The PICAN Having Not So Much To Do With Pies But Much With The Fairness Doctrine And Bruce Springsteen

Public

Interest

Convenience

And

Necessity.

PICAN. That was the intended purpose of broadcasting back in the dawn of the radio and TV era. That everyone would have equal access and opportunity to watch news, sports, and entertainment. And coupled with the Fairness Doctrine, news would be as unbiased as possible, showing different sides to an issue.

That’s what I was told in my first broadcasting classes back in the early ’80s. Later in the decade, the cable companies, Wall Street, and Reagan’s cronies decided otherwise. The Fairness Doctrine was repealed. And somewhere along the line, the rules about how many outlets per market could be owned by a given company (back at the dawn of time in my freshman year, it was any combination of papers, radio and TV stations totaling up to seven) were blurred or obliterated. So much for balance and diversity.

And now we have Fifty Seven Channels and Nothing’s On thanks to cable and dish providers. Well, more like a couple of hundred in some localities. How many of these channels serve the PICAN is beyond me. Some of the channels I wouldn’t mind, such as Starz for their adaptations of Philippa Gregory’s novels about the Plantagent dynasty, or HBO for “Game of Thrones.” But pay for programming with no redeeming value like “Honey Boo Boo” or propaganda like certain news outlets? No. That was never supposed to be part of the plan.

There are times when cable is needed. My paternal grandmother lived in western Massachusetts in a pretty small town about six miles south of the Vermont border. Between the remoteness and the mighty shielding power of the granite mountains, any kind of decent  over the air TV signal was an impossibility. With the help of (very) basic cable, she could get the stations from Albany (40 miles south), Boston (three hours east) and New York (about three and a half hours southeast). It provided her with news, entertainment, and her Red Sox games. I think we had a choice of twelve channels. Gram mostly filled her days by reading the paper, visiting her friends and relatives within walking distance. TV was limited to her quiz shows and a handful of series. That’s all she needed.

That was back in the ’70s. The ’80s opened up a wild west of commercial broadcasting options, and not all for the better. Not unless you’re an ad agency or a retailer looking to brainwash consumers. Convenient, yes, but at a high price to one’s purse from the pressure to buy, psyche, and the environment.

We–Hubby and I–don’t need much more ourselves than what Gram had. With just our converter box and antenna, we get PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, WGN, and a slew of indie outlets and substations. There are two classic movie channels we enjoy. One of the substations runs “Star Trek” six nights a week. We invest in DVDs of our favorite programs. We both have channels we like on YouTube. Sometimes when nothing appeals to me, I do this really crazy thing called READING A BOOK.

In this post-PICAN and Fairness Doctrine world, making deliberate, conscious choices takes on new importance. Do your research on broadcasting options in your area, and choose wisely.

I know I’ve posted this before, but I feel like it’s time to revisit John Denver’s cover of “Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV)” again.  Somehow, it just seems to fit.

 

 

 

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Taking Refuge in Lake Wobegon

 

 

(from cardcow.com)

 

“Chocolate cake.”

Until last week, those had been two of my favorite words. Hearing them spoken by  The Wearer of Ferrets as he discussed the moment during a dinner with China’s President Xi when he gave the green light to bomb Syria put a considerable pall on them. I may never be able to eat either again. If there is a positive, the sound of his voice echoing around my mind is aversive enough to keep me away from both as efforts at weight loss continue.

While desserts have their charms, taking refuge in them too often is not a good idea at all. Just ask my jeans.

Where, then, does one turn to escape the rampant insanity ? I’ve tried to keep the TV off with mixed success. Two PBS shows I love run late morning, and then there’s the midday news that a couple of minutes of won’t hurt, then perhaps a couple more, and next thing I know it’s 1:00 and I have to ice down my middle fingers from overuse. Not a good idea.  Limiting time tuned to WCPT  (independent progressive talk) and NPR to short bursts in the car helps somewhat as well. Somewhat.

In times like these, we need refuge from current affairs to prevent a collective slide into madness. I find mine in visits to Garrison Keillor’s fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Blessed be the tuneIn app that delivers the stream to the Sonos system that fills the house with his soothing baritone, gentle wit, and delicious sense of absurdity.

There are days when one needs to hear stories of hair raising escapes from fishing sheds as the ice breaks beneath one’s feet (especially when the shed in question is an RV). There are days when one needs the tale of a homecoming parade inadvertently but rudely interrupted by the queen’s father’s front loader that just excavated a septic tank. And there are days when one needs a slice of rhubarb pie and fresh coffee at the Chatterbox Cafe.

Based on the quick news summary just now on WFMT with the sabre rattling, I think I’ll take the pie, please. And if there’s any vanilla ice cream, a scoop of that on the side would be most appreciated.

 

 

 

Sunday Notes of the Musical Kind

Been listening to classical, jazz, and folk lately on the radio. The classic rock station that I loved (note past tense) was bought out by some entity that started running feed from Fox Sports on Sunday afternoons. As if changing the morning show format to the same zoo crew that can be found on any other station between five and ten a.m. wasn’t bad enough, that made it worse. As FM stations had in the ’70’s, they played music, more music, a little news, even more music, perhaps a promo for a concert. But then came the new owners, and there went the broadcasting neighborhood.

There was also the problem of only playing one or two songs from a band’s body of work. The Beatles did so much more than “Hey, Jude,” and The Police have many other songs than “Roxanne” and  “Every Breath…” but someone didn’t get the memo about that.  On the contemporary stations, everything sounded alike, except for Lady Gaga’s work and “Uptown Funk.” The rest sound as if written by lyricists who had eaten cheesy self help books for breakfast or to appeal to people between the ages of eight and thirteen.

I started making more use of my car’s CD player and listening to more NPR and the progressive talk station. That and programming the classical and jazz stations into the radio helped lift my mood. It also stopped the pervasive feeling of being in a time warp brought about by oldies stations.

Inside the house, we have an internet streaming system. It bridges signals from the wireless router to our stereo system. Despite my initial impression of it being another of Hubby’s high tech toys, it has proved useful in so many ways. We get a ridiculous number of stations from around the world, ranging from the various flavors of the BBC to Bollywood (helps me to get moving when I need to clean) and everything in between.

Internet streaming also brings me Folk Alley courtesy of WKSU from Kent State University and “Old Front Porch Radio” on Tuesdays from 4-6:30 central on WXOU hosted by the lovely and charming Maggie Ferguson, one of the musicians in the Detroit folk scene. It scratches the itch for good music created by real people who use their talents and passions to bring their stories to the world rather than technology to compensate for flaws in their performances and their lack of authenticity.

A few stations have servers with terminal hiccups, but the majority play for hours with no interruptions. Our local favorites are still available but now we get a stable stream via the net rather than via the antenna that gets slapped around in adverse weather, making the signal hiss and sizzle with static, or pulling in two signals on the same frequency. In the broadcasting no-one’s land between Chicago, Peoria, and Rockford-DeKalb, this happens pretty regularly whether solar flares abound or not. (You will not know fear until you have heard “Bad Romance” interspersed with an Evangelical sermon, believe me.)

The stream of WFMT‘s program of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing music by French composers is proceeding without hiccups or hellfire this afternoon. Internet radio is a far cry from when I would hide under the covers with my AM radio, seeing how many distant stations I could pull in late at night.  There’s still the thrill, the intrigue, the connection of knowing that there are other people in the world listening to the same program.

However, it’s a pleasant advancement to do so sitting up and in broad daylight rather than with a blanket over my head, adjusting the volume so I wouldn’t get caught and reprimanded for being awake after midnight.