Archive for the ‘internet radio’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/06/07

November 6, 2007

Lawmaker hopes to help rural cable users ease ‘digital divide’
by Steven Walters
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

Madison – A state senator from western Wisconsin will try to rewrite a controversial cable franchise bill to require AT&T, cable and other companies to contribute up to $7.5 million to a new “digital divide” fund to make sure rural areas get the same services as cities and suburbs. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) said she will try to make sweeping changes to the Assembly-passed cable deregulation bill, which is scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday. She said her changes will be modeled on a law passed in Illinois.

Vinehout said the bill up for a Senate vote was written largely by AT&T, so it does not contain needed consumer protections and offers no assurances that rural areas – such as her part of Wisconsin – will get the next generation of telecommunication services  “I’m representing the people that weren’t at the table” when AT&T, cable companies and a few legislators wrote the bill, Vinehout said in an interview…  Vinehout said the changes she and Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) will offer would:

• Require AT&T and other large telecommunications companies to either make services available in at least 90% of Wisconsin or pay $7.5 million into a “digital divide” fund, which would be administered by the Public Service Commission. The fund would be used to make sure rural areas get access to new technology. Illinois created a $15-million fund, Vinehout said.

“We have a huge difference between access to technology in rural areas and urban areas,” said Vinehout, who said the only options available to her Alma farm are dial-up service or installing a satellite dish. “What we find increasingly is that the rural areas are left out.”

• Require telecommunication companies to pay 1% of their gross receipts to local communities to continue public-access channels, in addition to a maximum 5% payment specified in the Assembly-passed bill. Under that bill, funding for public-access channels would continue for up to three years.  (If the Assembly-passed bill became law, Vinehout said Eau Claire’s community-access channels would lose more than half of their subsidy.)

• Specify consumer-protection requirements for cable and telecommunication companies in state law.  (Under the bill up for a Senate vote, Vinehout said, “We would lose, or roll back, the consumer protection standards that exist now for cable companies.”)

• Require cable and telecommunication companies to continue to provide service to libraries and other public buildings.   —>

CAT may get temporary budget in December
by Emilie Rusch
Columbia Missourian

By January, Columbia Access Television could finally have more stable funding — for nine months.  But once the fiscal calendar page flips from 2008 to 2009, the public access channel’s funding could be less certain.  If the City Council continues on the course set in Monday’s work session, CAT will have to start competing for funding in fiscal 2009 with other public communication programs, including the educational and government access channels.

Allocating the increased cable franchise fee money could mirror the city’s yearly application process for community development and arts grants, which council members agreed was a fair way to disperse public funds.  And while CAT is optimistic things will work out, it’s still frustrating news, CAT director Beth Federici said after the work session.  “We can’t be expected to come back every year,” Federici said. “I can’t hire staff and say every year, ‘You’re going to have to defend your salary.’ We need funding that’s way more stable than a yearly application process to run a TV station.”   —>

Access denied to some Dedham viewers
by Patrick Anderson
Daily News Transcript (MA)

DEDHAM –  The town’s new independent cable access station has begun programming this fall, but a disagreement between cable providers has kept it off some residents’ television sets.  Dedham Public Television, which began broadcasting a town government, education and public access channel in September, has only been available to Comcast subscribers, because the town’s other providers, Verizon and RCN, have been unable to connect to the system.

For years, Comcast was the town’s only cable provider and was responsible for providing all public access programming.  But as competition has stiffened from newcomers Verizon and RCN, Comcast has moved out of the public access business. This year the company turned over that responsibility, which is funded by all three companies, to the nonprofit Dedham Visionary Access Corp.  When DVAC took over cable access responsibilities and introduced Dedham Public Television this fall, Comcast was the first to be connected to its new Eastern Avenue studio.   —>

Op Ed: Time For A Falmouth Internet
by David S. Isenberg
Falmouth Enterprise (MA)

Falmouth can’t trust its Internet providers anymore. Two weeks ago, the Associated Press caught Comcast covertly blocking file exchange among peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent, Gnutella, and Lotus Notes. Comcast does this by injecting reset messages into Internet file exchange sessions. Reset messages tell one computer in an Internet file exchange that the other computer wants to end the exchange. Comcast’s reset messages are injected in the middle of the connection to fool both ends. The result is unsuccessful file transfer. There are no reports that Comcast’s Falmouth customers are affected yet, but Comcast has not renounced the practice, so it’s only a matter of time.

Until 2005, Comcast couldn’t legally interfere with our Internet activities, but a series of FCC and court decisions now makes it perfectly legal for Comcast, Verizon, and other Internet access providers to decide what our Internet connection can and can’t do. Congress is debating Network Neutrality legislation that would return control of our Internet connection to us. (When a Network Neutrality bill came before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2006, Representative William D. Delahunt was the only Democrat there who didn’t vote “Yes.” He voted “Present.”) So far, Network Neutrality remains an actively debated proposal.   —>

Pakistanis find it on the Web
Musharraf’s crackdown on news and dissent has managed to miss a vibrant Internet community.
by Shahan Mufti
The Christian Science Monitor

Islamabad, Pakistan – When Hamzah Tariq, the owner of a small software-development firm, returned home on Saturday night after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had declared a “state of emergency,” he discovered that all of the news channels were missing from his cable signal. The only option: PTV, Pakistan’s state-run news channel.  “There was a ridiculous show about bridal makeup and then I read the ticker at the bottom: ‘Chief of the Army Staff declares emergency. Suspends 1973 constitution,’ ” says Mr. Tariq. After half an hour of meticulously applied mascara, there was a news bulletin. “The newscaster came on and read out those same lines, nothing more, and said “and now, some sports.”

So Tariq and millions of other Pakistanis, faced with a ban on about a dozen domestic and international TV news stations and curbs on newspapers, are finding breaking news in live video feeds and special blogs set up online – the only forum of public discourse that the media ban has missed.  Indeed, Pakistan today is a very different country from the one Musharraf took over eight years ago. In his 1999 coup, the military had only to target the offices of PTV, the only TV news source in the country at the time, and cut off all phone lines provided by the state-owned company to complete an information blackout.  Since then, Musharraf has allowed for a blossoming of free and independent media – a force with which, ironically, he now finds himself in contention.

A recent Gallup report suggests that today, more than 15 percent of urban Pakistanis now have Internet access. A small percentage compared with some nations, but a good chunk of Pakistan’s politically active middle class. There are also estimated to be more than 60 million mobile phone users, says Mr. Rehmat. Together, the technologies have connected people in ways unimaginable a few years ago and fed a growing hunger for real-time news.

As a result of the ban, which pushed all TV news off the air, GEO-TV’s news website added streaming video. But the typical 100,000 simultaneous logons that the website allowed quickly proved insufficient. Citing “enormously heavy traffic,” the website went “light” on Sunday by removing all other content except for text updates of breaking news. Later that day, the channel upgraded its servers to allow 500,000 simultaneous users.  “We’re getting millions of unique hits,” says Asif Latif, the webmaster at GEO’s Karachi headquarters. “But our viewers were feeling deprived, so we decided to go online with our telecast and sacrifice the website content.”

Blogs and social networking sites have also managed in the past three days to organize protest rallies, start international petitions, and plan strategies for opposing military rule. Many independent blogs are now also hosting channels like GEO-TV, AAJ-TV, and ARY. While not shown on TV in Pakistan, TV news networks here continue to send reports abroad via satellite. So, Pakistanis living in London or Los Angeles get the news. They, in turn, are putting the footage on their own websites, enabling Pakistanis back home to see the news.

“We Oppose Emergency in Pakistan,” a group on the social networking website Facebook, now has more than 3,000 members. The website has appointed officers and coordinators in at least 30 different cities across the globe. From Pakistan to New York, London, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland, expatriate Pakistanis are organizing protests and discussing strategies for the days to come. The group helped stage a protest outside the Pakistani embassy in London on Monday, which drew hundreds.

“This just isn’t sustainable,” Rehmat says of the government crackdown. As an example, he mentions the rumors that circulated Monday about a possible military coup against Musharraf. The rumors were so pervasive, the president had to publicly deny them. The government, he says, is digging its own grave by cultivating a credibility deficit.  “People had become very used to knowing,” says Rehmat. “You can’t just take that away from them. It’s only going to create more hate.”

Fixing the “clear mismatch” between technology and copyright law: six ideas
by Anders Bylund
Ars Technica

A lobby group from the free-speech, fair-use side of the tracks just presented a six-step reform program for outdated US copyright laws. Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn presented the plan in a New Media conference speech at Boston University recently and expressed no patience with the “disconnect between the law and the technology” of media production and distribution.  “For the past 35 years, the trend has been nearly unmitigated expansion of the scope and duration of copyright, resulting in a clear mismatch between the technology and the law,” she said. Advances in technology keep making it easier to copy and distribute songs, movies, books, and so on. Meanwhile, the kind of legislation that gets big-money lobby support from content producers makes it increasingly illegal—but not necessarily harder—to use these new powers of information and entertainment.

The question is: how to fix it? According to Sohn, fair use reform is at the top of the list. The US must allow for more incidental and non-commercial media uses; it is currently far too easy to break the law without knowing it, as anyone who has ever worked in a library knows. Sohn also argues that the landmark Betamax decision from 1984, which gave consumers a green light to make use of recorded materials at home and to “timeshift,” should be elevated from a mere legal precedent into actual law. Innovation in media distribution is currently harmed by the fear of spurious lawsuits, as Big Content argues that the Betamax decision should only be interpreted in the most limited sense (as only applying to analog signals, and only applying to timeshifting on a VCR).

She also criticizes the DMCA, arguing that it needs some limitations to keep the number of frivolous takedown notices to a minimum. Sohn suggests that copyright holders be given a dual-edged sword: give them power, but also punish them for “knowingly or recklessly” demanding takedowns without a real case. In other words, shut down the SLAPP suits and the other forms of censorship that comes via the DMCA.

Then there’s the whole kerfuffle with digital radio. Sohn thinks the music industry suffers from a “byzantine” licensing system in need of a clear and simple legal framework. Traditional radio broadcasters enjoy lower royalties than their new-media rivals (e.g., web radio) thanks to “solely a historical accident,” and the playing field needs to be leveled. At the same time, it’s simply too hard to find the rightful owners of a composition and its recorded performance and get cleared to use them. Public Knowledge wants that quagmire cleaned up, too.   —>

A Day Full of No Iran War Activity
by Bruce Gagnon
Organizing Notes (ME)

Today I spent a couple of hours working at the voting polls here in Bath gathering signatures on a petition calling on the Maine congressional delegation to speak out now and forcefully against Bush’s impending attack on Iran. We will have had volunteers there from morning til the polls close at 8:00 pm.  Our local group, PeaceWorks, is doing this in several towns in our MidCoast Maine region today.  The response from the public was better than I had expected. I had little trouble getting people to sign the petition or take the leaflet that we had prepared on the subject.

Earlier in the day we taped my public access cable TV show on the same subject – an Iran attack. We turned the tables and had one of our PeaceWorks leaders, Rosalie Tyler Paul, interview me. Usually I do the interviewing. Eric Herter produces my show, which is called This Issue, and is now editing it and putting maps of Iran and photos of everyday Iranian life into the final product.   —>

Ithaca DSA Presents: Humanitarian Crisis for Immigrants
by Theresa Alt
Ithaca Action Network (NY)

Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America Presents #324:  “Humanitarian Crisis for Immigrants.”  Arnoldo Garcia talks about the wall to keep immigrants out, dangerous border crossings, workplace raids, and a history of discrimination against speakers of languages other than English…  This program will be available Tuesday in the Alternatives Library in Anabel Taylor Hall on the Cornell Campus.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/26/07

May 27, 2007

Carolyn LaVoy,
TV host, dies
by Ray Kisonas
Monroe News (MI)

Carolyn LaVoy, a pioneer in Monroe television and longtime educator, died Thursday after a years-long battle with cancer. She was 64.

Mrs. LaVoy for years hosted “Monroe Alive,” one of the first local talk shows that centered on area personalities and events. It was shown on MPACT (Monroe Public Access Cable Television). For years, she also was director of Orchard High School in Monroe. —>

Town will fight to keep cable licensing power
by Patty Lawrence-Perry
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)

HOLLAND— Selectmen decided this week to join the fight against Verizon Communications’ proposed legislation to strip communities of their local cable licensing powers.

Selectman Earl A. Johnson and board Chairman James E. Wettlaufer agreed with the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s move to “raise public awareness of the urgent need to preserve local cable and video franchising authority,” and voted Wednesday to sign Holland onto a special Telecommunications Franchising Task Force chaired by Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone. —>

Easthampton TV program seeks new status, location
by Matt Pilon
Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA)

With a budget that has doubled in a year, big changes are in the works at the city’s public access TV station.  Easthampton Community Access Television, the operation that brings City Council meetings and local events to the television sets of cable-subscribing residents, is attempting to attain nonprofit status.

The change would allow the organization to bolster its budget through fundraising and grants and provide benefits for its employees, said Station Manager Greg Franceschi.  Since the organization’s inception, the city has hired ECAT employees as independent contractors, meaning that they are not employed by the city and therefore are ineligible for health, dental and life insurance as well as other benefits…

ECAT is also looking to relocate its studio, now at White Brook Middle School.  The location comes with time constraints. The station cannot operate after 3 p.m. in the summer, making it hard for community members to create content, a key component of the station’s mission.    —>
[subscription required]

Information Technology and Coping with the Second Energy Crisis
by Dave Moisan
Dave Moisan’s Blog (NH)

[This post is part of the World Without Oil alternate-reality game but is completely factual.  See my posts on A Salem Blog ]

Many are barely aware of it, but we’re in what I call the Second Energy Crisis.  Some of you are old enough to remember the first Energy Crisis in the seventies.  If you’re in IT, whether small or large, the Second Energy Crisis will–no, already is–affecting you in big ways and small, not all of which are immediately obvious.

Consider the organization I work for, Salem Access Television.  We are a small non-profit cable television access facility, operating since 1994.  We broadcast on 3 channels and we serve government, citizens, students and businesses of Salem.  We are a small company, with just 3 full time employees, but because of our purpose, we have a surprisingly dense IT shop.

We have 11 client machines (mixed between Windows and Mac) and 2 servers;  we have a gigabit network and WiFi for use by vistors.

We worry about power all the time.  We have two UPS’s but no generator;  when we were established (and before I was working in IT there), public access TV was considered more of a luxury.  It’s now a necessity.  Our one radio station no longer exists for us, our daily newspaper is managed from Lawrence and owned in Alabama.  We have just one weekly newspaper for Salem.  And SATV.

As an example of our power challenges, I’ll talk about our cablecast area.  Cablecast has the same function as the master control area in a TV station:  To organize, store and control everything that goes out over our three channels.    —>!95CB015E3E4A702A!210.entry

Excessive music royalties threaten Internet radio
By Davey D
Special to Mercury News

A few years a ago, I ran into then-FCC chairman Michael Powell at Jesse Jackson’s Wall Street Project Conference in New York. Powell was the man of the hour. More than 3million people had contacted the Federal Communications Commission to demand that it abandon plans to allow big media conglomerates such as Clear Channel to further consolidate media ownership.

I confronted Powell about complaints I had heard from media-reform activists around the country, including the Bay Area’s People Station Campaign, Detroit’s Black Out Friday campaign and the Turn Off the Radio Campaign, which a night earlier had attracted 1,500 people, including Chuck D, Afrika Bambaata, Doug E. Fresh and other rap stars, to a meeting at a Harlem church.

In addition, members of New York’s city council had listened to six hours of testimony in which person after person complained about hearing the same 10 songs played over and over on radio, a lack of airplay for independent local artists and an abundance of harmful stereotypes broadcast daily. They also complained that management at the city’s then-No.1 station, Hot 97, allowed disc jockeys to use the “N” and “B” words constantly.

Powell listened, then dismissively told me the solution was not to increase government regulation and prevent further ownership consolidation but rather for concerned listeners to turn to Internet radio instead. He insisted that, on the Web, people could find all the diversity and niche programming their hearts desired.

Fast-forward four years, and indeed listeners, faced with little change in over-the-air radio, have found their way to Webcasts. An industry that once reached a scant few million each month now attracts more than 70 million listeners. Apparently people got Powell’s memo.

But in a cruel irony, what has become a viable alternative for many listeners now faces a big threat. In recent weeks, the major record labels and their organization SoundExchange persuaded the Copyright Royalty Board to increase fees by three to 12 times, applied retroactively.

The increases, which became effective May 15, threaten to bankrupt Internet radio. For example, the largest Internet radio company, the Bay Area’s Live365, said its current annual cost of $1.5 million would rise to between $6 million and $7 million, bankrupting the company.

What makes the increase even more insidious is that all Webcasters, regardless of size, are required to pay $500 annually, in addition to the higher rates, while satellite radio and commercial broadcasters, which have been pushing their own online and HD stations lately, are exempt from that fee.

SoundExchange said the increase was necessary because album sales are down, and the recording industry needs other sources of income to pay artists for their work. But according to Wendy Day, of the respected artist advocacy group Rap Coalition, artists aren’t the main beneficiaries.

Day, who has brokered deals for Master P, Cash Money and others, said, “The major labels are fighting hard to retain as large a percentage as possible for digital rights. Much like record deals of the past” – involving formats such as LPs, cassettes and CDs – “the labels retain the lion’s share of the profits, giving the average artist a lowly 12 percent of the selling price, after they’ve paid back every recoupable expense. … That business model still stands in digital formats. The labels still keep the lion’s share of the money. … Artists still get pennies in comparison to the labels’ dollars.”

A broad coalition, ranging from Christian broadcasters to Yahoo radio, opposes the rate hikes.

As a result, two bipartisan-sponsored bills have been introduced in Congress, HB2060 in the House and SB1353 in the Senate, which would repeal the rate increase.

If you want Internet radio to survive in the form we know it, contact your representatives to urge their support.

Davey D’s hip-hop column is published biweekly in Eye. Contact him at [subscription required]

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media