Jim Goodmon must be feeling pretty glad that he resisted peer pressure to run Fox's Married by America. The Federal Communications Commission just announced that it is fining 69 Fox TV stations $7,000 each for showing an episode that involved Las Vegas strippers, but Goodmon's Fox affiliate isn't one of those stations.
Goodmon owns the Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns and operates WRAZ Fox 50. Goodmon has defied the network several times by refusing to run what he considers to be its sleaziest shows, including Temptation Island and Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire. Goodmon has said that he was ridiculed by the network for those decisions, and that media consolidation pressure has intensified around him because of his independence. He has testified several times before Congress and the FCC on the issue, including at an informal FCC hearing held at Duke Law School in 2002.
This is in sharp contrast to WB22 and UPN28, both owned and operated by Sinclair Communications. Sinclair is feeling the heat this week after announcing it will interrupt prime time programming on its stations in order to broadcast the anti-Kerry film, Stolen Honor, which features interviews with the swift boat veterans who ran attack ads against the candidate earlier this year. On Tuesday, Sinclair released a statement saying it never intended to run the entire film, but to screen portions of it as part of a special on the use of documentaries in 2004 political camapigns. WB22 is scheduled to the hour-long program, A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media this Friday at 8 p.m.
A protest is scheduled Wednesday (Oct. 20) from 4:30-7 p.m. at 3012 Highwoods Blvd., the address shared by Sinclair's two Raleigh stations, WLFL (WB22), 872-9535, and WRDC (UPN28), 878-6198.
As it happens, both Raleigh stations' licenses are up for renewal with the FCC. Comments and formal complaints are due Nov. 1, so check out www.fcc.gov for details on how to file them.
But don't expect brave action from the local affiliates. Even if local management wanted to pull the program, as Sinclair employees they answer to the national corporate management. Saying no would mean losing their jobs, as proven by the dismissal of Sinclair's Washington correspondent Jon Leiberman, who stood up against the broadcast (thereby vying with Jon Stewart for the title of Media Hero of the Week).
A national boycott of Sinclair is gaining ground, and the company's stock price had dropped by 10 percent as of Tuesday. Media Matters for America has underwritten the cost of a stockholder action demanding that Sinclair provide equal time for Kerry supporters. Sinclair employees have contributed more than $67,000 to federal campaigns this election cycle, 99 percent of that to Republicans.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said last week that Sinclair's use of the public airwaves to broadcast obvious partisan propaganda is "an abuse of the public trust." Note to future President John Kerry: Copps would make a great replacement for current FCC Chairman Michael Powell.
Check out www.stopsinclair.org for more info.
Pass the loofah
By now you've heard about the bombshell sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly filed by Andrea Mackris, an associate producer on the screaming heads show The Factor. But have you read the details? Check out www.thesmokingun.com for the highlights of O'Reilly's alleged comments--everything from a Thai sex show to a shower fantasy. The level of detail suggests that Mackris taped it all.
Besides the horrifying images this conjures (my eeeyes!), there's an even scarier aspect: O'Reilly's threats to anyone who challenges him or the "Fair & Balanced" news channel:
"If you cross Fox News Channel, it's not just me, it's Roger Ailes who will go after you ... Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what's coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he's going to get a knock on his door and life as he's known it will change forever. That day will happen, trust me."
Oh, Bill. If only you'd JUST SHUT UP!
WXYC celebrates 10 years live on the Web
On Nov. 7, 1994, UNC-Chapel Hill's student radio station WXYC became the first radio station in the world to simulcast live over the Internet, 24 hours a day. It happened because of the creativity and persistence of technology geeks (Mike Shoffner and David McConville in particular) working in the basement of UNC's Phillips Hall, and the commitment of SunSITE (now ibiblio) director Paul Jones. For the detailed story of how they made it happen, check out www.wxyc.org/about/first .
The celebration begins Saturday, Nov. 6, at Local 506, where the station will release a compilation CD of local artists, including Shark Quest, Etta Baker, Work Clothes, Jett Rink, Protean Spook, the Moaners and the Sames.
Sales of the CD will support the station. But www.wxyc.org will also make the album available as a free download (cover art, too). Coinciding with the anniversary, the station will unveil real-time online play lists, so you can find out what you're listening to.
Induce Act update
Feeling the heat from bipartisan opposition to the Induce Act, the bill's author Orrin Hatch tried having a closed-door meeting with the entertainment industry representatives who want it and the technology companies that are fighting it.
Apparently, that strategy backfired. "We find ourselves further apart now than at the outset of this process," Markham Erickson, general counsel of NetCoalition, wrote in a letter to Hatch following the talks. The Senate Judiciary Committee has put final review of the legislation on hold. For updates, keep checking SaveBetamax.org .
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to hear the Recording Industry Association of America's case against Verizon, effectively upholding the most recent court decision that says the recording industry does not have the right to force Internet service providers to give up the names of their customers so the RIAA can sue them. Since that decision, the RIAA has been forced to file lawsuits against John Does and spend its own resources tracking down alleged infringers. Count this one as a victory for privacy and a set-back for witchhunts.
The Future of Music panel discussion on Oct. 2 was very enlightening, for me at least. Thanks very much to all the panelists and attendees who brought up concerns about the craft of making an album, changing the power relationship between artists and labels, and the direction of online music distribution. Details of that discussion and follow-up on the issues it raised will come in the next Monitor.