The FCC, an open Internet & the future of MAIN

December 28, 2010 by Wally Bowen

Dear Friends – Since we posted our year-end fundraising appeal, “MAIN and Liberating the Public Airwaves,” the United States Senate passed the Local Community Radio Act!

With President Obama’s signature, the FCC will be empowered to write new rules for low-power FM radio stations like MAIN-FM 103.5.

These new rules will, for the first time, allow our community radio station to broadcast at the full 100 watts for which we are licensed, instead of the 2 watts to which we have been limited since 2003.

This fall, we also took a major step forward in solving the rural broadband crisis when the FCC finalized rules for unlicensed use of vacant TV channels – the “white spaces” – for more powerful and efficient wireless Internet access. This new technology – known as “Wi-Fi on steroids” – should come to market in 2011.

However, MAIN must survive to take advantage of these newly liberated portions of our public airwaves!

MAIN’s survival is critical because last week the FCC approved “open Internet” rules that, paradoxically, give a green light to cable and phone companies to complete their “enclosure” of the Internet. The reason is simple: the FCC lacks the authority to enforce open Internet rules!

With the FCC powerless to stop the big cable and telephone companies from abusing their power over the Internet, mainstream media are taking note. Recently, National Public Radio revealed how commercial ISPs violate subscribers’ privacy via “deep packet inspection” technologies:

MAIN is committed to an open Internet and to protecting your privacy and civil liberties. Over the last century, our nation created “wilderness preserves” as America’s open spaces were increasingly enclosed by corporate interests.

With your help, MAIN will survive to become one of the nation’s foremost “open Internet preserves,” where citizens’ civil liberties and freedom to innovate are fully protected.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Make a tax-deductible donation to MAIN. Help keep this unique organization alive for the next 15 years by making a secure online donation. Or mail your donation to: MAIN, 34 Wall Street, Suite 407, Asheville, N.C. 28801.

2. Become a MAIN underwriter. Share your business or nonprofit message with a “buy local” audience at rates far more cost-effective than those of other radio and online media.

3. Donate your old car or truck to MAIN. Take advantage of the convenience of getting rid of an old car or truck by turning it into a tax-deductible gift to MAIN or MAIN-FM.

4. Host your website (business, nonprofit or personal) with MAIN. Why send your webhosting dollars to an absentee-corporation like GoDaddy, when you can keep your dollars local to support a nonprofit that works on behalf of you and your community?

In this economic climate, many worthy nonprofits are fighting for their lives. A donation to MAIN is an investment in an open Internet to help ALL of our local nonprofits and small businesses survive.

Wally Bowen                                                            Roger Derrough
Executive Dirtector                                                 MAIN Board Chair

MAIN’s statement on FCC vote on open Internet rules

December 21, 2010 by Wally Bowen

Today the Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt “basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet.”

On the face of it, the FCC’s intent is laudable. However, rules matter only when they are enforced. Unfortunately, in approving these open Internet rules, the FCC did little to ensure their enforcement.

Indeed, the FCC’s action today puts the burden of proof largely on citizens, small businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs who are most likely to be victimized by violations of open Internet rules.

Moreover, even when violations of these rules are identified, any enforcement action by the FCC will likely result in a legal challenge to the agency’s authority.

Last April’s federal appeals court decision, “Comcast v. FCC,” found that the FCC lacked the authority to enforce one of the most basic open Internet rules: nondiscriminatory treatment of network traffic.

While the FCC today waved the battle flag for preserving an open Internet, it did so while retreating from the battlefield.

Given the FCC’s failure to approve meaningful open Internet rules, the burden of continuing this struggle now shifts to citizens, communities, public-interest organizations, and business interests who understand that preserving an open Internet is the civil rights struggle of the 21st century.

Statements by other members of the national Media and Democracy Coalition are available online.

END

BREAKING NEWS! Senate passes Community Radio bill

December 18, 2010 by Wally Bowen

BREAKING NEWS!!

Just after 5 p.m. today (Saturday, Dec. 18), the U.S. Senate passed the Local Community Radio Act by unanimous consent. The historic vote culminates a decade-long struggle to relax industry-imposed restrictions on licensing and operating low-power FM community radio stations.

The Senate action follows Friday’s approval of an amended version of LCRA by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

“This is a day we have dreamed of since 2003 when MAIN launched its low-power FM station for Asheville and Buncombe County, only to discover that FCC rules pushed by commercial broadcast lobbyists restricted our signal to only 2 watts, instead of the 100 watts for which we are licensed,” said Wally Bowen, MAIN’s founder and executive director.

“Passage of this bill gives the FCC the green light to issue new rules that will allow us to broadcast at a full 100 watts. We eagerly await these new rules,” Bowen said.

Bowen applauded the efforts of media reform allies such as Prometheus Radio, Free Press, Media Access Project, and the Media & Democracy Coalition for spearheading the effort to win passage of the bill during Congress’s lame-duck session. MAIN was elected to the Media & Democracy Coalition in 2008.

“I especially want to thank all of our supporters who contributed to the recent ‘Save Our Sound’ campaign to keep MAIN-FM on the air.  We are so grateful that their faith and support will soon be rewarded by much-improved reception of the MAIN-FM signal,” Bowen said.

MAIN-FM first went on the air in October, 2003, as WPVM 103.5 FM, the Progressive Voice of the Mountains. With the restrictive FCC rules limiting the station’s signal to only 2 watts, the station has never been consistently heard in downtown Asheville or in the city’s neighborhoods north of downtown and beyond. The station changed its name to MAIN-FM in 2009 to prevent confusion that the radio station and MAIN are separate entities.

With a power increase to 100 watts, Bowen estimated that MAIN-FM’s signal will be heard throughout Buncombe County, into Hendersonville, and possibly as far north as Mars Hill.

Congress first authorized the FCC to begin issuing low-power FM (LPFM) radio licenses to local nonprofits in 2000 when commercial broadcast lobbyists slipped the “Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act” into an omnibus spending bill. The “poison-pill” bill, which President Clinton reluctantly signed, limited LPFM licenses to rural communities and smaller cities, thereby protecting commercial broadcasters from LPFM competition in all the major US media markets.

Today’s passage of the Local Community Radio Act will free the FCC to issue LPFM licenses in most American cities, while relaxing restrictions on existing LPFM stations like MAIN-FM.

END

Help us commemorate Ike’s ‘military-industrial complex’ speech!

December 14, 2010 by Wally Bowen

Dear Friends:

MAIN and MAIN-FM will broadcast President Eisenhower’s farewell speech on January. 17, 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this landmark presidential address.

Delivered from the Oval Office on January 17, 1961, this farewell address by a two-term president and former five-star general warned the nation of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power [and] acquisition of unwarranted influence . . . by the military-industrial complex.”

The corporate media will no doubt perform its role of minimizing and containing any cognitive dissonance that might accompany the anniversary of one of the most important presidential speeches in American history.

Our job as community media supporters and activists is to ensure that this teaching moment is infused with cognitive dissonance and critical thinking about the power of the “military-industrial complex” in our lives today!

Share with us your ideas for how our community should observe this most timely and historic anniversary.

* What kind of programming would you like to hear on MAIN-FM?

* What kind of content would you like to see on the MAIN news and information portal?

* Let us know of any events in the community or beyond which are commemorating President Eisenhower’s farewell speech so that we can share them with our broadcast and online audiences.

Drop us a line at: ikespeech@main.nc.us

And keep checking the MAIN portal and MAIN-FM 103.5 for updates as January 17, 2011 approaches.

And don’t forget to make your tax-deductible, year-end donation to keep MAIN and MAIN-FM working to create a more open and democratic media!

END

Is Obama out-foxing Fox on tax-cut squabble?

December 10, 2010 by Wally Bowen

Today on ‘Media Reform & MAIN,’ we will discuss the possibility that Obama’s all-too-quick “surrender” on bonus tax cuts for the wealthy could be evidence of a savvy White House media and messaging strategy.

Also on today’s show, hear the latest developments on two of the most critical media reform issues of our time: preserving an open Internet and liberating community radio from the anti-competitive grip of corporate broadcasters.

That’s ‘Media Reform & MAIN’ today at 4:30 p.m EST on MAIN-FM 103.5 or live-streamed at www.main-fm.org.