Sunday, May 26, 2013

You Deserve the Truth - KSER Quiz Edition

There's a radio station that's always saying "You Deserve the Truth";  but then they broadcast Rush Limbaugh!?  In honor of that broadcasting sleight of hand, here is a KSER quiz to see how easily you can separate the truth from the bovine excrement.

Each question is followed by three answers. But only one is....THE TRUTH!!!

The collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River Thursday night has officials scrambling to come up with creative solutions.  What unusual options are they considering?

A. A nearby boatyard is going to put in several floating piers connected as a water-level floating bridge over the Skagit.

B. A temporary jump-ramp over the river for risk-taking, thrill-seeking impatient drivers. US DOT will sell TV rights which will pay for a new bridge.

C. We're screwed for months. Best you can do is check online for detour options.

Hint: Truth

This time of year at KSER we start kicking around the acronym VOCA. It's all you hear at the office. VOCA this; VOCA that. What does VOCA stand for?

A. Victory Over Creeping Authoritarianism.

B.  Voted Obama but Concerned About (fill in the blank).

C.  Voice of the Community Award.

Hint: Truth

You've heard KSER promos for something called Kaddywompas.  What in the aach-eee-double-hockey-sticks is Kaddywompas?

A. Coupe deVille that needs a front end alignment.

B. Tim Noah radio show performed in Snohomish that you can still listen to online.

C.  Well defined gluteus maximus.

Hint: Truth

The KSER Saturday morning Big Bandstand show is hosted by Steve Ward. Steve's father was also famous. Who was he?

A. Montgomery Ward; titan of retail.

B.  Burt Ward; Played Robin on TV's Batman.

C.  Bill Ward; California radio legend.

Hint: Truth

A listener called wanting directions for a place he heard promoted on KSER called Clancy's Bar & Grill. What is Clancy's Bar & Grill?

A.  It's what celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay renamed Everett's former Prohibition Grill.

B.  Pipe-packin' Thursday night Blues show on KSER.

C.  Gentleman's club on Lake City Way.

Hint: Truth

KSER frequently has in-studio performances with different musical artists.  Is there a way to ever SEE those?

A.  You can peer through the windows of our studio on downtown Everett's Wetmore Avenue.

B.  You can always watch online on KSER's YouTube channel.

C.  If Mariners keep losing; they will be played on Safeco JumboTron during games.

Hint: Truth


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Public Broadcasting's Scary Self-Censorship

I gotta make my last stand,
This time I can’t be bought,
Then again on the other hand,
How much have you got?

                   -  Todd Snider; "I Can't Complain."

How much media influence could you buy with $23,000,000?

ITVS - Independent Television Service - is a small arm of public television that funds and distributes independent films. It was founded twenty years ago with a mandate to "take creative risks, advance issues and represent points of view" not usually featured by commercial broadcasters.

But ITVS has apparently been too 'risky' for PBS. Last Fall they produced a documentary called "Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream." It focused on one high-end apartment building in New York City that is home to some of the wealthiest people in the world. Among them, David Koch, who, with his brother Charles, owns Koch Industries.

You may have seen the occasional PBS program and noticed the announcement about 'funding' coming from the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation.  According to The New Yorker, David Koch has contributed at least $23-million to public broadcasting. Not only has he contributed millions, but he has served as a trustee of Boston's biggest public broadcaster, WGBH. And in 2006 he joined the board of New York's WNET.

So when the PBS show "Park Avenue" was about to be broadcast, and the people at WNET realized it was very critical of David Koch, they informed him in advance. Then they dumped the original introduction to the program and replaced it with an announcement labeling the film "controversial" and "provocative."  And, they gave David Koch an opportunity to be part of a roundtable discussion to be broadcast immediately following the show.

Not long after that incident, two other documentary filmmakers had what they thought was a deal with ITVS to produce a film called "Citizen Koch."  In fact, the film competed for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. But recently, ITVS informed the producers that they would not move forward with the deal. You won't see it on PBS. You can read all the disconcerting details of Jane Mayer's reporting in The New Yorker here.

Sure, there's freedom of the press. And, yes, you've probably heard more than one talk-show host talk about how he or she has 'never' been censored or even 'toned down' by their corporate owners. And, even if the commercial radio and TV stations might be slanted or biased, many of us have always believed public broadcasting was there to balance things out.

But now some of us may have to question how some public broadcasters can balance out anything if they're so financially dependent on a few wealthy individuals. And I can tell you, from first hand experience, that corporate media bosses can and do influence programming. I was on the receiving end of orders from a CEO to fire a highly-rated talk host who was "too liberal." I could also tell you about the conference call involving network talk show hosts and radio program directors who listened to a CEO give "suggestions" on how shows should be slanted prior to a presidential election.

Media consolidation has led to fewer owners controlling more venues. You may have seen reports Koch Industries may buy the Tribune Newspapers -  The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

Regardless of your political views, it's troubling to know that there are fewer and fewer independent, and local, media voices. It's why many of us are dedicated to public stations like KSER that feature voices like Amy Goodman and local coverage from people like Ed Bremer and Sondra Santos. And volunteer contributors like Jim Smith who produces Labor Radio Journal; Kinuko Noborikawa who produces Color Commentary; Mark Hale's "Sand in the Gears"; and commentary from Jim Hightower.

But for every station like KSER, that's supported mostly by listener contributions, there are dozens of bigger stations with stronger signals and more corporate support and resources.  That's why we're always thankful when more and more individual listeners are willing to pledge financial support for truly independent voices.

Conversely, as one of the producers of "Citizen Koch" puts it: "It's the very thing our film is about - public servants bowing to pressures, direct or indirect, from high-dollar donors."  Or, listen to one ITVS executive, sounding like a Homer Simpson d'oh moment, "We live in a world where we have to be aware that people with power have power."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

NBA; Bus Service & the IRS.

If you want to highlight contradictions in priorities just follow the money.

If you're a sports fan, you know the NBA nixed the Sacramento Kings moving to Seattle to replace the long-departed Sonics.The NBA owners voted against the move even though Chris Hansen offered more than $406-million for a 65 per cent portion of the Kings. In other words, the Kings would have been worth $625-million - the most ever bid for any NBA team.

Getting nearly non-stop coverage on many radio and TV stations, that NBA story tended to overwhelm another story in the region: 400 people turning out in King County for a public hearing on Metro transit service funding. King County Metro, like transit services in other parts of the state, is faced with declining revenues. So they're considering a 17% cut in service, eliminating 65 routes and reducing dozens of others.You can get full details here. Because of a $60-million shortfall, thousands of people who count on transit service may see the total disappearance of the bus they take to work, or school, or the doctor's office.

Sure, it's apples and oranges.Transit is a public service provided by public dollars.The NBA is a private business funded by private dollars. Private, that is, until you start to think about public funding for a stadium or an arena and all the public services required for such a facility - security, traffic, roads, infrastructure - all supported by tax dollars. Remember when voters said 'no' twice to a new Seattle baseball stadium?

And while it may be an unfair comparison, you could look at these two stories and come to the conclusion that a single investor can come up with more than $400-million for a basketball team, but, as a society, we can't come up with $60-million to avoid dumping 65 important bus routes.

If - or when - Seattle eventually gets an NBA team, any bets on bus service to the new arena being cut?

And speaking of money and tax dollars, who isn't concerned about the IRS apparently targeting certain political groups?  After all, it's all over the cable news. A guest on Fox News even compared the IRS 'scandal' to Nazi Germany.  But what isn't getting nearly as much coverage is why some of those groups were being targeted. They were set up as non-profits, so they pay little or no taxes. But in reality they are spending, in some cases, millions of dollars to support political candidates or political initiatives.

If you pay attention to mainstream news coverage, this week you heard a lot about Seattle not getting an NBA team. You didn't hear nearly so much about thousands of people possibly losing their bus service. If you watch the cable news channels, you hear a lot about the IRS 'scandal.'  But you don't hear much about why those groups and organizations are allowed to function as non-profits.

Fortunately, there are ways for a determined news consumer to get the real story, not just the glitz and scandal coverage that's available so many places..."All Jody Arias, All the Time!" But with declining newspaper staffs and commercial broadcast consolidation, finding alternative voices and important issues can be tougher than landing a new NBA team.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Memories of KRAB

KSER-FM has been on the air serving the North Puget Sound as an independent public radio station since 1991. But before KSER, there was KRAB.

KRAB was a ground-breaking, eclectic community-owned radio station that was on the air in Seattle at 107.7 FM from 1962 to 1984.  For many, KRAB was practically a life-altering experience. If you were one of them, now you can relive some of the sights and sounds of KRAB-FM.

Local resident, and longtime KRAB volunteer and employee, Chuck Reinsch has developed a great KRAB-FM website, which includes photos of the KRAB years - including pictures from the very last KRAB broadcast - and archived audio from many of the KRAB shows.

You can visit the website here.

There are great photos, like the ones you see here, many provided by former KRAB volunteers Paul Dorpat and Dave Rowland. The man many credit as the father of KRAB, Lorenzo Milam, is seen in the picture below on the last KRAB broadcast, April 15, 1984.

Bob West; Phil Bannon; Lorenzo Milam

KRAB was operated by the Jack Straw Foundation which ran into financial challenges and ended up selling the frequency to a commercial broadcaster. It's now owned by Entercom of Pennsylvania and is branded as "The End". That name must seem ironic to many of the KRAB faithful.

One of the cool things about KRAB was it's truly free-form format. The hosts, mostly volunteers, played the music they wanted to play and talked about the things they wanted to talk about. One of the not-so-cool things about that format was that it failed financially.

Seattle Times; April 17, 1984
After several years of trying to regain a broadcast facility in the Pacific Northwest, the same group was able to secure the rights to another broadcast signal, 90.7 FM  And today 90.7 is operated by the KSER Foundation.

If you loved KRAB, or you just want some insight on the birth of community radio in the Pacific Northwest, you should spend some time at Chuck Reinsch's KRAB website. KRAB's 'last night' even has it's own page.

And Chuck is hoping there are more people who might have photos, clippings or audio from the glory days of KRAB. Chuck has an email link on the website.


Right-Wing Talk Radio: R.I.P.???

Is right-wing talk radio on it's death bed?  Is El Rushbo on life support?

Jerry Del Colliano thinks so. And he may be the most connected radio insider. Colliano started the trade publication Inside Radio. He hasn't owned it for years, but at one time it was considered the Bible of the radio business.

In an article in The Daily Beast, Del Colliano is quoted as saying, “We’re watching the end of right-wing conservative talk radio. The genre is dying among ratings and dying among advertisers ... Rush is at the end of his career. His constituency is all wearing Depends."

Not so fast. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of right-wing radio's death are greatly exaggerated.

Sure, there are cracks in the veneer. Just this week several of the big broadcast corporations that syndicate the top conservative talk-shows reported declining revenues. For example, Salem Communications saw a 1.6% 1st quarter revenue decline. Cumulus, which syndicates Rush Limbaugh, saw it's 1st quarter revenue drop 1.3%. This, at a time when the economy is supposed to be improving!

And now there's new grumbling between Cumulus and their 'star' syndicated talk-host. You may recall that last year Rush Limbaugh, who has been married four times, repeatedly called Sandra Fluke - on-air - a 'slut' and a 'prostitute.' His tirade was met with an advertiser boycott, which at the time Rush tried to downplay.

But now Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey apparently feels otherwise. He said that some of the Cumulus losses are because of "the issues that happened a year ago", a clear reference to the Rush/Fluke controversy. And now Limbaugh is firing back, letting it be known that he may leave the company when his contract expires at the end of the year.

And if that wasn't enough of a challenge for the big talk company, they may now be losing the man some believe was being groomed to replace Limbaugh: Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor was signed with much fanfare less than a year ago and heavily promoted by Cumulus. But, now Huckabee says he might not stick with Cumulus or even with radio.

But before you start feeling sorry, please realize that even with the the grumbling and the revenue declines the big radio syndication companies are still bringing in major money. Salem's first quarter revenue was more than $43-million; and the Cumulus first quarter revenue was almost $233-million. Rush Limbaugh, personally, makes more money in a year than most independent public radio stations generate in a decade.

When you scan your radio dial, especially the AM dial, you'll find no shortage of  syndicated conservative talk shows.  Rush. Glenn Beck. Sean Hannity. Mark Levin. Mike Huckabee. Michael Savage. Michael Medved. Laura Ingraham. John Gibson.Who am I leaving out?

And where's the balance? On the other end of the AM radio spectrum there were progressive talkers.  But in Seattle and Portland the solo stations carrying those shows switched to sports-talk this year.

Radio industry insider Jerry Del Colliano makes another interesting shifting-demographic point in that Daily Beast article:  “Look at the millennial generation. There’s 80 million of them coming of age. They don’t see color. They don’t see gender. And they’re civic minded: they don’t like bloviating. They don’t like yelling and screaming. So you tell me: how’s right-wing talk radio working for them?

If you're counting on a giant shift in the broadcast landscape in the near future, however, don't hold your breath.  Shows like Democracy Now, or reasonable discussions of the news like you'll hear on The Takeaway or KSER's Sound Living, are rare and relatively hard to find. Many cities and towns don't have their own independent radio station.  And it's hard to envision any of the corporate owned commercial stations suddenly making a giant political shift.

When you listen to shows like Democracy Now with Amy Goodman on KSER, or online at, you quickly realize that you're hearing news and information that you're really not going to get anywhere else. And none of the independent stations have the revenue or resources of companies like Cumulus, Clear Channel or Salem. Instead, stations like KSER survive mostly on listener support. Financial support from people like you.

We can hope the balance changes...but hope, alone,  probably won't get us there.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bowhead Whales; Ed Bremer; Kaddywompas & Chicken Feet!

Fancy yourself the seafaring type? Here's your chance to see if you've got the goods.
The Adventuress

This vessel in this picture was built with the intention of finding a bowhead whale skeleton. Now it's got KSER's Ed Bremer!

Ed is hosting his annual voyage aboard the Adventuress. The Adventuress is a two-masted, gaff-rigged schooner, launched in 1913. Her owner, John Borden II, of Chicago, commissioned the vessel for his personal use to embark on an Arctic expedition to collect specimens for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, with the particular goal of adding a bowhead whale skeleton to the museum's exhibits. Never got the whale, unfortunately.

Adventuress came to Seattle in 1952, and today she serves as the flagship of Sound Experience, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Puget Sound. And each summer it travels north to Everett and, again this summer, you can join KSER, Ed Bremer and the Whateverly Brothers for a special evening sailing on May 30th. Ticket info here.

Tim Noah & The Kaddywompas Players
 If you've never heard Tim Noah's KSER Kaddywompas Radio Show, make sure you tune in or listen online this weekend.  Sunday, May 5th you'll be able to hear the latest 1-hour installment of the Kaddywompas Radio Show at 8 a.m. and again at 4 p.m.  Kaddywompas is performed before a live studio audience at Tim's Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. This Sunday's show features special musical guest Bill Davie.

The Everett Herald Arts Seen column gave this performance of Kaddywompas a big thumbs up!  By the way, if you want to be in the audience for the next live Kaddywompas performance, mark your calendar for Sunday, June 16.

So, you want to be a famous DJ like KSER's 'Uncle Pat', host of Thursday evening's "Good Times"?  Well, the next KSER Basic Broadcast Class is starting up in June. It's a Wednesday evening course, 2-hours per week for  six weeks. You can get all the information here, and once you complete the class you'd have an opportunity to submit a show proposal to KSER. You, too, could end up wearing chicken feet on the radio!

Roger Pawley; Jan Vance; Lillian Ortiz-Self; 2012 Voice of the Community Award Winners
 We're always being asked, "I have someone I want to nominate for the KSER Voice of the Community Award, when can I do that?" The answer! The nomination period is now open and you can nominate an individual, organization or business that has positively affected residents within the KSER coverage area. This year's KSER Voice of the Community Celebration will be held in October.  But you should make your nominations soon. Get all the information here.

Jessica Lynne 

 If you missed Jessica Lynne, JoAnne Rand or any of the other singer-songwriters who've visited KSER recently, you can see some of their in-studio performances any time you like at the KSER YouTube page.

Sightseer visits KSER

If you enjoy the music and live singer-songwriter performances at KSER, we hope you'd consider becoming a KSER member by making a donation to support independent public radio.  If you're already a member, thank you!  And remember, you can also support our station by purchasing cool KSER merchandise - shirts, hats, commuter mugs, tote bags, dog bowls - at the KSER online store.