Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Call To Action: Help Reclaim Wisconsin's Airwaves!

I've told you how WTMJ and WISN radio stations are violating federal law, namely the Zapple Doctrine.

I've shared the story of the press rally calling out these mouthpieces of WISGOP and Scott Walker.

Now it's your turn to help reclaim our airwaves and have the radio stations follow the law like they're supposed to.

And it's real easy to do.

Just sign this petition telling the FCC to enforce the law like they're supposed to.

Media Action Center Calls Out Squawk Radio

I pointed out over the weekend that Milwaukee radio stations WTMJ and WISN were in violation of federal law.  Namely, they were in violation of the Zapple Doctrine, which requires a radio station, in the sixty days leading up to an election, to give equal time to opposing sides.

Anyone who listens to the programming of these two stations, which air various miscreants like Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling and Vicki McKenna, can tell in five minutes that they only spout Republican party talking points.

But to keep things honest, the Media Action Center has been formally monitoring these shows and asking the stations to follow the law.  The results were as one might have expected.

The two stations combined gave Walker and his fellow Republicans up to $680,000 worth of free air time.  And that was just within the first ten days of monitoring.

Regarding to the requests for the stations to follow the rules, WTMJ would respond with a form letter which didn't even address the concerns brought up.  WISN management didn't even bother to respond.

Given the clear violation and even clearer disregard for the laws they are supposed to follow to be able to use the public airwaves which they are given for free, the Media Action Center held a press conference Tuesday morning outside of WTMJ's studios.

Shockingly, WTMJ actually covered it, but in an off-hand, dismissive way.  Most notably, Steve Wexler of WTMJ, says that they have had Barrett supporters on the air.  But he completely misses the point on the imbalance of air time that they give to Walker.

Here is the entire raw video of the press conference:

It cannot be emphasized enough, even though the right wing will ignore it anyway, that no one wants to silence the conservative voice. We are only asking for them to follow the law on the last sixty days before an election.

If they don't follow the law, Media Action Center is prepared to take this to the FCC who could fine the station, order them to follow the law, or even deny their license which is up for renewal later this year.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

WTMJ, WISN In Violation Of Federal Law

Last year, I introduced you to Sue Wilson, a one-woman dynamo leading the charge for us to reclaim our airwaves. She came to Wisconsin and showed us how it was done with the airing of her documentary Broadcast Blues. The show was a real eye opener and very informative, especially when it came to the Zapple Doctrine:
What remains unknown about yesterday's announcement from the Chairman is just how far this repeal goes. While certain corollaries of the Doctrine - including the political editorializing and personal attack rules - have been specifically mentioned in press reports as being repealed, the one vestige of the doctrine that potentially has some vitality - the Zapple Doctrine compelling a station to provide time to the supporters of one candidate if the station provides time to the supporters of another candidate in a political race, has never specifically been abolished, and is not mentioned in the Chairman's statement. Zapple, also known as "quasi-equal opportunities", has been argued in in various recent controversies, including in connection with the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, when Kerry supporters claimed that they should get equal time to respond should certain television stations air the anti-Kerry Swift Boat "documentary." We have written about Zapple many times (see, for instance, here, in connection with the Citizens United decision). What would be beneficial to broadcasters would be a determination as to whether Zapple has any remaining vitality, as some have felt that this doctrine is justified independent of the Fairness Doctrine. Perhaps that clarification will come when the full text of the FCC action is released.
Well, let me tell you, that was no the end of Sue Wilson's involvement with Wisconsin or her fight to reclaim the airwaves for the people.

Sue has been helping a group of us monitor the airwaves here in Milwaukee. On Tuesday, she will be holding a press conference regarding our findings. Sue writes about it here, and here is most of it:
Any time progressives try to get their views out over the radio, Conservative Talkers squawk that they are jeopardizing their rights of Free Speech. I agree radio talkers have their rights. But so do We the People, and it is time we stand up for them. Right now. Especially in the middle of an election like the Walker recall, where the law says BOTH major politcal party supporters are entitled to comparable airtime.

Most people don't know that we have special rights when it comes to local radio and TV, but we do. Despite what Big corporate media tells us again and again, Broadcasting operates under unique rules designed to protect the public interest. Let me explain why Broadcasting enjoys special treatment in the name of the public.

Newspapers are private enterprise: anyone with enough capital can start a newspaper and write what they will. Cable TV is also private enterprise: when people write a check to Comcast or Direct TV, they pay private contractors, via cable or satellite, to bring programs from Playboy to Disney into their homes.

But broadcasting, local radio and TV, is a public/private partnership: the public owns the airwaves needed for transmission; private business own the buildings, equipment, etc. needed to broadcast programming. When private business goes into broadcasting, it makes a deal with the public: a free license from the Federal Communication Commission - if it agrees to "serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity."

Broadcasting also differs from newspapers and cable in that the number of frequencies available in one community are few, so only a limited number of local stations are possible. Physical scarcity is the foundation of all broadcast law.

Then there's the concept of "private censorship." Because of the physical scarcity of frequencies, the Courts say big corporations who are licensed to broadcast over our airwaves have no right to prevent people of the community access to being heard on the radio.

There are two radio markets in the U.S. I've been closely watching which highlight these concepts of physical scarcity and private censorship. One is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where five local Conservative Talk Radio hosts dominate 100,000 watts of radio power, (and to whom Republicans like Alberta Darling credit their political victories.)

The other is my adopted hometown, Sacramento, where Clear Channel Communications broadcasts about 190 hours per week of national one-sided political talk over three giant stations, KFBK-AM, KGBY-FM and AMFM Holding's KSTE-AM Clear Channel management disputed that number at a recent meeting with Media Action Center, Sacramento Media Group, and Occupy Sacramento. But (now former) Clear Channel GM Jeff Holden told us he is very comfortable airing only one-sided political talk on three giant stations - during an election year.

But what Holden may or may not have known is that, in the 60 days prior to an election, if broadcasters sell or give time to one major political party candidate or its supporters, they must, by law, offer comparable time to the opposing major political party candidate or its supporters. (See Section 315a of the Communications Act and the Zapple Doctrine.)

The Media Action Center has been monitoring talk radio stations owned by Clear Channel and Journal Communications in Milwaukee since May 9th, the first day of the Walker/Barrett campaign in Wisconsin. We will release detailed results of that monitoring May 22nd, but suffice it to say that supporters of one major political party are getting short shrift, and they have been complaining to the Talk stations demanding equal time, and they will soon be complaining – loudly – to the Federal Communications Commission to immediately enforce comparable time laws under Zapple. (The FCC is the law enforcement agency on broadcasting issues.)

But those Talk Radio giants are also violating the First Amendment rights of supporters of candidates whom they are not allowed to be heard in the midst of the election. "Private censorship" comes down to a matter of access, says the Supreme Court of the United States.

In Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC, 1969, the Supreme Court made two key rulings: "the First Amendment is relevant to broadcasting, but it is the right of the viewer and listener, not the broadcaster, which is paramount." And, “the First Amendment does not protect private censorship by broadcasters who are licensed by the Government to use a scarce resource which is denied to others.”

The giants have argued against this in court, but to no avail. In 2011, Clear Channel lawyers argued that given the internet, the concept of physical scarcity was no longer needed. The U.S.Third Circuit Court of Appeals shot them down: "The abundance of non-broadcast media does not render the broadcast spectrum any less scarce. The Supreme Court's justification for the scarcity doctrine remains as true today as it was in 2004 --- indeed, in 1975 --- many more people would like to access the [broadcast spectrum] than can be accommodated."

The imbalance we are seeing on the publicly owned airwaves in Milwaukee and Sacramento and elsewhere proves that broadcasters are stamping out the First Amendment rights of liberals and the rest of us, not the other way around, as right wing talkers in every corner of the country would have us believe. Yes, it is censorship for the government to tell hosts what they may or may not say. But when Clear Channel and other radio license holders put one political point of view on our public airwaves to the exclusion of all others, that is private censorship, and lucky for us and the people of Wisconsin, in the 60 days before an an election, that is illegal.
While we're reclaiming Wisconsin, let's reclaim it all back, including our airwaves!

Cross posted at Cog Dis.

TMJ's Mercure Uses Fallen Heroes For Cheap Political Hits

For the past couple of days, John Mercure, the pseudo-reporter that does the afternoon drive time on WTMJ radio, has been harping on the fact that Tom Barrett wasn't at a ceremony to honor fallen police officers.  Mercure spent two full days on the subject, and upped his faux outrage when he found out that Barrett was speaking to retired UAW workers.  You know, the people that worked for their entire lives helping keeping the economy going.

Was it a faux pas on Barrett's part? One could definitely call it that.

Was it worth two days of news coverage? No.

Especially when one considers that the two days Mercure spent haranguing about Barrett is two days more than what he spent discussing the fact that we have the only sitting governor in the state's long and storied history to have a legal defense fund to help deal with the fact that he ran a caucus scandal-type of campaign machine out of his executive suite at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

And if Mercure was really concerned about the police who sacrificed their all and their families who survived them, why didn't he report about how the Republicans who threw these brave men and women, and their families, under the ALEC-driven bus, as one of our bravest and finest, and my friend, Brian Austin, reported.  The state legislature was preparing to pass a bill that would have provided health insurance protection for the surviving spouse and children of a fallen officer.  Firefighters already had that protection, but omitted the police.  They were aiming to fix that.  The bill passed the Senate by unanimous vote.  Then it went to the State Assembly where things went bad fast:

At the last minute, the Republican legislators in control of the Assembly blocked the bill from being brought to a vote. Blocked the bill that unanimously passed the Senate. From what I have discovered, the Birkholz family was given the choice of coming to the Capitol for the resolution only, but understandably opted not to attend. In a horrendous display of partisan politics in what should have been a unifying issue, John Jagler, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, called SB 18 an "unfunded mandate" on local governments that "isn't ready to become law." "We're looking at a more fiscally responsible way of funding it," he added. 
These officers, and their families, have given everything in service to the people of the state of Wisconsin. Lives are lost, and countless others are shattered. The least we could do for them, on behalf of a grateful public, is to give the survivors the peace of mind of health care. It doesn't seem like a lot to ask, but the Assembly Republicans apparently believe it wouldn't be "fiscally responsible." Since that unconscionable decision last year, there has been no progress made in convincing the Assembly Republicans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. 
The contract broken. 
To the people who blocked this bill: It isn't enough to attend the funerals of fallen officers in your districts, or memorial services during Police Week. It isn't enough to get teary-eyed when the bagpipes play, and to talk about how grateful the citizens of Wisconsin are for this ultimate sacrifice. Your words are hollow, because your actions have broken the contract. These families are trying to put their shattered lives back together, yet all you can talk about is fiscal responsibility. For the sake of decency, please do not attend another officer's funeral, or another police memorial service, until you make this right. You are not welcome to share in our grief until that happens.

You know, Jagler used to work for TMJ as well.  There is no reason why Mercure couldn't call up his old coworker and ask him what this was about.

Or he could have asked Scott Walker why he didn't push to have this law pass.  Doesn't Walker care about the police either?

Well, there is one reason.  Because, like 99% of everything the Republicans have done in the past eighteen months, this would have made them look bad.  And considering that Walker is just weeks away from being recalled, if he doesn't get indicted first, he can't afford any more bad press.

So Mercure spent two days attacking Barrett for no other reason to give cover to Walker's shame and the Republicans' abandonment of Wisconsin's finest.

I sure hope Walker is claiming all these in-kind contributions on his campaign finance reports.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

James Wigderson Lied About Walker's Record On Labor

On April 25, James Wigderson attacked Mayor Tom Barrett, saying that Barrett had lied when he said that Scott Walker was for right to work.  Wigderson emphatically declared that Walker is not in favor of a right to work legislation:
Walker supports private sector unions and even the “prevailing wage” for public projects, and he is opposed to Right to Work legislation.
As it turns out, it is Wigderson, not Barret, who is the bald faced liar.

As my co-author at Cog Dis, Jeff Simpson, points out, there is now footage of Scott Walker discussing making Wisconsin a right to work state.

Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that Jeff cites, we see this exchange between Walker and Diane Hendricks, a big time right wing nut job who likes to associate with the same crowd as Walker (see Koch Brothers) and is reported to freely lend her private plane to Walker as he goes jaunting about the country collecting his bail money from those who would buy our state if we let them:
In the video, Hendricks told Walker she wanted to discuss "controversial" subjects away from reporters, asking him:

"Any chance we'll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions -"

"Oh, yeah," Walker broke in.

"- and become a right-to-work?" Hendricks continued. "What can we do to help you?"

"Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill," Walker said. "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer. So for us, the base we get for that is the fact that we've got - budgetarily we can't afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there's no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out . . . That opens the door once we do that. That's your bigger problem right there."

The entire conversation was not released Thursday with a video trailer of the documentary, but Journal Sentinel reporters were allowed to view the raw footage, in which the governor goes on to talk about curbing liability lawsuits and government regulations.

If you don't believe that the paper accurately reflected the conversation, you can see it for yourself in this preview of the movie "As Goes Janesville." The conversation starts around the 7:40 mark.

The MJS article also notes that Walker sponsored right to work legislation as a freshman legislator in 1993.

But since Wigderson considers himself to be a reputable writer and has threatened anyone and everyone he perceives as impugning his reputation, I look forward to see him suing himself. After all, I'm sure he doesn't like that he made himself look even worse than he normally does.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Watch Sykes' Head Implode Along With His Ego

Not only was Charlie Sykes not named Best Morning Show in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, but that honor went to the one guy that Sykes hates even more than he hates me, John "Sly" Sylvester.

Just another disappointment since he first realized that he's not going to win a Pulitzer Prize either.

Oh, I can't wait to listen to him whine about this as he tries to hide Walker's poop dumping problem.

Where's Charlie Sykes' Page Now?

Earlier in the year, Charlie Sykes, squawking head at WTMJ-AM, showed that he, at long last, has shown that he has no sense of decency when he sent out a most vulgar tweet inferring that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele was some sort of pedophile.

In his vulgarity, Sykes tweeted that he was paging another squawking head at the radio station, John Mecure, who's claim for fame is sensationalizing stories and pretending he's busting child pornography sexual predators.

But it appears that Sykes' little paging system is busted.

It has been recently reported that Phil Wentzel, a top aide - even once as high as spokesman - for Sheriff David Clarke, has been arrested for creating child pornography.  The arrest stems from nearly a year's investigation into Wentzel.

Even worse, even though Clarke put Wentzel on leave, it's with pay.

Now that there is an high ranking county staff person who is a sexual predator, Sykes is silent.  So is Mecure for that matter.

Is Sykes' silence on this serious issue because he is buddy buddy with the ultraconservative nut job of a sheriff?

Or is it that Sykes thinks sexual abuse of minors is something that should only be joked about, especially using a liberal as a foil?