The MAB letter and Micro-broadcasters Rebuttal

Also, here is the letter the MAB has sent out opposing our resolutions,
and our rebuttal:

The Michigan Association of Broadcasters wrote the following letter to
State Senator Ken DeBeaussaert, following his introduction of a Resolution
in favor of relegalizing community radio;

Senator DeBeaussaert,

The members of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters respectfully, but
strongly, oppose House Resolution 379 and Senate Resolution 234,
concerning Class D F.C.C. licenses. The M.A.B. also disagrees with the
reference in HR379 that far fewer locally-based radio stations have
programming that serves their communities. A recent state and national
survey showed that Michigan Broadcasters served their local communities
far beyond what is required by the F.C.C. In 1997, Michigan broadcasters
donated over $22 million dollars worth of their airtime to their
communities, and helped to raise $15.2 million for charitable
organizations. A majority of M.A.B. radio stations are Michigan-owned and
operated. M.A.B.'s largest category of membership is the small
broadcaster. It is in the best interest of all our stations to provide the
highest level of community service possible. It is our assertion that
flooding the airwaves with Class D radio licenses will have the opposite
effect on what you wish to accomplish. Opening the window to Class D radio
stations could: Ý Increase the cost of regulating and monitoring the
technical standards, which can also be a safety issue, by requiring the
expansion of the F.C.C. Who will pay for the cost of all this new
bureaocracy? The F.C.C. is already over-burdened, and this would create
even more gridlock within the Commission. Ý Decrease the professionalism
and technical compliance due to the ignorance of new, non-professional
owners. Ý Upset many Michigan Citizens and Zoning Commissions who have
repeatedly proven that they do not want new towers destroying the
landscape and their neighborhoods. Ý Outlets already exist for new music
in local clubs, local cable access channels, college and high school radio
stations. Ý Cause community service and programming to decline. Increased
competition could over-saturate the market. Profits could deteriorate,
driving some traditional radio stations out of business, or force them to
scale back their overhead to the point that community service will suffer.
This is especially true in small markets where the traditional stations
could be forced out of business. We oppose these resolutions because of
the adverse affects (sic) they will have on Michigan Broadcasters and the
communities that they serve.

Sincerely, Karole L. White, 
President, M.A.B.


Rebuttal to the M.A.B Letter

To begin: It is an outrage that these people can expect to demand the
exclusive right to use the public airwaves! Why is it that M.A.B. members
refuse to allow on-air debate about this subject on their stations?
Instead, they attempt to confine the debate to behind-closed-doors
lobbying. How ironic that the public airwaves are the one place we cannot
have a discussion  about who should be allowed to use the public airwaves!
 White's letter jumps around but at least she is honest  admitting that
corporate stations are afraid of "...increased competition...". After all,
"...profits could deteriorate..." That's precisely what this is all about
the corporate stations want all of the profits for themselves! She is
confused when talking about stations donating their airtime for charity.
As Congressman David Bonior has correctly stated in the past, They are not
your airwaves. The airwaves belong to the public, Ms White. You can't
donate what already belongs to us! Here's some real charity for you  the
American people allow corporate broadcasters to use the public airwaves
essentially for free. And every year they sell pretty close to $60 BILLION
dollars worth of advertising on our airwaves. This is like a pickpocket
returning a penny  and expecting you to be grateful! Besides, when a radio
station donates airtime, it costs them nothing! And let's be honest  most
of this charity is intended as publicity for the stations. How
sanctimonious to equate self-promotion with charity work! At this moment,
it may still be true that most MAB stations are Michigan
owned-and-operated. However, over the last two years more than 40% of the
nation's 12,000 commercial stations have been sold, most going to titanic
media conglomerates such as CBS, ABC and Chancellor. The industry has lost
over 700 owners since 1996. Think family farm, and you've got the picture.
A recent study by the Media Access Project and the Benton Foundation
determined that commercial broadcasters are dedicating just 0.35% of
airtime to local public affairs. Here in Detroit, no commercial station
comes close to devoting even one percent of airtime to locally-produced
music. It's not apparent that White even speaks accurately for her own
membership. A recent Radio World (trade publication) survey revealed that
82% of their readers oppose the current raids on community stations. Will
it cost more or less to legalize community radio? Right now, the FCC is
going haywire trying to crack down on well over one thousand unlicensed
stations in the country, conducting about 250 raids over the last year.
All that money could be used to hire paper-pushers!

If Ms. White is really concerned about regulatory costs, we propose
sharing those licenses currently available. Since M.A.B. members have had
them up til now, surely they will be happy to go off the air and let
someone else have a turn. Putting the currently unlicensed stations under
the watchful eye of the F.C.C. is the best way to enhance their
professionalism and technical compliance, obviously. What about those
antenna towers destroying the landscape? It's true -- look at all those
50,000 watt corporate monstrosities around Southfield. Let's tear 'em all
down! In their place, let's put up antennas for community radio stations,
which in comparison more closely resemble fishing rods. Yes, there is an
outlet for new music in local clubs  except no one goes to see a band
they've never heard before -- that's where radio comes in. And of course
the cable conglomerates like TCI are working hard to get out of their
public access obligations. And public access was always hamstrung by the
fact programmers are not allowed to sell advertising and thus have no way
to promote and build their shows. The college and high school stations are
great, and in fact are about the only stations not afraid to play
locally-produced music (although these too tend to focus on major label
music). But older people want to have radio stations, too! The fact White
continues to refer to Class D licenses shows ignorance. As FCC Chairman
William Kennard expressed in a letter to Bonior, The Commission is not
currently considering restoring Class D licenses. What we are talking
about is a new service of low power FM stations, which could possibly
include stations up to 3,000 watts; whereas Class D licenses never allowed
for more than ten. Class D licenses were discontinued by the F.C.C. in
1978  due to pressure from the big broadcasters. Hey, don't take my word
on any of this. What does radio's top cop think about community radio?
Chairman Kennard says; ...Radio has become the province of multi
billion-dollar corporations... the loss of small religious stations and
local programming is very unfortunate...In a society where most people get
all their news and information from the broadcast industry, how can we
have a strong democracy when the media is concentrated in the hands of a
few people? ...This issue cannot come down to a battle between the rich
and the very wealthy  as do so many of the battles we have in Washington.
These issues are fundamental to our democracy. That's what it's all about!

Tom Ness
Jam Rag Press/Michigan Music is World Class Campaign
PO Box 20076, Ferndale MI 48220