,000 people signed up for FreedomWorks email in the first three months of their Beck contract.

Michael Hood of BlatherWatch thinks loyal dittoheads “deserved to be suckered” but he’s mostly worried about these messages leaving the echo chamber and polluting the mainstream. “There’s nothing illegal about this, unfortunately,” he writes. “Old broadcast ethics have been flushed ignominiously down the golden executive toilets of these values-thumping whores.”

…The company with a mandated monopoly on so-called HD broadcasting is now offering cash prizes to stations that begin using HD2 and HD3 multicast channels in advertising clients’ on-air campaigns. RBR reports that iBiquity is hoping to push an increase in HD radio marketing with their new incentive program. They will reportedly hand out a few thousand bucks in September.

…Radio Bilingue announced June 15th that they must suspend LA Public Media, citing CPB Digital funding cuts. Launched to provide innovative new public media for Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans, the program was not sustainable without ongoing support from CPB. However, that appropriation was recently slashed by Congress. …The most popular media company among members of Congress and their spouses is Walt Disney Co, which counts 30 members among its investors, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics. Comcast is next in line with 22 Congressional stakeholders. No outlet aimed at underrepresented Americans made the list of 19 different news organizations or media conglomerates favored by elected representatives.

Sounds Illegal

Photo from Broward Sheriff's Office

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agents raided the home of a Pompano Beach man, confiscating a transmitter, mixer, laptop and portable air conditioner. The Sun-Sentinel of Ft. Lauderdale reported Friday that Mercius Dorvilus was arrested and charged with a third degree felony for operating an unlicensed Haitian radio station on 92.7 FM. …Meanwhile a radio host in Atlanta concluded a tirade on his talk show Tuesday with some haunting instructions for his listeners. Get a gun and learn how to use it, he insisted, because “we need more dead thugs.” Neal Boortz, also known as Mighty Whitey, spews nationally-syndicated racism to an estimated 19m listeners per week. God Bless America.

…A pair of New Jersey shock jocks who manipulated a nude photo of themselves taken by a freelance photographer and then posted it without crediting him, find themselves in front of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. According to The Hollywood Reporter, photographer Peter Murphy’s lawsuit against the WKXW jocks could change copyright law.

…On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Commercial Felony Streaming Act on a voice vote, just one month after it was introduced. That is fast action for the US Senate, on any subject. As CommLawBlog noted Friday, the bill would impose felonies on some unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content. Streaming 10 or more performances within a period of 180 days in pursuit of profit could result in up to 5 years in prison. A range of creative unions support the measure which is intended to reclassify streaming as no different than downloading.

Venture Hype

Pandora went public to plenty of press nationwide. Meanwhile the local Bay Area press hyped the music discovery service’s impact on the economic development in Oakland. TechDirt’s Mike Masnick asked why no one else seemed to be talking about misleading reports regarding Pandora’s profitability.

…While Spotify declined to comment on their latest $100m boost, the popular European service is expected to launch in the US by the end of the summer. The Future of Music Coalition broke down Spotify’s significance against the cloud music backdrop:

Spotify offers a fully interactive experience where users can have complete control over the entire Spotify catalog: Listeners can play, pause, rewind, and create/share playlists from the millions of songs Spotify offers. And, these features are available to any user, regardless of the music s/he currently “owns.” The European version of Spotify is “tiered,” with free listening (there are some limitiations and audio ads), as well as commercial-free, unlimited and mobile access for a monthly fee.

But even if this service gets huge in America, will it amount to a meaningful revenue stream for musicians?

Numero promotional image

…The announcement of iTunes Match excited many music fans earlier this month, but the independent soul label Numero Group has announced it will opt out of the service. Label co-owner Ken Shipley blogged about feeling insulted by Apple. Contacted by Ars Technica, co-owner Rob Sevier said iTunes Match is “brilliant” from the consumer point of view, “but as a user of copyrights, it’s flawed.” He is concerned the service will effectively legitimize piracy.

…New York Times technology columnist David Pogue blogged Thursday that he finds the term “in the cloud” pretentious and annoying, but his greater concern is about data limits:

All of these mega-trends consume enormous amounts of bandwidth. All of that uploading and downloading, all of that syncing, all of that cloud computing assumes you have a fast, capacious pipe to the Internet. But your cellphone company doesn’t want you to have a fast, capacious pipe. There’s not a single cellphone carrier anymore that offers an unlimited data plan at full speed. T-Mobile gives you unlimited data, but if you exceed a certain threshold, your connection is automatically slowed down. And a few lucky AT&T iPhone owners still have unlimited plans, grandfathered in from the olden days — but I’ll bet you that’ll go away, too.

O.K., that’s cellphones. You can understand the cellphone carriers’ point of view. All of these iPhones and Android phones use enormous amounts of wireless cellular capacity, and it was slowing down the pipes for everyone. Caps are necessary, they can argue, or else the whole network will grind to a halt.

But that’s not the worst mega-trend. The worst is caps on home data plans. That’s right: Time Warner, Comcast and other broadband providers are putting limits on how much data you get every month, even at home.

And that, my friends, is one crazy scary development.

Wonky Advocacy

The members of Kentucky-based pop group My Morning Jacket have added their names to the growing list of artists who vocally support public media and network neutrality. They sent a strong letter to the Kentucky delegation in Congress, which included this great line: “It is our belief that funding public broadcasting and maintaining open Internet access are two essential components in nourishing the vital music scene in the state of Kentucky.”

My Morning Jacket promotional image

…Two of my favorite radio blogs posted geeky analyses of an increasingly common engineering tactic. Arcade Radio Trivia is against feeding HD to FM translators. Broadcast Law Blog warns that building and operating an FM translator to retransmit an HD2 signal may not be as easy as it seems.

…And the biggest news for policy advocates from the past week was the release of the FCC’s report on The Information Needs of Communities. Policy analyst and public media champion Jessica Clark called the report strong on diagnosis but weak on prescription. According to Current, the report directly cites advocacy by the Association of Independents in Radio. Clark also blogged about what independent producers can learn from the report for MQ2.

Educational Band

The New York Times followed up its WRVU coverage with a legitimate question for students. Where do you find music? …College Radio Day is in the works for October, although it is still unclear what it will accomplish other than establishing a brand identity like Record Store Day. …A fire at Trinity College knocked WRTC off the air and offline, though reports were cursory.

…The Community-mindedness and free-form aesthetic of WRVU Nashville maybe didn’t add up to a viable broadcast service, Current reported on their blog Wednesday. While this particular post featured the most pro-college radio quotes I’ve seen on Current all year, the premise of the ‘balanced’ coverage still rings false. The value of student media goes far beyond everyday listenership or Arbitron ratings. As Josh Stearns of Free Press waxed nostalgically at this year’s Media Reform Conference, so many people working for democracy and justice today have a background in college radio. Classical music fans should think twice before celebrating student license takeovers.

Radio Summer panelists, photo by Dave Id

…Prometheus kicked off LPFM outreach efforts with the first Radio Summer event, featuring Vanessa Maria Graber, Todd Urick, Tracy Rosenberg and Susan Galleymore. Now you can watch the entire 90-minute long video shot at the San Francisco Public Library or listen to a 30-minute audio version edited for broadcast on KDVS.

Changing Workforce

According to the Pittsburgh News-Tribune, 20 staffers at WDUQ Pittsburgh have received termination notices, effective June 30th. 100 hours of jazz is being cut to 6. It is unclear if the revamped station will be hiring.(*) …A cost-cutting study at BBC Radio asked interesting questions about possible staff reductions, but will likely be shunned. …Despite all sorts of changes, the Crimson Tide Sports Network still does a booming business carrying Alabama football games each season on more than 60 affiliate stations. But other formats are closing in on the radio side of the operation.

…And lastly, this week marks the end of a long relationship between Nic Harcourt and KCRW Santa Monica. After KCRW announced the widely-respected DJ would be leaving the station after 12 years to take a job with MTV, Harcourt took to the LA Times on Friday to insist he was “disappointed to be misrepresented” by his former station. He will soon launch a new radio show on KCSN, based at Cal State Northridge.

*UPDATED: According to a press release sent June 23, 2011, Essential Public Media has hired 14 staffers for WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

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