Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26, 2012
Debut of Catholic station at 89.3 forces Troubadour 1700 to move FM frequency to 97.9 MHz 

Dear Friends of the Minimum Wage Media micro stations,

When is enough enough? I couldn't help but ask that question as I was faced again Tuesday night with an inevitable shuffling of the FM frequencies in order to preserve the normal listening range of one of our micro stations.

Early this week, yet another religious broadcaster in the North Central Massachusetts region signed on with a new FM station. This time it is the Catholics who are responsible. Over the past few years, the Catholic Church in the United States has been on a desperate campaign to buy up as many conventional AM & FM stations as they can get their grimy little power-hungry hands on. And since they are practically the richest institution in the world, there is nothing stopping them from doing so.

Being a busy guy these days with different interests and a lot of personal and financial problems, I wasn't aware of the construction permit the FCC had granted for a proposed station operating on 89.3 (Troubadour 1700's FM frequency) from a transmitter just south of Cogshell Park in Fitchburg. But this past Sunday, as I was commuting to work in Shirley Village, I noticed that an open carrier was causing serious interference with Troubadour 1700's FM signal on 89.3, and this signal was powerful enough to blanket the entire area. I had assumed it was a high powered pirate fooling around on the frequency and was relieved to find on Monday that things were back to normal. But Tuesday night, while out on deliveries, I unfortunately discovered what that powerful open carrier really was: the final tests for a new licensed station going on the air in the region.

According to a local newspaper article, the prime reason this Catholic organization wanted to put this new station on the air is to encourage "lapse" Catholics to return to mass on a regular basis ( ..... especially if they bring their young children.... sorry, I couldn't resist). Well, at least I can respect them for their honesty. But that's the entire point. As originally conceived, conventional over-the-air AM, FM, TV, and shortwave stations in the United States were granted licenses to use the public's airwaves (legally, a PUBLIC resource or "commons") in exchange for serving "the public interest, convenience, and necessity." However, by their own admission, this group's prime reason for cluttering up the airwaves of north central Massachusetts with yet ANOTHER religious station is to win back parishioners and bring the money and power back to their massive, discredited, regressive religious cult.

Make no mistake about it. The primary purpose of this and all religious stations is to win converts and bring money and power to the cults that own them. It is NOT, and never has been, to serve "the public interest, convenience, and necessity." Therefore, the obvious conclusion SHOULD be that religious groups - ALL religious groups - should be automatically disqualified from owning broadcast stations in the United States unless they agree to serve a general audience in the station's local community - just like a secular, independent local owner should - and the primary purpose of the station must NOT be to bring in converts and money to their cults. (Such requirements would, by the way, eliminate about 95 percent of such applicants right off the bat!)

I am not saying it is wrong for different stations in a market to have different constituencies and for station licensees to steer their audiences toward information and activities that support their values, interests, and world view. I am simply stating there is a vast difference between public service and propaganda. And in my opinion, every last one of the SIX religious AM & FM signals (yes, we are now up to SIX!) licensed to serve the Fitchburg/Leominster/north central Massachusetts region is 100 percent about propaganda and zero percent about community and public service.        

The fact that American culture still looks upon conventional, regressive, organized religion as a positive influence on society, and has no problem with its ownership of a large chunk of our broadcast media is a source of great frustration to people like me. More mature cultures, like those in most European countries, are not so naive and many of them still prohibit religious groups from owning local broadcast stations.

One of the prime reasons I started and still maintain the Liberty & Justice micro stations is because I want to finally live in a peaceful society where there are no dominators, no rich tycoons, and no hierarchies exploiting other human beings, animals, or the earth for the sake of their psychopathic addiction to wealth and power. (Leaders - yes. Dominators - NO!) I want to live in a world where the majority of us are self employed, or own our own small business or farm, and there is a large enough social safety net to enable even the poorest individual to reach that goal. As for the medium and large corporations that need to stay that size in order to perform their functions, they should become cooperatives where all significant decisions (including who becomes CEO, the amount of his or her salary, the working conditions and compensation for the average employee/co-owner, goods and services they will provide, etc.) are made by democratic vote of the employee/owners and stockholders, NOT by top down edict or manipulations from behind the scene power brokers. That's the kind of society I want - one where we are all truly peers, where we are all accountable, where we all have a roughly equal vested interest, and where we naturally cooperate with each other because the system is fair and it's in our own interest.

But to me, the biggest obstacle toward evolving into a such a society is organized, conservative, hierarchy obsessed Evangelical religion. (Neo-conservative, neo-fascist political ideology is a close second.) Evangelical religion is, above all, about domination and control. ( ....And where domination and control run unchecked, pedophilia often soon follows....) It is a diabolically ingenious form of mind control that conveniently divides the common people into warring factions. It turns otherwise intelligent individuals into fools who advocate policies and a mindset that is obviously contrary to their own well being. I know this for a fact, because a couple times during my teenage and young adult years, I was one of these people! I am stating from experience that it is a lie and these groups DO NOT deserve to be on the public airwaves, let alone dominate them, as they do here in the heart of New England, of all places.

Another aspect of this new station that I find ridiculous is that Shirley is listed as its community of license. What a joke! Can we tune in for school cancellations this coming winter? I also don't know how they got around the FCC's technical requirement for an "urban grade" signal level into the community of license. Last I checked, it is required for non-commercial FM's below 92 MHz on the dial. You cannot get an urban grade FM signal into Shirley with a 510 watt transmitter, at only 75 to 100 feet above average terrain, from a location way out near Cogshell Park in Fitchburg. On Tuesday night, when both stations were operating at 89.3, the Catholic signal did not cause serious interference to Troubadour until a half mile from its transmitter. If this were truly an urban grade signal into Shirley Center or even Shirley Village, I don't think Troubadour would have been received more than a thousand feet outside of Acme Park before the dominate station eclipsed it.

So, I have had to do some shuffling of frequencies and here is what I have decided for now.

1) Troubadour 1700's FM frequency has been changed to 97.9 MHz. I had also considered 88.7 but decided it would jeopardize reception of WERS, a desirable signal for a number of people even at this distance from Boston. The signal tests so far have been very good and I am pleased with the range, especially on a car radio with excellent selectivity. On receivers with less selectivity, there is some "picket fence effect" digital hash from WKAF at 97.7 (from the Brockton area).

In order to move Troubadour to the new frequency, I had to sacrifice "97.9 The Voice of the Resistance," as it had been know, which was my occasional station that carried live events from the Occupy movement and the third party presidential candidates. I haven't fully decided whether to integrate this programing as specials into one or both versions of Liberty & Justice, or simply move this "occasional" service to 102.9 MHz. Right now, I am leaning toward using 102.9 this weekend for live coverage of The United Front Against Austerity's conference in New York on Saturday. I'm not sure what I'll do for specials beyond that one.

I am very pleased that the final broadcast of The Voice of the Resistance at 97.9 was the four-way third party presidential debate between Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, and Virgil Goode. The event took place Tuesday night before a live audience in Chicago and was sponsored by the Free and Equal Foundation. Larry King was the moderator and the questions were provided by ordinary citizens through social media. Before you run out and mindlessly settle for one of the two major party stooges, I URGE you to watch this debate if you didn't catch the original live broadcast. You will find it right on the Free and Equal Foundation's home page. If time permits, you should also watch last Monday night's four-hour "Expanding the Debate" presentation, hosted by Amy Goodman, where Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson respond in real time to the same questions posed in the "main" debate. You can find it archived on the Democracy Now website.

I risk offending a lot of people by saying this, but I'm going to say it because it must be said. If after watching these two debates, from start to finish, you still end up voting for Obama or Romney, then you are either mentally retarded or suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. There are no other conclusions I can make! The choice in this election is very clear. If you haven't experienced enough poverty yet... if you can't wait for your too-big-to-fail bank to gouge you one more time...  if you are anxious to have World War III finally turn this planet into a burning cinder moments before we all die ( ...if you watched that final exchange between the two foreign policy frat boys, you know exactly what I mean), then vote for one of these two corporate controlled puppets. But if you want to finally see an administration that moves the world toward peace and economic justice, then your only option is in the third party realm. You have no other choice!

And please! Don't feed me the same tired bromides about "wasted votes" and "the spoiler effect." Those are mind control techniques that the two major parties have used very effectively to maintain their undeserved duopoly. Anyone who caves into it is, by definition, ignorant of our own history. In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was a voting option for a LOWER percentage of the total electorate than either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is today. But he won ANYWAY. (Another little known fact: Lincoln did not run for re-election in 1864 as a Republican. He ran exclusively under a third party banner.) But here in the 21st century, the average American has become a dumbed-down blob of protoplasm who lets his TV do his thinking for him. Therefore, it may be difficult to conceive of a time when people actually had the intelligence and backbone to do their own research, vote their convictions, and allowed the chips to fall where they may. But there was. Life in 1860 was rife with problems and dangers we have since solved. But lethargy and mass mind control were not among them.

As for me, I'm voting for a person I first met in the mid 1990's in a musical role that had nothing to do with politics.... Jill Stein. She is one of us. Here is a person, who although a vibrant activist and speaker, has never risen to an office higher than Lexington Town Meeting. Yet, she has become one of the top two independent candidates in contention with a former mayor, governors, and a member of Congress, for the highest office in the land. This is how it should be! But whatever third party candidate you choose, you need to support him or her with what time and money you can afford.

Okay... now back to the facilities inventory....

2) Liberty & Justice 1640 AM / 95.1 FM (the Alex edition). These signals will remain unchanged.

3) Troubadour 1700's flagship AM operation at 1700 KHz will remain unchanged.

4) Liberty & Justice 87.5 FM (the Thom edition) has been largely off the air since the motherboard in its main automation computer died on Sunday 10/14. The computer also required new, quieter fans. The total cost will be around $100. I made sure I could get everything for rock bottom prices, but it is still a cost I can ill afford. And unfortunately, it looks like a personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing has become inevitable for me. I don't have time to do what I already do in a day, let alone take on such a ridiculously complex procedure. But one of the "too-big-to-fail" international zombie credit card banks has turned down a very reasonable offer I made to continue payments on my balance. Their "rules" are too inflexible to accept it. So I don't have much choice.

[Folks, let me just comment that every time you do business with a corporate chain store or a too-big-to fail credit card bank, you may only be a few steps away from your own financial ruin. These are AUTHORITARIAN, TOP-DOWN institutions. They care about ONE thing and ONE THING ONLY - MAXIMUM PROFITS... even where there is little chance for those profits to be realized. Again, if you want more of this, vote for a major party candidate! Small businesses, community banks, and credit unions are much more flexible in situations where you owe them money.]

Nobody I talk to these days has the kind of spending cash they had years ago. But if your wallet and your heart can spare a few dollars to lighten the financial burden of this replacement motherboard, and finally see 87.5 return to the air, I would be humbled and thankful. Visit Troubadour 1700's website or Liberty & Justice 1640's website and follow the links to make a contribution or to buy advertising.

Yes, it is obvious that I am VERY upset by another conservative religious station hitting the airwaves here in north central Massachusetts. That is the main purpose of this letter. In the greater Fitchburg /Leominster region and adjacent areas of southern New Hampshire, we now have full time Evangelical religious propaganda and/ or "culture" on the following local signals: 960 AM, 1000 AM, 89.3 FM, 90.1 FM, 91.7 FM, and 92.1 FM. As for the remaining stations, only 1280 AM, 91.3 FM, and 104.5 FM remain secular. But 1280, as we know, is all neo-con propaganda and sports, and 104.5 is mainstream corporate junk. Again, when is enough enough for these cretins?

I don't think I'm alone in declaring that we want our local airwaves back. But I am not sure where destiny will take me over the next few months. A big part of me wants to get a whole new and sustainable life because so much of my current one is broken. That part of me wants to seek work in NY, DC, or LA at a prominent alternative media outlet like Gary Null's PRN, or RT America, and finally meet and work with people I consider real peers. But another part of me just keeps toughing it out locally, day by day, wondering if there will be a miracle opportunity to pioneer a real change in the abysmal state of media in this area.

If I stay local (and maybe even if I don't) I am looking seriously at launching a community based challenge to the FCC license renewals of at least two of these Evangelical pieces of electromagnetic waste, namely the two "heritage" AM's, WFGL 960 and WCMX 1000. These are two commercially licensed facilities that ultimately should have been returned to the community, NOT sold to the confines of local religious cults. I was a music director and air personality at WCMX from 1983 to 1986 when it was a very community minded, locally programmed, country music station. (And by the way, that was a time when the majority of country artists were distinct individuals who were always true to themselves, who had empathy for working people and the poor, and didn't spout some garbage they heard in a mega church or on Fox News!) So I certainly could lend some credibility to such an effort.

All over-the-air radio facilities in this region of the country have their licenses up for renewal in 2014. Most of the time, the renewal process is automatic unless some community group or alliance of groups gets together and raises a stink about a certain licensee by challenging their renewal. 2013 would be the year for such organizing to take place. I have a bit of a rough frame work in my head as to who to approach for help in such an effort, and I already have a lot of arguments written down. My tentative title for the campaign is "Occupy Cult Radio." Any of your thoughts or suggestions concerning such a proposed effort would be appreciated. Is there enough potential interest in the area? Could we obtain at least a few hundred signatures? What community groups and local store clienteles have a high probability of supporting the effort? Let me know what you think, especially if you live in, or are otherwise familiar with the north central Massachusetts region.

Thanks to all of you for your time and interest, and for hearing me rant.

Jeffrey Gill
Minimum Wage Media                                                                                       
Troubadour 1700 AM / 89.3 FM
Shirley, MA
Home Brewed Micro Radio
World, New Age, and the Folk Radio you once loved Liberty & Justice 1640 AM / 95.1 FM
Neighborhood Alternative Talk
Liberty & Justice 87.5 FM
Neighborhood Progressive Talk
Full spectrum information for Independent Thinkers

97.9 The Voice of the Resistance
Occupied Radio