Musicians blast FCC plan
Members of R.E.M., Pearl Jam decry radio consolidation
By Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post TV/Radio Critic
R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard blasted the homogenized sound of radio Wednesday and went on record opposing the Federal Communications Commission's proposal to allow for more consolidation of the industry.
"Merely by speaking out here I could well be threatening our ability to be played on 1,200 radio stations," Mills said, referring to radio giant Clear Channel.
Mills and Gossard made their comments during a telephone press conference sponsored by Common Cause and Moveon.org, watchdog and activist organizations opposed to the new FCC rules.
Gossard said those who make the argument in favor of less regulation of radio act as if companies have First Amendment rights.
"It starts to get a little scary for me," the Pearl Jam guitarist said. "Big business and government have become allied to change the rules without public input."
Common Cause President Chellie Pingree added that Clear Channel "has become poster child for what can go wrong."
Recording artists, academics and political activists warned of "monopoly control of the airwaves" as they urged the FCC to delay its June 2 vote that would relax ownership caps for the nation's media and allow cross-ownership of newspaper and TV and radio properties in many markets.
While the ad hoc group doesn't expect to thwart the FCC's plan, members promised to stay involved.
"American society is good at focusing on micro-morality but it misses the larger morality," media historian Robert McChesney said. For example, the Jayson Blair story concerning plagiarism at The New York Times is huge, but the lack of fundamental debate over how the country's media will be structured in the future is "skipped over" by the mainstream media, he said.
Mills of R.E.M. finds it "incredibly stifling" and "very disturbing" that one company could end up owning all the TV and radio outlets in a town, plus promotion companies and performing venues across the country.
"That makes it very threatening for any band that wants to make statements contrary to the proper American way of doing things."
R.E.M. is constantly struggling with Clear Channel regarding the company's desire to have advertising printed on tickets and in lights around stage, he said.
Jenny Toomey, executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, echoed his concern, saying "the concentration of media is hurting artists' ability to make a living."
The Denver Post May 22,2003