>From: jzp (Jack Perrine)
Subject: [UWSA] Many Paths to Censorship
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 97 07:53:05 PDT
AAAA The A-Infos News Service
Presentation by Lee Ballinger, Associate Editor, Rock & Rap
Confidential National Micro Power Broadcasting Conference / Oakland,
California November 9, 1996
Jeff McCluskey sits on his ass in an office in Chicago and tells the
radio stations of America what records to play. If you want to get his
attention, send a check. McCluskey's consulting company has all the
major record labels as clients and maintains what he calls "close
relationships" with over 60 of America's biggest radio stations. Using
the $6 million a year he takes in from record companies, McCluskey
pays each station from $15,000 to $100,000 a year in return for
exclusive access to the station program directors. Those program
directors know what to do when McCluskey tells them which records to
As any regular Jeopardy watcher could tell you, the correct question
here is: How much airplay does a record get if its put out by an
independent company that can't afford to hire Jeff McCluskey or the
other parasites of the record promotion industry?
The passage of the telecom bill on February 8 of this year is making
things worse. Yet there is at least one good thing about this truly
frightening piece of legislation: it puts the opportunities and
dangers that face the micro-broadcasting movement in sharp focus.
The telecom bill allows for corporations to own many more radio
stations than they were previously allowed, including eight in the
same city. As a result of the mergers and acquisitions generated by
the telecom bill, there are already 127 fewer radio station owners now
than there were at this time last year. Several billion dollars worth
of broadcasting properties have changed hands. For example, in October
SFX Broadcasting bought Secret Communications for $300 million. SFX
now owns 75 stations and is a significant player in 20 major radio
In 1995, the top 50 radio chain owners controlled 876 stations, today
the top 50 owners control 1,187 stations, an increase of 40 per cent
in just 12 months. Since bigger broadcasting chains can demand higher
consulting fees from record companies, it will make it even more
difficult for anyone but the Big Six record companies to get music on
the radio. Broadcasting chains that control stations in dozens of
markets may soon, according to Rolling Stone, demand that they and
they alone be allowed to play music by the artists they want to
This process, disgusting as it is, creates opportunities for micro
broadcasters to increase their audiences by serving all those left out
by the narrow programming of the monopolies. But along with these
opportunities comes danger. The huge broadcast chains, having paid
hundreds of millions of dollars to expand, will not sit by quietly and
allow their investments to be threatened by competition from the likes
A case in point is a micro station called Beat Radio in Minneapolis.
Alan Freed, who has been a DJ at three Minneapolis radio stations as
well as at Power 99 in Philadelphia, went on the air on July 21 to air
a variety of dance sounds that local stations refused to play. With
much of the station's airtime handled by local club DJs, Beat Radio
soon drew a large and devoted following. It also drew the attention of
the FCC, which sent Freed a letter threatening him with prison time.
The Minnesota Broadcasters Association filed a complaint about Beat
Radio with the FCC, as did several Minneapolis commercial stations.
Beat Radio began to suffer high-power interference from another
transmitter, which Freed believes could only have been done by
licensed stations intent on putting him out of business. Then, at 4:35
PM on November 1, the FCC, accompanied by U.S. Marshals, entered the
premises of Beat Radio and seized the station's equipment.
This chain of events can be traced directly back to the National
Association of Broadcasters filing a friend of the court brief against
Free Radio Berkeley earlier this year, a move that was designed to
alert the NAB's corporate membership that unlicensed radio must be
crushed. Evidently, radio executives in Minnesota were paying
Behind these actions lie other provisions of the telecom bill, which
makes it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to
distribute, by any means, music that is "obscene, lewd, lascivious, or
filthy." Using the standards developed over the past ten years by the
Clinton-Gingrich administration, this makes felons of everyone,
including zine editors and DJs, who helps bring artists ranging from
Madonna to White Zombie to Wu-Tang Clan to market. The telecom bill
provides the same severe penalty for anyone who, by any means,
circulates information about abortion.
The harsh truth is that we are up against the people in America who
have all the money and all the power. They have already shown that
they will not hesitate to use both against us. I say this not to
discourage anyone, because we're going to do what we've got to do. But
I do want to bring you face to face with the fact that, if we operate
as free-spirited lone wolves, we cannot survive the attacks that the
future surely holds.
The only way micro-broadcasting can get the support it needs to
survive is to become the voice of a new America, an America that has
just begun to swing into action. Think back over the torrent of
activity of just the past 15 months... .The Million Man March in
Washington, which followed closely on the heels of a march thereby
300,000 women. A month ago, over 30,000 Latinos went to Washington to
push for a $7 an hour minimum wage and health care for all. 250,000
attended the Stand Up for Children rally and delegates representing 1
million workers founded the Labor Party in June (the Labor Party, by
the way, is helping to launch a micro station in Los Angeles). These
"big number events" rest on a firm foundation of countless smaller,
often hidden events, ranging from gang truce meetings to housing
takeovers by the homeless to the strike currently being waged by our
hosts today, Hotel and Restaurant Workers Local 2850.
This process was summed up well by Napolean Williams of Black
Liberation Radio in Decatur, Illinois, when he recently told Rock &
Rap Confidential: "Before I was sent to prison on trumped-up charges,
only a small number of people listened to me when I explained what was
really going on in America. While I was in prison, the people here
faced bitter strikes, like the one at Caterpillar, and a lot of
middle-class white people got beat up by the cops and the
corporations. Now I'm out of prison and back on the air and these
people are listening to me, calling in, and becoming a part of the
station. Maybe we should change our name to 'People's Liberation
In that light, let me end by issuing a few friendly challenges....
Downsizing in manufacturing and service industries continues to sweep
across the country. The result has been extremes in wealth and poverty
never before seen in America. Downsizing has created 8 million
homeless and 80 million people living below the poverty line. These
people have no voice in the media. Micro-power radio must be the voice
of America's poor, regardless of age or race.
As a result of NAFTA and its ongoing aftermath, the destinies of poor
and working people in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are joined more
closely than ever before. For instance, in order to control the
deteriorating political and economic situation in Mexico, the
international bankers are pressing the Mexican military to restore
order. The police forces of 25 Mexican states are now commanded by
military officers. Southern Mexico is under military occupation. As
the Mexican social pot boils over, more and more people will migrate
northward to escape hunger and repression. Micro-power radio must
facilitate communication throughout the entire zone of NAFTA
occupation, from Chiapas to the Yukon to South Carolina. From there,
micro radio can help us all extend a hand to the rest of the
Music is the conscience of the world and a prime source of inspiration
and information. Commercial radio refuses to play much of the music
that is on the charts, let alone the wealth of sounds from the
underground. Commercial radio is undemocratic, taking its orders from
a handful of professional consultants. Commercial radio is corrupt,
gladly taking money from record companies through third parties.
Micro-power radio must be the voice of our music and our culture.
The Democratic party has abandoned us. "Liberal" Democrats were the
instigators of the ongoing wave of music censorship. "Liberal"
Democrats were eager partners in passing the telecom bill. Bill
Clinton laughed as he signed this bill. It passed in the House by a
vote of 414-16 and in the Senate by a vote of 91-S. Micro-power radio
must be the voice of all those striving to break away from the
political parties of the corporations.
Micro-power radio has a role that goes beyond being the voice of a
vital, cutting-edge underground. Micro-power radio must set its sights
on becoming the voice of a new American majority.
Lee Ballinger is an associate editor of Rock & Rap Confidential, the
monthly music and politics newsletter that's known as "the conscience
of the music industry." One year subscriptions are just $15 and are
available from: RRC, Box 341305, LA, CA 90034 (firstname.lastname@example.org
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