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Feds Shut Down Unlicensed Black FM Station

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Unhappy Mass. Governor Defends "Important Voice"

Pulitzers Also Spotlighted Good Journalism About Race

García Márquez: Being a Journalist Kept "Sense of Reality"

Egyptian Journalists Protest Becoming Targets of Violence

Rum Brand Sponsors Site on Off-Court NBA Lifestyles

L'Opinión Second to Be Called Upon at White House

Media Found to Cater to Biases Rather Than Shaping Them

S. African Press Hero Alarmed by Political Moves on Media

Short Takes


Charles L. Clemons Jr., founder of Touch 106.1 FM, found an ally in Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick after agents shut down his unlicensed station. (video)

Unhappy Mass. Governor Defends "Important Voice"

Federal agents shut down an unlicensed radio station in Boston Thursday, sending "shockwaves through Boston’s African-American community, where the station filled a vacuum on the airwaves after the station WILD-AM was sold," Meghan E. Irons reported Friday for the Boston Globe.

Gov. Deval Patrick sharply criticized federal agents for the shutdown, and said he tried to dissuade them, Irons and Michael Levenson reported Friday for the Globe.

Patrick, the state’s first African American governor, said he had received advance warning from the U.S. attorney’s office about the raid and urged the office not to proceed. "But US marshals and agents from the Federal Communications Commission went to the Grove Hall station Thursday and shut it down."

" 'I'm incredibly disappointed,' Patrick said. 'I understand what the legal basis is, but you'd like to think of their bringing more of a problem-solving approach. Touch is a pretty important voice in the community. I’ve been on it many times and have tremendous respect for the team over there.' "

The shutdown took place amid a national decline in African American-owned radio stations.

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters said in August, "In radio, within the past year, no less than 20 radio stations that were owned by African Americans were forced into bankruptcy by their lenders and have subsequently been sold to non-minority purchasers. The failure of these lenders to reach out to minority purchasers, particularly in light of the anemic pace for sales to minorities in general, suggests that radio has regressed back to the pre-1978 days, when minorities were never given an opportunity to participate as station owners. The potential impact on the African American community cannot be overstated. We are losing our voices, sale by sale. . . . "

The Boston station's founder, Charles L. Clemons Jr., protested that Touch 106.1 FM was providing a needed service for Boston's black community. "We don't have a positive voice," he said outside the station. "A radio station that's profanity-free . . . that inspires and educates."

However, authorities confirmed that they had received a complaint that Clemons was using his station to promote his unsuccessful 2013 mayoral bid, the Globe reported.

In Boston, WILD-AM was a local, black-owned station from 1973, when it was acquired by the late Kendall Nash, until 1999, when his widow Bernadine Nash sold the station to Radio One. In 2011, Radio One leased 1090 AM to China Radio International, a Beijing-based, Chinese government-sponsored medium aimed at fostering better understanding between the people of China and the rest of the world.

Irons and Levinson reported for the Globe that federal agents seized transmission equipment at the station, housed in a nonprofit run by Clemons’s mother, and also went after two other stations in the area.

" 'Unlicensed broadcasting threatens the integrity of the regulatory structure established by the Communications Act to prevent chaos in the radio spectrum,' Federal Communications Commission official Vincent H. Bostic, who investigated the station, said in court documents," Irons wrote.

The story also reported, " 'It's such a shame,’ said Trina Smith, a 39-year-old Dorchester resident who tuned in regularly. 'The station gave us information that you wouldn’t get unless you listened to it. Why do they want to shut it down?'

"Clemons, 52, of Dorchester, appeared emotional but resolute Thursday, vowing 'we will not be silenced' and saying he will fight the shutdown. He acknowledged running an unlicensed station, but said it 'was the right thing to do’ to fill a gap in the minority community. Obtaining a license to operate a station is expensive and often out of reach for many minority broadcasters, Clemons’s radio supporters said.

"Clemons said his station helped raise money to feed the homeless, for families faced with the sudden burial of a relative, and for people struggling to find work. . . ."

The station was defiant on its Facebook page. "Temporarily taken off the airwaves but not the internet," it said in a message. "TOUCH 106.1 FM is STREAMING at www.touchfm.org." It urged readers to download its app.

Pirate radio stations are nothing new. In 2006, the Associated Press reported that "a record 185 unlicensed broadcasters received fines, cease and desist letters or had been raided by early September, up from 151 enforcement actions in all of 2005 and 92 in 2004, according to John Anderson, an expert on pirate radio who tracks FCC enforcement at University of Illinois' Institute of Communications Research. His data show a steady increase in pirate radio enforcement dating back 10 years."

In 2004, this column reported that another such broadcaster was shut in Chicago as part of a crackdown on the Black Disciples street gang, which operated the station to broadcast warnings of police activity, according to the U.S. attorney.

In 2012, Rachel Otwell of WUIS at the University of Illinois in Springfield broadcast a story about Mbanna Kantako, a blind activist who has been dubbed the "Godfather of Low-Power Radio." "Human Rights Radio turned 25 years old this month," she reported in a story picked up by NPR. "That's a quarter century of illegal broadcasting. The low-power Springfield station focuses on African American issues with a radical slant. And at its heart, is a man named Mbanna Kantako."

Since then, the FCC has approved procedures to process more than 6,000 applications for low-power stations from communities and minority groups sitting at the agency, promising to bring more diversity to the airwaves.

In December, the agency released a public notice announcing the start of a process to resolve competing applications. The Prometheus Radio Project, which pushed for low-power stations, said on its website, "It could take a while for the FCC to work through all of the competing applicants. In the past, this process has occasionally taken more than two years. . . ."

Pulitzers Also Spotlighted Good Journalism About Race

"This week, Columbia University handed out the Pulitzer Prizes, which are widely considered among the highest honors in journalism. The occasion gives us a good excuse to shout-out some of the finalists and winning entries that touch on issues of race and culture," Gene Demby wrote Wednesday for NPR's "Code Switch." "(Fair warning: These stories are very good journalism done in the service of illuminating some deeply dispiriting realities.)

"Speak No Evil

"— a finalist for the Local Reporting category — delved into one of the River City's most vexing dilemmas: the way dangerous criminals go unprosecuted and homicide cases go unsolved because witnesses don't come forward. The reporting team found families of victims struggling to find closure for their loved ones' killings who had declined to speak even when the identity of their attackers was an open secret in their neighborhoods. And they found cases of repeat offenders whose violence seemed to escalate as they skirted prison time. . . .

"The Child Exchange

"Megan Twohey's expose for Reuters — a finalist for the Investigative Reporting category —zeroed in on a disturbing shadow economy in which parents who've adopted children from overseas go online to offer their children to new caretakers after they decide they can no longer handle raising them. Some of the children have special physical needs or psychological challenges that compound the significant challenges of navigating a new culture. These 'rehomings' are done outside of official channels and with no oversight, making the children moved around this way especially vulnerable to exploitation. . . .

"Waiting For The 8th

"The Washington Post's Eli Saslow won the Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting for his series on the prevalence of America’s food stamp economy at a time of deep cuts to the federal anti-hunger program. One entry zoomed in on the city of Woonsocket, R.I., where one-third of the population received food stamp benefits. Woonsocket's economy stirred to life each month like clockwork . . . ."

In the books category, among two Demby listed was:

"The Internal Enemy

"The way Americans tell our story is as a steady march of expanding liberty, and, particularly in the early days of the Republic, as a challenge to the idea of a nation-state ruled by nobles and sovereigns. But to the enslaved Africans in America at the time, the new America was their oppressor and jailer. Alan Taylor's The Internal Enemy, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History, tells the little-known story of 3,000 enslaved Africans who escaped from Virginia and fought the War of 1812 alongside the British against the Americans. . . . "

García Márquez: Being a Journalist Kept "Sense of Reality"

Being a journalist was a key part of the identity of Nobel-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died Thursday at 87 at his home in Mexico City.

García Márquez was considered one of the most important voices of the 20th century, as Al Jazeera reported. His epic 1967 novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

Co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez discussed Garcia Marquez's journalistic credentials Friday with novelist Isabel Allende on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!"

From the transcript:

"AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to [Gabriel García Márquez] in his own words, as Juan read them, as well, from his book. This is him talking about himself as a journalist, and this reminded me of you, Isabel. He started out as a reporter in the early ’50s and returned to it periodically throughout his career as a novelist. This is part of a 1971 interview he did with the legendary writer Pablo Neruda.

"GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: [translated] I would like to return to journalism, above all, to be a reporter, because I have the impression that advancing in literature, you lose your sense of reality. On the other hand, the work of a reporter has the advantage of every day being in contact with the immediate reality.

"AMY GOODMAN: Now, that was García Márquez speaking in 1971. In this clip from the 1998 documentary, Gabriel García Márquez: A Witch Writing Literature, he talks about why he became a journalist.

"GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: [translated] I'd say I turned to journalism because, for me, what was more interesting than literature was to tell about real things. From this point of view, journalism has to be considered as a literary genre, specially reportage. I've always defended this idea, because even the journalists refuse to acknowledge that reportage is a literary genre. In fact, they underrate it. For me, a reportage is a short story completely rooted in reality. Though a short story is also inspired by reality, so is fiction. No fiction has ever been completely invented. It's always based on experience. I've realized the way I came to journalism was part of this process. It was just another stage, not in my getting a literary culture, but in the developing of my true vocation: telling stories.

"AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts, Isabel Allende, on Gabriel García Márquez talking about journalism and fiction? You, too, started as a journalist and—

"ISABEL ALLENDE: Many Latin American writers have started as journalists, and even as they became novelists, they continued working as journalists. I think the journalist gives you all the ideas. You are in touch with reality. You are in touch with people, listening to people's stories. In my case, I started as a journalist, but I was a lousy journalist, and I never could stick to the truth, or I could never be objective. . . ."

Egyptian Journalists Protest Becoming Targets of Violence

"Dozens of Egyptian journalists protested on Thursday afternoon against the recent violence they've been subjected to while covering events in the field as well as what they say is a campaign to prevent them from doing their jobs, Egypt's Ahram Online reported on Thursday.

"The protest, called by the Journalists' Syndicate and held at its headquarters in downtown Cairo, condemned 'deliberate attacks journalists are subjected to and the fierce campaign aiming to prevent them from … reporting the truth to the people,' the syndicate said in an earlier statement.

"The protesters on Thursday, joined by the syndicate's head Diaa Rashwan, shouted anti-police slogans and held blood-stained shrouds in condemnation of the violence. Journalists have repeatedly complained of being targeted by the police and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi while covering clashes. The violence has occasionally been fatal to news gatherers.

"A 22-year-old female journalist was shot dead in Cairo on 28 March while reporting on clashes between police and Islamists protesting against ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's presidency bid.

"On Monday, two journalists from privately-owned media outlets were shot while covering clashes between students and riot police at Cairo University. In response to Monday's violence, syndicate head Rashwan called for an indefinite halt on field reporting until 'security authorities do their duty in protecting journalists.' . . .

Rum Brand Sponsors Site on Off-Court NBA Lifestyles

"Young mens' publisher Complex Media is starting another website backed by a single brand, this time a basketball site that will carry ads for only Bacardi Flavored Rum for the next nine months," Michael Sebastian reported Thursday for Ad Age.

"The site, Triangle Offense, arrives just as the NBA playoffs are starting, but it's really meant to cover pro and college basketball without dwelling on saturated areas such as stats, schedules or, for that matter, triangle offenses. Its focus instead is on the players' high-flying lifestyle — their clothes, tattoos, cars, watches and so on. 'We came to this realization that there was this white space out there in the basketball arena,' said Moksha Fitzgibbons, head of sales at Complex Media. 'We believe there's an opportunity to do a land grab.'

"The focus on lifestyle also appealed to Bacardi Flavored Rum, which paid between $1 million and $3 million to sponsor the site for a nine-month period, according to people familiar with the deal. . . ".

L'Opinión Second to Be Called Upon at White House

President Obama visited the White House press briefing room Thursday afternoon to speak about new enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act and take questions from the press, as Merrill Knox reported for TVNewser.

Maria Peña of La Opinión, the Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper, was the second journalist called upon. Peña asked, in part, about "hunger strikers across the street demanding relief for undocumented immigrants. And I was wondering if you can dispel the rumors or if there's a leak from the White House that you will make some sort of announcement in the coming weeks to expand that relief for the undocumented."

Obama replied that he had told House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that there was bipartisan support for immigration reform. "As far as our actions, Jeh Johnson, our new head of the Department of Homeland Security, has been talking to everybody — law enforcement, immigrant rights groups — to do a thorough-going review of our approach towards enforcement," Obama continued. "And we're doing that in consultation with Democrats and Republicans and with any interested party.

"I do think that the system we have right now is broken. I’m not alone in that opinion. The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action. We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could. We're going to review it one more time to see if there's more that we can do to make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with I think the attitudes of the American people, which is we shouldn't be in the business necessarily of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding."

Media Found to Cater to Biases Rather Than Shaping Them

"An economist known for his pioneering work on bias in the news media won the John Bates Clark Medal on Thursday, one of the profession's most prestigious honors," Neil Shah reported Thursday for the Wall Street Journal.

"Matthew Gentzkow, a professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, was awarded the Clark medal by the American Economic Association, which every year honors the nation's most promising economist under the age of 40."

Shah also wrote, "Mr. Gentzkow, 38 years old, is among a younger generation of economists using large volumes of data to answer practical questions rather than theoretical ones. In his most influential work, done in collaboration with University of Chicago colleague Jesse M. Shapiro, he has harnessed data to examine the news media — the economic forces driving it, its political biases, and its effects on society.

"In a 2010 paper, Messrs. Gentzkow and Shapiro determined whether phrases like 'death tax' and 'estate tax' were more Democrat- or Republican-leaning, using an analysis of lawmakers' speeches. Then they analyzed newspaper articles, and found the identity of a newspaper's owner accounted for less of the paper's slant than the political biases of its readers. Rather than shaping views, the news media appeared to be actively meeting consumers’ preferences, the researchers found.

"A big theme in Mr. Gentzkow's work is finding innovative ways to tackle questions that expand economists' tool kits.

"In another paper, in 2008, he and Mr. Shapiro examined the fact that different parts of the U.S. got access to television at different times to gauge the effects of TV on high-school kids in the 1960s.

"The economists found that children who lived in cities that gave them more exposure to television in early childhood performed better on tests than those with less exposure. The work also suggested TV helped American children in non-English-speaking households do better in school. . . ."

S. African Press Hero Alarmed by Political Moves on Media

"The South African press is undergoing financial strains similar to those of newspapers in other parts of the world as a result of the growing attraction of social media," Raymond Louw said Monday at a Cape Town conference of the International Press Institute. "Circulation figures have been badly hit and with the resultant fall-off in revenue, staff numbers have been cut and the scope of news coverage has contracted."

Louw, an IPI World Press Freedom Hero in 2011, is chairman of the South African Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and a former editor of the Rand Daily Mail. His remarks were posted on the IPI website later in the week.

Louw continued, "But while the financial future of the press raises concern, there is also growing alarm over attempts to exert political influence over news media. The Gupta family, close friends of President Jacob Zuma who were given special permission to fly in from India a large wedding party to a top security Air Force Base, causing further criticism, has started a daily paper, The New Age, and a 24-hour TV news service, ANN7, both of which are suspected of eventually seeking to promote the ANC government.

"At the state broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), where allegations have also been made of improper state political influence, the staff has recently been instructed to structure news coverage on a basis of 70% 'positive' and 30% 'negative' material. Though not specifically directed towards news coverage of the government, it would inevitably relate to this coverage. The directive drew accusations that the broadcaster was influenced by government complaints that the media’s emphasis on 'negative' news is 'unpatriotic'.

"There is also disquiet in media circles over the conduct of Dr Iqbal Survé, chairman of Sekunjalo Holdings, a black peoples' consortium which recently bought the Independent media group which owns the largest number of important titles in the country. Survé summarily dismissed editor Alide Dasnois of the daily Cape Times for publishing as a lead story criticism by the public protector of one of Sekunjalo's companies and using a four-page 'wrap-around' to tell the story of Nelson Mandela's death on the same day. . . . "

Short Takes

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