Free culture vs. media consolidation has been on my mind after I heard from my friend Bemsha Bob Grubbs yesterday. He sent me the text of public testimony he wrote for a hastily scheduled hearing of the Federal Communication Commission held in Seattle on Nov. 9. The testimony was delivered by a colleague with the Voice of Vashon, the community radio project Bob joined after moving from Yellow Springs to Vashon Island. You can hear a snippet of the testimony on this video clip from Bill Moyers Journal — its the measured statement about “homogenized, formulaic, mindless crap that passes for news and entertainment” — and the full text is published below.
Bob writes, “Susan McCabe, who read it for me, got cut off, just before the meat of it. It was good to see Kevin Martin squirm on stage, even if the bastard ignored us and did what he wanted anyway. It was a fun, if frustrating, evening of street theater – something the flaneur would have enjoyed.”
My name is Susan McCabe and I am a resident of Vashon Island out in Puget Sound. I am also past-President of the Board of Directors for the Voice of Vashon, an internet radio station dedicated to providing the people of our island with the means to express their creativity and to disseminate information of local interest. We have been doing this for seven years and recently won some recognition for our efforts from the Knight-Batten Foundation. We also provide Emergency Broadcast Service to the island as part of the emergency preparedness plan which has been heralded as a model for the rest of King Co. The volunteers who are the Voice of Vashon donate collectively tens of thousands of hours each year to make this happen. We are a shining example of what community media should be and yet we cannot get the FCC to grant us a LPFM license to broadcast not to the greater Puget Sound, but just to our feisty little island. How long can we remain a potential community asset without the ability to gratify our volunteers?
So you are here to hear what we the public think about the proposal to further consolidate media control. We told you a year ago when you came to Seattle that media consolidation is a patently bad idea, no ifs ands or buts about it – so what part of that did you not understand? Do you think that another year of listening to the same homogenized, formulaic, mindless crap that passes for news and entertainment on the commercial dial has suddenly caused us to say – why yes, I’d like more of that please!
We need to reframe this discussion entirely; the debate we should be having is how can the media giants justify polluting the airwaves that they currently control, not why we should give them more. The FCC has forgotten its mission and its obligation to the people, and it has become an adjunct of large corporate interests. Now is the time to put public need ahead of private opportunity. Now is the time for the Voice of Vashon and all the struggling little community stations in our country to get their license to be heard. Thank you.