Sunday, January 26, 2003

Um, What Up Monkey Finger:

I know I get very sing-songy on the subject of radio and radio consolidation and radio suckiness. But I totally have another reason to bitch, bitterly: Apparently the Department of Justice has handed down its demands on Village Voice and New Times regarding their slime-fisted dealing that killed my column, Hot Child In the City. (Yes, it's all about me so just forget it.) According to the LA Examiner, the DoJ says the papers have to pay fines and help the creation of new papers in L.A. and Cleveland. Great. I mean it, it's great.

Apparently they violated the Sherman Act, which I have no idea what that is. Some law dealing with anti-competitive practices in newspapering, I guess. (Genius commentors?)

So, in light of all this, I have one question: Why are anti-competitive practices not only A-OK within radio and TV---but mandated by federal law?

Why is it that over the course of 1996-97, virtually the entire radio band was eaten up by a handful of companies?

It is true that radio signals were not killed; that is, the number of radio stations was not reduced (that I know of, anyway), but nevertheless the identity and integrity of these stations were destroyed. The local nature of radio and TV was abandoned, and the business lost any kind of real competitiveness.

Four fat sloths tossing an FCC-shaped ball around is not my idea of competition.

Perhaps I connect radio with alt-weeklies because of an incident in the Twin Cities I will never, ever forget. I know I've written about it before, but I'm still so pissed off about it I can taste it.

In 1996, we had a small, embattled, but proud little batch of independent media outlets. In radio, there were some community-based, commercial free stations, as well as a couple mom-and-pop commercial stations, including a children's station and an alt-rock station, Rev-105. (A sidenote: When I interviewed its music director back in the day, I asked her if she had ever heard of KROQ. She got all wide-eyed, and informed me that Rev had been inspired by early, independent KROQ.)

We also had a couple locally owned alt-weeklies, The Twin Cities Reader and City Pages.

Anyway. The two alt-weeklies were locked in mortal combat, because neither could seem to find an identity that was sufficiently unique from the other's, I guess. I don't know. Ad people write the rules of the newspaper business, and in the minds of such people, there's never room for two papers. It has nothing to do with what readers want, of course.

So, the owners of both papers decided to sell out. Both papers were purchased by the same out-of-town company, which promptly killed the underdog Twin Cities Reader. I grieved, not only because it hurt to see a good paper die, but also because the competition had made for some really good journalism. I think the only people who celebrated were myopic cretins.

(City Pages is one of the Village Voice papers today.)

The very same day the Reader died, Disney bought the children's station and Rev-105, and killed them. Same fucking day.

So maybe that's why I connect radio and alt-weeklies. Some people made a shitload of money that day.

It's funny to watch baby boomers get fat and sell their dreams.

But seriously, there's another obvious question to be asked: Why is the loss of a paper OK when it's through "competition," but not through collusion? The net loss for the community is precisely the same.

And when the hell is the Justice Department going to look at oligopoly in broadcasting, dear sweet Lord?


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