Tales of the Sausage Factory

Back In the NCMR: Pappa Bear Comes To Town!

So here I am at the 2008 National Conference on Media Reform, and I have the most exciting news: the FOX NEWS TEAM IS HERE for Bill O’Reilly. (No doubt he is in town to endorse Al Franken in his bid for the Senate.)

Woo hoooo!!!! Talk about your status symbols. We have really made the big time if Poppa Bear himself has come to town to pay his respects. As for me, it’s as if the Goodfeathers had fallen into a catnip truck then accidentally wandered into a cat show.

I understand that some folks, however, may be nervous talking to the good folks at Fox News. Here is my advice: keep confusing O’Reilly with Stephen Colbert.

So for example:
Fox News: Can we interview you for O’Reilly Factor.
Person: Great! I’ve always wanted to be on the Colbert Show!
FN: That’s not us. This is Bill O’Reilly.
Person: Oh yeah. I saw him on the Colbert Show once.
FN: Anyway —
Person: Do you think O’Reilly can get me on Colbert?
FN: No. Now —
Person: Because Stephen Colbert is just a god, you know. A. Total. God. O’REilly should definitely try to get on Colbert again. You know, for the Colbert bump.
FN: We want to talk to you about —
Person: Did you know Stephen Colbert was just given the distinguished “Understandable Vanity Award by the Princeton University Class of ’08 (Go Tigers!). Did O’Reilly ever go to college?
(Persist until FN people quit in disgust.)
Person: Wait! Come back! Does this mean O’Reilly won’t introduce me to Stephen Colbert?

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Back in the N-C, Back in the N-C, Back in the N-C-M-R!

Once again, I am coming to live from the National Conference on Media Reform, the whatever the word is for “held every 18 months” conference on media reform by Free Press. Already our the socialist-radical-gay-lesbian-transexual-Wiccans are laying down deep mojo to cause Senator McCain to unexpectedly dance the charleston at the high point of the Republican convention, followed by a full lip-lock with Rush Limbaugh.

But until then, the talk here is of media reform. Well, that and the #@!%! rain and other weather that has screwed up too many flights trying to get here, like mine. Which is why the report on the pre-conference is extremely short. By the time I got here, it was mostly over.

I did get to see some of my favorite folks in the movement however, and give an enormous “Thank You” to Bob McChesney for his incredible work in founding Free Press and devoting five years to creating the organization he believed needed to come into existence.

More tomorrow.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

I Dabble in Fair Use Parody: What Would Hilary Clinton Do.

Maybe it’s just that I am sick of the endless talking head cycle. Maybe it’s because I’m stuck here in Chicago on my way to the National Conference on Media Reform due to “severe weather” in DC, but I have perhaps rashly indulged myself in a little fair use parody about the sorry coverage of the election. In particular, the endless speculating on what Hillary Clinton will do, when we can all just wait and find out.

What Will Hilary Clinton Do? TTO: What Would Brian Boytano Do from South Park the Movie, below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Leased Access Reform Hits A Major Speed Bump.

I had hoped to be able to tell all my friends at the National Conference on Media Reform in the beginning of June about the fantastic opportunity to put independent progressive programming, minority-oriented programming, and local programming on cable when the new rates and improved rules for cable leased access became effective June 1. Unfortunately, due to a decision by the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granting the cable request for a stay pending resolution of the challenges to the rules, that won’t happen. While not a total loss (the Sixth Circuit rejected the NCTA’s motion to transfer the case to the D.C. Circuit) and not preventing programmers from trying to take advantage of leased access now, this is a serious bummer for a lot of reasons — not the least of which is the anticipated crowing by the cable guys (ah well, we all endure our share of professional hazards).

But mostly, I am disappointed that the cable operators will continue to withold the real rates under the new formula. As part of the stay request to the FCC (and subsequently to the 6th Cir.), the cable operators had submitted affidavits claiming that under the leased access rate formula adopted by the Commission, the new rate would be FREE!!! and they would have to drop C-Span and any other programming you like as a result. Since the cable operators always claim that the impact of any regulation is that they will need to charge higher rates, drop C-Span, stop deploying broadband, etc., etc., I am not terribly inclined to believe them this time and had looked forward to either their releasing real rates or putting programmers on for free. But since cable operators uniformly refuse to make the new rates available before the new rules go into effect (another reason I disbelieve the “the rate will be zero” claim), and because they control all the information relevant to the rate calculation, I can’t actually prove they are blowing smoke. Now it looks like we will have to win the court case (which will likely take a year or more) before we find out the real leased access rates.

Mind you, leased access had already hit a few roadblocks, owing to the inexplicable delay in sending the rules to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Although the rules were approved in November ’07, released on February 1, 2008, and published in Fed Reg on February 28, the order was not sent to OMB for the mandatory review under the Paperwork Reduction Act until April 28. I might almost think the cable folks in the Bureau were less than enthusiastic about supporting leased access reform. OTOH, since it also took the broadcast enhanced disclosure rules a a few months to get to OMB, it may just be the natural slowness of the process. After all, by federal law, the carrier pigeons used to take the text in little scraps from FCC across town to OMB can fly no more than two flights a day.

But to return to the critical point, what does the court ruling mean for leased access reform and the hope that local programmers, progressive programmers, minority programmers and others could have an effective means of routing around the cable stranglehold on programming?

See below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

So What The Heck Is M2Z? And Why Do I Support It?

So recently, with all the spectrum stuff going on, I hear a lot of people asking about something called “M2Z,” usually like this: “So, what the heck is M2Z? And why should I care?”

Two very good questions. Briefly, M2Z is yet-another-plan to solve our national broadband woes through exclusive licensing. Specifically, it is about giving this one company a free, exclusive, national license for the 20 MHz of spectrum left over from the federal spectrum cleared for last summer’s AWS auction. While M2Z filed its application in May ’06, it took the FCC awhile to figure out what to do with it, since it doesn’t have any rules or pending proceedings that cover what M2Z wants. Finally, back in February ’07, the FCC issued a generic public notice of the application as required under the Communications Act and asked for piublic comment on what the heck to do about it.

Given my rather low opinion of Cyren Call’s efforts to get a free, national license, one might expect me to take a similar dim view of M2Z. Nor has M2Z helped its case much with some rather ham-handed “outreach” to the public interest community, by spamming the attendee list of the National Conference on Media Reform and creating a “Coalition for Free Broadband” website that looks all the world like an off-the-shelf Astroturf project.

Finally, Sascha Meinrath, who I look to for wisdom and advice on all matters spectrum, has written this blog entry on why he opposes the M2Z proposal.

Despite all this, I still think that M2Z deserves support. My employer Media Access Project filed a letter in support of M2Z. At the least, it deserves a good hard look before writing it off as yet another theft of spectrum via privatization.

Why? See below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Freedom 2 Connect Returns to Silver Spring

I am a big fan of David Isenberg generally, and of his annual F2C: Freedom to Connect conference in particular. It pains me no end that I am going to miss it this year because I will be in Israel. But I urge anyone interested in the big policy issues around connectivity to attend.

Why? Because David has a genius for bringing together smart people of the higest caliber, who will be involved in these policy debates from every angle. And unlike an industry trade conference, or even a meeting of all my friends at something like the National Conference on Media Reform, no one gets a free ride. Despite David’s personal interest in preserving net neutrality, no punches get pulled in the back and forth. The issues get discussed and debated in an atmosphere conducive to genuine audience participation — rather than the usual dog and pony show.

It helps that the conference site is not your standard hotel ballroom or convention center. The conference takes place at the American Film Institute HQ in Silver Spring, MD (about half a mile from my home, an inducement that does not apply to everyone). David also has the delightful innovation of including a musician to provide music for transitions and breaks. While that may sound unconventional and weird, it works very well without getting all new age-y and stuff. The AFI’s physical lay out encourages socializing dring the breaks, and the large theater is quite comfortable. Also, at the previous conferences, Dewayne Hendricks has provided reliable wireless.

So click through to the F2C Website and scope out the program.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Commissioner Adelstein Kicks Off Academic Pre-Conference in Memphis

Hello all from the Memphis Tennessee Convention Center. While the Free Press National Conference on Media Reform does not officially open until tomorrow, Free Press and the Social Sciences Research Center (SSRC) have co-sponsored an academic pre-conference for today, with a goal of promoting greater coordination between academics and activists and encouraging more academics to get involved in the substantive policy debates.

Craig Calhoun of SSRC and Robert McChesney of Free Press did a good job introducing the conference. But the real star of the morning was FCC Commissioner Joathan Adelstein.

I couldn’t have wished for a better speech. If Adelstein doesn’t read my blog (and I rather doubt he does), I take it as prof that “great minds think alike.” He savaged the neo-cons and others who rely on “faith based” research and regulation, and an FCC that has allowed the corporations it regulates to control both the framing of the debate and the information used for policy. Because the FCC has consciously decided not to “burden” the industry with reporting requirements that would provide an accurate picture of the industry (altough they provide exactly this information to investors and the SEC), the “expert agency” is now “starved for information” and reduced to writing “advocacy pieces” for industry or reports devoid of meaningful data and analysis.

On the plus side, according to Adelstein, we have truth on our side and a massive reserve of talent and ability. We have already accomplished amazing things. With greater coordination and effort, we can do more.

Details below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Book Review: Eric Klinenberg's Fighting For Air

Today marks the release of Eric Klinenberg’s Fighting for Air: The Battle To Control America’s Media. Timed for release with the National Conference on Media Reform, I expect attendees can pick up a copy there. Those of you who must, for whatever unfortunate reason, miss the big media ‘do in Memphis can order it from Amazon. (I have no idea if mainstream bookstores will carry it.)

Anyone who wants to understand the media reform movement should buy this book. More importantly, this is the book to give your friends and relatives so that they can understand why the media reform movement matters, and why it will succeed in transforming the media landscape despite the multi-billion dollar forces arrayed against it.

Review below . . . .

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