Archive for January, 2012

Bernie Ward has posted two new articles on his Lion of the Left Speaks blog.

Apologies and thoughts on KGO:

http://lionoftheleft.blogspot.com/2012/01/odds-n-ends.html

And, something for the New Year:

http://lionoftheleft.blogspot.com/2012/01/new-years.html

What do you think?

Photo by Sergio Calleja

Former FCC Commissioner, Michael Copps, talked recently to Democracy Now! news program journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.

According to Juan Gonzalez, those in support of reforming the Telecommunication Act of 1996 ( http://transition.fcc.gov/telecom.html ) consider Copps to have been the most progressive Commissioner in the history of the agency.

Michael Copps advocates public interest guidelines for regulating old and new media as one telecommunications group and forging the path of new media, including internet and wireless, to comply with an open policy of accessible media to everyone.

Copps shares his concern with the media world today:

“I’m extremely worried about the future of our media, because I think it impinges so directly on the future of our democracy and the future of self-government. And I think, between the private sector and the public sector, we have wreaked untold havoc on the media environment, and I hope we can have an opportunity to talk about that this morning.”

He believes the challenge of the 21st Century is to make broadband available to everyone:

“But if we’re going to have this broadband technology and have the internet available to everybody, it has to be open to everybody. It has to be accessible to everybody. It can’t be run by gatekeepers and toll booth operators. It has to serve the purposes of us all. I would like to have gone farther than the Commission has gone so far, but at least it made a start.”

He notes that in the past, public and private sectors worked together to build infrastructure, with a national goal in mind.

“And then we got off on this tangent, beginning in the ’80s, that the market would solve all of these problems. You didn’t need government, you didn’t need a vision. So, we went from being first or second in broadband in 2001, when I joined the Federal Communications Commission, to now 15th, 20th, 24th.”

“People need to understand how important this is. I am a strong proponent that one of our national priorities needs to be digital or media or news literacy, call it whatever you want, educating all of us, particularly the young children. I’d like to see a K-through-12 digital literacy, media literacy program, where you teach folks not only how to use this stuff for their own advancement, but also what to look out for and what to trust and what’s a trustworthy news site, what’s a reliable one, what’s news, what’s opinion, what’s fact, what’s rumor. So, media literacy is high on the list of our national needs, so people can really understand how important this is.”

Read the full, in-depth interview here (there is a video option as well):

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/12/ex_fcc_commissioner_michael_copps_on

In the article, you will read the context of these Michael Copps excerpts:

“But we’re still diddling around with those rules here, almost 10 years later. We haven’t tightened the rules. We haven’t done anything about media consolidation. And the situation gets worse and worse, and the consolidation goes on and on. And so people say, “Oh, well, it’s all over with.” Not so. We had NBCU-Comcast earlier this year, Sinclair buying up a bunch of stations, Cumulus and Citadel. And I think when the economy turns a little bit, you’re going to see a lot more of this consolidation. And every time you consolidate, you lose a local voice, you lose an element of localism, you lose coverage of the—of a community’s ethnic diversity and its cultural diversity. And it’s bad for America.”

“And goodness knows, we face some of the most awesome challenges right now in terms of our economy coming back, our global competitiveness being able to return, creating opportunity, health—you know, the whole list. But all of those issues are going to depend upon decisions made by the people, and those have to be fact-based. And you can’t have a situation where we’re saying, “Well, yeah, it’s too bad what happened to newspapers and broadcast, but the new media is going to fix that,” because we don’t have a model there for that.”

“I guess maybe the first thing we need to do is just stop thinking about old media and new media and just think about: we have a media environment right now in front of us. Part of it’s traditional, but it’s all one thing. This is how we inform ourselves. This is our information infrastructure. What are we going to do about it now? We can’t sit around and wait. We can’t watch journalism hemorrhage. We can’t watch investigative journalism go down the tubes. So this has to become really a national priority.”

“There are things we can do right now, that the FCC could do tomorrow morning. For instance, in the world of broadcasting, you know, we used to have some guidelines, public interest guidelines, that we would look at when a broadcaster came in to renew his or her license every three years. Well, all of that’s gone now, beginning in 1980. …They got rid of all the public interest guidelines. The license period went from three to eight years. Now you send in a postcard, and basically, no questions asked, you get it back. I’m not saying that having some public interest guidelines is going to solve our media problem, but it would be a down payment. And it would have immediate effects in broadcast. It would have some spillover effects in newspapers, because so many newspapers and broadcast stations are owned together. And it would get—it would get a dialogue going and confront this problem of what is the public interest on the internet.”

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What can I say?  To put this all in perspective – take a look at this:

You’ve all heard the expression, hindsight is always 20/20, well, let’s take a peek at old news, the philosophy of our now, newly-embraced, new Talk Radio home, Clear Channel.  It makes one pause to consider our options in radio today.

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2003/01/27/daily29.html?page=all

And you don’t even have to buy a new mattress…

Dr. Bill Wattenburg was filling in for Gene Burns on KKSF Newstalk 910-AM today (4:00pm – 6:00pm)  During the show he announced that, beginning January 22nd, we will be able to hear him every Sunday, 8:00pm-11:00pm on Newstalk 910.

The Facebook page of FormerKGOListeners, in the Notes section, has updated information about the former KGO hosts, and this is what’s posted about Dr. Bill:

Dr. Bill Wattenburg

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They are doing a great job keeping track of where to find these personalities.  Check out any of your favorites here:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=266379056750774

If you have a Facebook account, when you go there be sure and ‘Like’ their page.  There is always something of interest posted over there.  Check it out.  They do a great job.

http://www.facebook.com/FormerKGOListeners

Also, I’ve been listening to Len Tillem every Monday-Friday on Newstalk 910 for an hour in the 3:00pm time slot.  He wants his callers to spread the word that he’s back on the air and to let people know where to find him.  If you love the loy’ah, tell your friends.  He talks tough, but he really loves the stories that can only come from you, the listeners.  We all love your stories.  Need a loy’ah?  Call the one and only Len Tillem so we can all listen in!

Find Dr. Bill and Len Tillem here:

http://www.newstalk910.com

Many have speculated over the whys of Dickey’s decisions in the radio market and some have mentioned the word politics.   I found an Atlanta article that states, yes, Dickey’s got politics on his mind for 2012.  He wants his hand in the pockets of politicians, grabbing the easy cash thrown at broadcasters for political advertising.

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2012/01/04/political-ad-revenue-to-be-350m-in-2012.html?ana=yfcpc

Dickey anticipates so much money rolling in that he’s hired a full-time political sales manager in Washington D.C.

This is all too convenient now, isn’t it?  Just in time for politics he’s gutted the airwaves in many regions.  SweetJack my a$$.  We’re going to need a heavy-duty pooper-scooper to clean up after this media mess.  I don’t think it’s only money he’s after, either.  But he won’t be so quick to share quotes about that part of his political game any time soon.

Again, I ask, what can we, thousands of us in this market alone, do to stop this?  Do not support SweetJack.  Do not support the new KGO.  Do not listen.  Do not support their advertisers.  Let the community know.  We are losing local radio in our communities so one big Dick-ey can grab more profit in an election cycle.

What else does he want us to lose?  Maybe an election?  Think about it.

In case any of you missed it, Nikki Silverstein of the Pacific Sun News interviewed Mickey Luckoff after the recent take-over of KGO Radio by Cumulus Media and their December firing of most of KGO’s popular talk-show hosts.

In the PacificSun.com article, Nikki discussed Mickey’s attempt to put together a business plan to keep the former hosts together and the reality of that happening in the end.

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You can read the article in its entirety here:

http://pacificsun.com/news/show_story.php?id=3938

I’ve highlighted a few excerpts for you:

Nikki Silverstein: What’s the biggest obstacle you face?

Mickey Luckoff: The business plan that I developed was so good, that when I looked at it, I said why are you giving this away? Why are you bringing this to someone else? The problem is that all the facilities are owned, basically, by four operations. Two are not broadcasters. They’re venture capital types that are buying, stripping and trying to maximize a nationally syndicated product, which is the ruination of local radio.

Nikki Silverstein: Is it all about money? Don’t broadcasters consider what the public wants? After all, the public owns the airwaves and allows the corporations to use it.

Mickey Luckoff: It’s about money. I don’t think the public realizes how badly they’re being fleeced by the radio industry. I think a story like KGO talk going away awakens people. It’s in all the blogs. I don’t read blogs, but my wife read them to me on the way home from Tahoe. Then there was the rally (listeners protested the format change outside the station’s San Francisco studios on Dec. 15). But, it’s over quickly. People realize there’s nothing they can do about it.

Nikki Silverstein: When did the ‘public fleecing’ begin?

Mickey Luckoff: It started with the government deregulation of broadcast ownership about 20 years ago. There used to be limits on the number of stations companies could own. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removed the limits of the number of stations that these companies could own, that was the beginning of the end. Then Wall Street people started investing. They came in and pillaged the product. Run it cheap. Throw syndicated programming on the stations. To hell with the listeners.

Nikki Silverstein: Isn’t the FCC watching out for the public interest?

Mickey Luckoff: The FCC and the government have abandoned it.

Nikki Silverstein: It doesn’t seem fair. A few people are making a lot of money on public airways. And the public gets…

Mickey Luckoff: Crap. It’s getting worse now. There’s creative financing happening again. Broadcasters figure out a way to go into court with a planned bankruptcy. Ultimately what happens is they fleece the shareholders; they come out of it with no debt and they own the stations free and clear. They trade debt for equity.

Nikki Silverstein added a Postscript to her article days after the interview.  It was correspondence she’d received from Mickey Luckoff.  Again, read the PacificSun.com article in full for Nikki’s complete interview and final assessment.

Excerpts of Mickey Luckoff’s letter sent to the team of former KGO hosts:

“As promised, I have made every conceivable effort to accomplish the goal as we originally discussed. I have exhausted every conceivable opportunity to package and relocate our incredible NEWSTALK team in its entirety.

Much to my dismay there is not a single facility with a market wide signal available to purchase, lease (LMA), or to be made available by one of the multiple owners to adopt the format at this time!”

“…Other facilities available simply DO NOT have adequate market coverage to justify the team!”

“…, it ultimately is the total lack of courage and imagination among current-day owners and operators which prevents us from returning as a (profitable) format which would also have dominated Bay Area NEWSTALK audiences for the foreseeable future.”

There is a link to a wonderful video of San Francisco in 1955 posted on Facebook’s FormerKGOListeners page by Lisa Vande Voorde.  She found it on The Huffington Post.   It’s strange how the city hasn’t changed too much since then, except for the model of cars and buildings practically on top of buildings.  It’s a fun peek at the past.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/1955-san-francisco-video-tour_n_1187728.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Jim Gabbert filled in for Gene Burns today.  It sounds like it might be a month before Gene will be able to return to the air.  I’ve always dismissed Gabbert as the weird guy who runs that oldies dance show on weekend tv, but there is a lot more to him than that – to hear him tell it.  I was busy at work so I wasn’t able to hear most of his show so I’ll have to get to the podcast and listen again.

You can hear Len’s podcasts here as well.  The Loy’ah is there every week day from 3:00pm – 4:00pm.

http://www.newstalk910.com/main.html

Gil Gross will be sitting in for Gene on Wednesday.  Gawd, I miss Gil on the radio.  I used to look forward to his show everyday.

damn Cumulus…

 

By the way, was anyone listening to Wattenburg’s broadcast today on KSCO and happen to hear that 90-year-old rant about virgin allotments?  I mean, what the…??  Was that supposed to be funny, as in humorous?  I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for that Kay lady or be angry.  It was too stunned to feel either.  All I could do was shake my head and step away from the computer…

Why is that woman on there every day rambling about nothing?  Don’t they have ads they can run?  Please have mercy on us, Santa Cruz.

It’s a new year and with it comes a new routine for listening to talk radio.

I’ve been streaming live audio to hear some of my former KGO hosts.  It’s not like before, when I could push the ON button and leave it there for the day.  I have to search for a personality’s station and time slot and arrange my listening time around it.  Not the easiest thing to do during the work week, but what other option do we really have?

This was my listening schedule the past week:

Bill Wattenburg on KSCO-AM in Santa Cruz, Monday-Wednesday, time slot 12Noon-2:00pm.

(I’d link to the podcasts but it’s not clear where to find the Dr. Bill archived podcasts on that site.  Lots of some doctor and old Dr. Bill programs, but nothing recent that I can find.)

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed listening to Wattenburg until he was pulled off the air.  He was like the old neighborhood porch where everyone gathered at the end of the day.  A place where people of any age knew they could go to sit and talk and always come back to when in town.

I admit to not listening to Wattenburg much in the past years, only turning on his program periodically when I couldn’t sleep, and I did grow weary of the eco-freak talk.  I understood his message, just didn’t want to hear it every ten minutes.  But I listened to him for the other calls, the kids with questions about science, people curious about how things work, his views on Bay Area security and nuclear energy, and even the truckers who needed help with a transmission.  He has vast knowledge and can communicate that knowledge in a clear, concise message to anyone who cares to listen.

I’m not a big fan of that KSCO station in Santa Cruz.  They are trying to profit off Dr. Bill’s celebrity, as are all of the other stations taking in former KGO hosts.  But this station has some bizarre doctor show posted on its website and the owners, MZ and his 90-year-old mother, are hard to listen to on a regular basis.  I only stream Dr. Bill when he’s on and then turn off that station as fast as my fingers can get to the OFF button.

I think Dr. Wattenburg will be good for the Santa Cruz listening audience.  He’s already championing a cause and getting listeners to participate.  I’ll continue to listen, tune out that 90-year-old commentary, and just be happy hearing Dr. Bill again.

Then there’s an hour of free time until Len Tillem shows up on another station.  That’s when I go out to pick up lunch, take care of things that take me away from the computer or radio, and wait for the loy’ah.

Len Tillem on KKSF – Newstalk 910AM, Monday-Friday, 3:00pm-4:00pm

A link to the podcasts:

http://www.newstalk910.com/main.html

Good ol’ Len.  Practically the first sentence out of his mouth was welcome to KG..oh..oh!  Wrong station.  It was a wonderful Tillem moment as he laughed and explained and laughed again.  A great way to start off because it was funny to those of us who knew him from that other station and instead of sounding unprofessional to the others who didn’t, it was actually endearing to hear it.

Gene Burns on KKSF – Newstalk 910AM, Monday-Friday, 4:00pm-7:00pm

I was looking forward to hearing Gene Burns.  I wanted to hear what his fan base has heard for years and I’ve been looking forward to becoming a new fan.  I will have to wait a while longer for that to happen.  Gene Burns was unable to appear for medical reasons and in his place was a week of guest hosts.  Not any old, fill-in guest hosts, but former KGO hosts showed up.  So, although I have to wait to hear Gene Burns, it was great hearing those other voices again.

Tuesday Dr. Bill Wattenburg filled in.

Wednesday Gil Gross hosted.

Thursday John Rothmann came by.

And, Friday, Rosie Allen closed out the week.

I will have to wait another week for Gene.  Guest hosts will be filling in next week as well.

It’s not perfect, but at least it’s better than it was at year end.  I wish Gene well and hope he gets back on the air when he’s healthy and strong and ready to talk.  Good things come to those who wait.  I can wait for one more week…

We know, now, that Cumulus Media is buying up stations all over the country and CEO, Lew Dickey, plans to shove his new marketing baby, SweetJack, into our faces every ten minutes.  That is, if you still listen to any of those stations anymore.  I can say, proudly, I have not heard one SweetJack ad.  But I have to read more about this deal before I can formulate a coherent post about it.

Here’s a start to learn the basics:

http://audio4cast.com/2011/12/05/cumulus-stations-join-iheartradio/

It’s important for those who oppose this to develop a clear message before spreading it to the masses.  When Dr. Bill Wattenburg was hosting this week in Santa Cruz, on that strange little station KSCO, he mentioned to callers that a cheap, easy way to get a message out about any issue was to do something so simple that anyone of any age can do it.  Imagine how powerful that could be to multitudes who have something to say about Cumulus and SweetJack and the corporate takeover of local radio in our communities.

What was Dr. Bill’s suggestion?  Take a marker and a piece of paper and write down what you want to say.  Then, post it where other people can see it.  In your car window (where it’s legal), on a telephone pole, in the laundromat on the message board, in a local coffee shop, even stick it to your coat when out walking.  You get the idea.  It’s really a brilliant idea.

But to be effective, the message must be clear and consistent.  It wouldn’t hurt to add a few names of local government officials who have the resources behind them to create change.

It’s something that can be done now.  Today.

The only problem, though, is what should that message be?  I’m not sure and that’s why I want to find out more about this Cumulus deal.  They’ve partnered with Clear Channel to spread their SweetJack, but Clear Channel is the station now hiring some of the former KGO hosts as their on-air talent on 910AM. Clear Channel is even bigger than Cumulus and in more markets.

And, what was really behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996?

http://transition.fcc.gov/telecom.html

Some think it’s useless to try and save radio as we know it, that it’s declining into the dustheap of outdated technology.  So, why are we outraged?  What is our message?  Do we only want to vent our anger at change or do we want to effect change?  What would you write on that piece of paper?

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By the way, I just found this interesting tidbit on Cumulus about their firing practice.  hmmm, I wonder if Ronn Owen’s has seen this little gem…

http://www.redandnater.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=78505

I’d always thought the song, ‘Without You’, was written by Harry Nilsson.  I mean, he owned that song.  I grew up with his vocals of it as a backdrop to my youth.  At the time I never thought about song origins.  It was just me and Harry and his wonderful song.

About ten years ago I found his Nilsson Schmilsson CD in the used section of Amoeba Records.  I didn’t realize it but the CD was a reissue of his original album and it included some previously unreleased demo tunes.  I did not expect the acoustic rawness captured in the ‘Without You’ demo.

Years later, when YouTube was popular, I was able to look up so many old songs and listen again.  I’d tried finding the Nilsson demo but it wasn’t posted, although I was able to find other oldies such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and the English version of Francoise Hardy’s ‘I Wish It Were Me’ and even full tracks of Demis Roussos when he was with the band Aphrodite’s Child and produced their psychedelic, progressive rock album ‘666’.

See?  You can still find them on YouTube:

If you’ve never seen this performance before, you’re in for a treat!  Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orNpH6iyokI&feature=related

Francoise Hardy – I Wish It Were Me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeZkUAfo9KE

My favorite track from Demis Roussos’ group Aphrodite’s Child – Break

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WTNFuF6qiA

Finally, a few years ago, I found it.  The exact demo version of ‘Without You’ I’d been searching for had been posted to YouTube.

That’s when I found out it wasn’t really Harry’s song after all.  It wasn’t really even one song at all.  Originally, half of it was written by one man about a woman, and the other half was written by another man about another woman.  Those two men merged their songs during a practice session, an attempt to come up with more tracks for their second studio album, No Dice.  Those two men were Pete Ham and Tom Evans, original members of the British rock band Badfinger.  Tom hated the new song and pulled it from the album.  Pete loved the song and put it back in at the last minute.  ‘Without You’ was a mere fill-in track on the album, nothing more.  Then along came Harry.

I spent time listening and learning about the many variations of this song.  It’s a journey within itself.  I don’t have time or space to go into the story of the song ‘Without You’ here.  It has celebration, thievery, heart-ache, suicide, success, renewal and, in its more recent form, popularized dreck.

It’s a stretch to compare the journey of a song to the history of radio station KGO, but it’s funny how it all ends up the same.

It had humble beginnings, just another track for an album.  Two songs turned into one by Pete Ham and Tom Evans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnb5JeK1hOo&feature=related

Just as KGO Radio had humble beginnings, written about in this article by John F. Schneider:

http://www.bayarearadio.org/schneider/kgo.shtml

KGO changed from a recorded music format to talk radio in the 1960s.  It became a powerhouse, ranking Number One in its market.

So did Harry with his song:

Harry Nilsson – Without You (the released version, live studio musicians, lush haunting vocals, overlapping chorus, recorded on 16 track with 2 track harmonies – produced by Richard Perry)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfxCED3okpg&feature=related

Gary Wright, most known for his song ‘Dream Weaver’, played piano in Nilsson’s studio version of ‘Without You’.  In a BBC Radio 2 interview program, Song Stories – The History of the Song ‘Without You’, created by Peter Waterman, in a discussion about the song and its popularity, Wright said that listeners heard in Nilsson’s vocals a man devastated and in great need.  People universally recognized something, true feelings.

Nilsson won the 1972 Grammy for the song and his album, ‘Nilsson Schmilsson’ turned out to be the most successful album of his career.

In 1994 Nilsson died of a heart attack at the age of 52.  Mariah Carey’s version of ‘Without You’ was released a week later.

Mariah Carey – Without You

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hat1Hc9SNwE&ob=av2n

Mariah belts out that song.  At the time, it was her biggest hit outside the U.S. and reached No. 3 in the U.S. market.  But, to some, her version lacks the heart of Harry.  It is more about Mariah hitting octaves and riffing than performing a tender ballad.  It is a wonderful version, but was recorded in a technological environment of drum machines and digital recording of the ’90s, a programmed sterile sound that doesn’t capture the real emotion of the song.

Now we come to the modern day destruction.  What we accept as entertainment in a world of reality shows.

The Bulgarian show ‘Music Idol’, aired a contestant on the show who sang ‘Without You’, or as she calls it, ‘Ken Lee’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQt-h753jHI

I know you want to hear more, here’s a longer version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEbV5M59Xc8&feature=related

And, that, my friends is where we end up with the new KGO.  How did it all come to this?  Who gave Ken Lee the keys to the station?  The destruction of this song corresponds nicely, without having to say anything, about the sad, wrenching end of real talk radio as we knew it.

Sometimes we have to sit back and remember what we had.  This is raw but there is heart.  Something we are missing going into this New Year:

Harry Nilsson – Without You (demo)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hZI6qJBvDE

Goodbye Harry.  We miss you.

Goodbye KGO.  There’s a lot you can learn from a simple song and the disaster that is Ken Lee.  We won’t be looking back at the new KGO ten years from now.  We won’t look back two months from now.  You are on your own, new KGO.  One thing we can do is live without you.

Now, on to the New Year…