Apr 3, 2012

Media Access Project shuttering after almost 40 years

The Media Access Project, a nonprofit public interest law firm and communications policy advocacy organization, is suspending operations May 1 after nearly 40 years, reports Deadline New York. Andrew Jay Schwartzman, its longtime leader, told the site that MAP “ran out of money.” In an announcement, the MAP Board said it reached the decision "after evaluating the difficult funding environment facing MAP and other progressive public interest groups." The organization "achieved victories and accomplishments in proceedings that affect almost every aspect of the Federal Communications Commission’s activities," the announcement said.

Media reform advocates were quick to react. Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, praised MAP's "trailblazing work," and noted: “MAP earned some of the greatest victories for the movement with its key role in protecting media ownership rules and in securing space on the dial for Low Power FM radio. We are truly saddened to see a close ally like MAP close its doors." And Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said: "Through the years, MAP has provided an invaluable voice for the public interest on a range of issues, including the public responsibility of broadcasters, to media ownership and, in more recent years, many of the most prominent policy disputes of the Internet age." Sohn worked at MAP for a decade.

MAP will host a gathering in early May to celebrate its accomplishments "and to help retire its small debt," the announcement said.

NFCB honors WFMU's Freedman for leadership, innovation

WFMU manager and digital music pioneer Ken Freedman will receive the National Association of Community Broadcasters' 2012 Bader Award.

The award, to be presented in June during the Community Radio conference, honors individuals and organizations for single innovations or lifetime contributions to community radio. It's presented in memory of the late Michael Bader, an attorney who was a fierce advocate for community radio.

“Ken Freedman has been well ahead of the technological curve and need for innovation in public radio long before it was ‘fashionable,’” said Sue Matters of KWSO, Warm Springs, Ore., NFCB board chair. She described Freedman as a "stunning example of the trend set in motion by Michael Bader many ‘radio dials’ ago."

Freedman is widely credited for preserving and advancing WFMU's freeform music format and volunteer-powered community radio ethos after its licensee, Upsala College, went bankrupt in 1995.

Now operated by an independent nonprofit Auricle Communications, WFMU compliments its adventurously programmed broadcast service on 91.1 FM with a robust and interactive website

“Without Ken, WFMU would have been just another asset in Upsala College’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy process,” said Irwin Chusid, veteran WFMU deejay and longtime champion of its freeform approach. Freedman negotiated the deal to buy WFMU's broadcast license, founded Auricle as the nonprofit license-holder, and raised money to complete the purchase. “That’s how we came to own ourselves and become beholden to our listeners.”

Freedman established an online presence for WFMU in 1992 on Gopher space, a text-and-audio digital platform that was a precursor to the web. That move set WFMU on a path to providing an immersive online listening experience for rock music freaks around the globe via live and archived streams, podcasts and an iPhone app that provides access to a deep catalog of music programming. With start-up funding from the New York Music Fund, WFMU launched the Free Music Archive, an interactive digital platform offering free high-quality music downloads, in 2009.

Freedman has also been an outspoken advocate for student-operated college radio stations, provided assistance to community and college broadcasters during times of crisis, and served on NFCB's board of directors.

The award will be presented during the 2012 Community Radio Conference, June 13–16, in Houston.

WTCI requesting $250K from city to start 24/7 local-programming channel

WTCI is asking the Chattanooga City Council for $250,000 to develop a multicast channel with 24/7 local programming, “Voyager.”

Station President Paul Grove told Current that the station will use the sum as seed money to attract additional foundation and corporate support. He expects a council vote on the funding later this summer.

On its 45.2 channel, WTCI currently runs Create, state legislature coverage and regional high-school and college sports. Grove wants to expand that to offer live coverage of city councils in the region and their committee work, host issue-oriented town-hall meetings at the station for broadcast, launch a half-hour weekly arts and culture show and run local documentaries — all in addition to the five ongoing weekly series the station already produces.

Grove sees the channel as an important community engagement service for the region, as the 16-county area that includes Chattanooga crafts its first-ever 40-year growth plan. “That’s a big thing for this community and this region,” Grove said, “and we think we can play a vital role in that.”

In researching the project, the station didn’t see anything similar to Voyager within the PBS system. The channel will go beyond the typical public-access fare of live city-council meetings. Content also will be accessible across multiple platforms and via social media.

WTCI is open to outside content for Voyager, Grove said, but will maintain final editorial control.