We each have our stories about how regulations and over regulation has affect us. This is mine.
Almost straight out of college, with my almost English Education degree magically turned into a Liberal Arts/Communications/Mass Media degree, I went into radio sales. Not too long after radio sales I was a DJ, wrote and produced ads, bumpers and involved in programming at both large and small markets.
English to Communications in a year? It’s a long story involving a glut of teachers, an English department I was at odds with and one semester alone of almost 30 credits because I couldn’t afford any more than four years. What’s weird is my GPA actually went up. Enough said. Maybe another time, another column?
Meanwhile, in the 80s, the waves of deregulation started slopping onto American shores, and sometimes over regulation slopped back. I use “slopping” deliberately. At first some of it made sense. Radio suffered from a license requirement for the very necessary, yet unstable, part time job: DJ. They were tested for technical information an engineer only needed to know.
A bit of over regulation in my opinion. Having an engineer on staff is crucial, but a DJ who knows enough electronics to be an engineer: not so much. Station owners had a problem: the kind of wages they could afford to pay, the kind of stability they were able to offer, came nowhere near the proficiency needed to attain what was often merely an entry position: especially at small, low watt, stations.
But other laws and regs washed away over time actually made perfect sense, were necessary, shouldn’t have been gutted. Just one example out of many: a station owner owning many stations, with little regulation over his behavior? Bad idea. One scam artist I unfortunately worked for owned quite a few: bought on the auction block. He kept them all in bankruptcy and would hire people then; 3 weeks later, like clockwork, simply stop paying them. At the time Tennessee had an office in downtown Nashville that could help me. To prove my case for the state I not only had copies of the station logs I had kept (the owner said we didn’t have to anymore: how convenient), but copies from a checkbook going back a few years left in the desk of the secretary who left because, surprise, she wasn’t being paid. The record was clear: over at least 2 years he was paying employees and stopped with each one after about 3 weeks, meanwhile pulling a thousand dollars a week out for himself. According to the state office that helped me through this; because he was in bankruptcy court, there was little they could do. All they could do was attach this to the bankruptcy case and, eventually, I’d get ¾ of what was owed. I’ve been told that office has been closed due to; get this: further deregulation and budget cuts.
Wonder how many employees he’s stolen from since? Last I knew he owned the station down the road where I used to work.
During that time, and into the 90s, as the waves got sloppier and sloppier, I noticed stations being placed so close to each other one would blast over the other. Enforcement that used to keep their signals on frequency, as they should be, would often make a lower watt NPR station un-listenable because a religious station blasted over them.
Local broadcasting increasingly became a thing of the past, with stations gobbled up by monopoly seeking multi corporations. This is why you have a market with 8 Rush Limbaughs. If there were actual competition that wouldn’t be happening, they’d have to find some way to compete, and this doesn’t necessarily mean more right or left. Indeed, one of the more innovative concepts I have encountered on the road was out of Atlanta: fantasy talk. Issues of the day were addressed with callers adding suggestions to a fictional; yet relevant, story.
Instead, like a “Taco Bell on every corner,” deregulation has brought about radio BLAH.
So in rides out hero, satellite? Not really.
Gutting of regulations continued and monopoly sympathetic judges allowed Sirius and XM to merge. We’ve had Sirius since the early 2000s. If you travel a lot you do get consistency and less crackle, crackle. (No snap or pops, either.) But creatively Sirius/XM offers hundreds of options about as uncreative as they can make them. Take away their Elton John and they’d lose a serious chunk of their programming. Many acts as famous, or more, maybe a hit or two on a rare occasion or not at all. Talk radio is the same old same old right/left divide, disregarding the somewhat more creative John Fugelsang.
But that doesn’t even come close to TV and a thousand channels of nothing. Stations seem independent bare generally owned by a few communications companies interconnected in other ways, like who sits on the boards. You have, for example FOX, FX, FXX, FU and FME.
OK, I made a few of those up for the fun of it, but FOX does have their wide share of cable and satellite programming.
To get the lightest amount of variety you have to up your “package.” We did it once, hardly worth it.
That’s the scam, and why every year actual content of basic gets worse and worse.
So many “clever” ways to try to force viewers into buying low variety-based content bigger packages. What comes with the basic package, like SyFy, increasingly became mostly a venue for repeat reality crap, History more a trash picker’s channel, Cloo is shut down: what, just a hint too much variety? Original programming mocks what they used to call “seasons:” as few as 3-4 episodes then go on a long, long break. Many cancelled programs didn’t “do well” for this very reason.
Meanwhile we get more of the very corporate convenient Stop the Illinois TV TAX (3 channels? Really?) or channels whose only purpose is to sell us something.
Do you poop enough?
Does your puppy poop in the house?
Don’t you REALLY want to know Cindy Crawford’s skin secret?
Don’t you want to buy a shark rocket?
Do you have a “turkey neck?”
NCIS, the Transylvania, edition anyone? Boy that would surely… suck.
Movies? I love Matrix,Terminator, or Independence Day, but my mind could puke out a million terminators, or eternally retch out visually consumed evil alien organs.
Yes, we could go internet and pay more for that due to the load, but you generally get the same channels that are designed from the start to be lacking.
OK, OK, I admit: all this is piddling compared to deregulating employee safety, environmental safety. Or compared to deregulating and regulating American workers back to a time when the company truly owned their souls, where Triangle Shirt Factory fires become more the norm, where the handful of Americans are closing in on being trillionaires. Stop the illegal aliens? Why not when regulators and legislators can lower standards to the point our workers can compete with countries offering slave and prison labor products.
In the late 1800s when Vanderbilt and others were spanning the country with railroads and pipes, over worked, under paid, workers working under horrid conditions were often buried in unmarked graves close to the tracks. The basic difference between those who wish to ban all illegal alien workers and have no regulations for work conditions is they would rather Americans be in those graves. There should be no graves.
I left in radio in the mid 80s. That’s when I found out just how oppressive regulations can be, yet sometimes how necessary. Working at schools all over the east coast I talked with directors who were threatened with closure if they painted a pantry shelf, or if they didn’t, by two different inspectors. There was the inspector who made a director shift a fire alarm from where she told him to put it last time. But then you have Florida where they deregulated religious preschools. Remember the heat stroke children who died in buses a while back because they were forgotten? There used to be regulations that assured head counts and qualified employees making sure things like this never happened. Or how about the small chain I visited one day to promote where there were 30 plus children and one teacher for all of them: no one else in the building? Another I promoted had a dirty animal cage where they left children in “time out.”
The problem is neither over regulation nor a lack of regulations. It’s not a lack of laws or too many. The problem is not focusing on having smart regulations and laws. Until we get public servants willing to think through regulations and lawmaking, less willing to use it all for political gain, this won’t change. A conundrum that, for now, leaves us with damn near 1,000 channels of nothing.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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