Negativland Uses Mosquito Fleet To Bite Clear Channel and the NAB.
September 14, 2002 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Negativland Uses Mosquito Fleet To Bite Clear Channel and the NAB. Six unlicensed FM stations in Seattle joined forces, simulcasting a fake "KJR-FM" broadcast created by members of Negativland. The spoofed programming repeatedly jabbed at the Clear Channel affiliate for claiming to play only "The Best Of The 60s and 70s", while injecting at least almost 100 songs from the 80s into it's smotheringly-tight, mechanised auto-pilot playlist. Snippets of the simul-pirate-cast can be heard here.
posted by (46 comments total)
Let me get this right. These folks are unhappy because the station says it plays hits from the 60's and 70's -- but then it also plays hits from the 80's?

posted by at 9:10 AM on September 14, 2002

So, 327, did you actually read the article or are you just trying to be a snarky bastard?

Thursday evening Mark Hosler, a founding member of Negativland, gave a talk and video showing where he explained some of the motivation behind the KJR parody. He explained that while Clear Channel's destructive impact on the radio dial in city after city is something meriting protest, the strange absurdity of a 60s and 70s format station not even staying true to its own identity was too hard to pass up, and indicative of the company's attitude.

It's not a protest of the fact that they claim to be a 60s and 70s station and then play music from the 80s. It's a protest of Clear Channel's effect on the radio landscape (where Clear Channel goes, bland, homogenized radio follows), and their fairly apathetic attitude towards radio (as evidenced by KJR not staying true to the format they advertise).
posted by zztzed at 9:23 AM on September 14, 2002

I was also sad to hear the broadcasts hammer over and over and over again at that fairly mundane point -- they're liars! they really play hits of the '80s! -- when there are so many other reasons to despise Clear Channel and modern radio in general.
posted by argybarg at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2002

Radio has been bland and homogenized since 1982. Why blame Clear Channel?
posted by drinkcoffee at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2002

God bless Negativland!
You might also be intersested in the U2 controversy. Or the interview they did with the Edge, U2's guitarist.
posted by puddsharp at 9:35 AM on September 14, 2002

I blame people who still listen to radio. If people ignored radio, it would either change to accomodate more mature and tasteful pallettes, or it would die. Since the 1980s, and perhaps even before that, radio station owners have sought out and catered the lowest common denominator.

If I thought low power pirate radio could make a difference, I'd be all for it. All they're doing is helping to perpetuate it. Lending credence and attention to something which has more than enough already.

Radio no longer has any validity.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2002

argybarg: That sort of bugged me too, figuring that Negativland is usually much more insightful than this. However, I figured they were trying to get the attention of the general public and had to focus on one point they could drive home to 'Joe S.U.V' before he flipped the channel again. Saying "Clear Channel is an evil conglomerate bent on national and worldwide media domination and blandness" is not as easy to convey to the average person as "you can't even trust Clear Channel to play what they tell you they'll play.

What I think is sad is that the 'new KJR' can fit their entire playlist - culled from the wealth of music of the 60's and 70's (and 80's, I guess) - onto seven one-sided pages of 8x14 paper.

And that's including Jay Ferguson's "Thunder Island".
posted by at 9:43 AM on September 14, 2002

I did as suggested and e-mailed the program director a list of song suggestions:

"Lies" - The Thompson Twins
"Radio Radio" - Elvis Costello
"Panic" - The Smiths
"Who Listens To The Radio?" - The Sports
"We Want The Airwaves" - The Ramones
"Funk Pop A Roll" - XTC
"Eighties" - Killing Joke
posted by at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2002

This is a hoot -- a perfect mix of dead-on-parody and over-the-top satire. Thanks,, and you're right; the 80's thing is just a hook, a MacGuffin, even. I mean, at the beginning of the 2nd clip they actually mention that God "makes no exceptions for so-called white lies" and condemn CC to eternal damnation worthy of "the worst serial killer ever known to man" for the "hideous crimes of deception" they've committed.

But there are a variety of points made, including a nod (at around 1:30 into the first clip) to a long-time DJ fired "to make way for a money-saving automated format." I'll bet there was a lot more science dropped in-between the "buncha liars" stuff. And even that has a point, which is made repeatedly: If they're lying to you about this, what *else* are they lying to you about?

The mix of angry pokes and that classic commercial radio voice had me laughing out loud. And the clear statement of a great coordinated action like this -- ordinary people now control some of the airwaves and aren't afraid to go after the greedheads -- will resonate for a long time to come.
posted by mediareport at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2002

I love negativeland, truly, since I first heard them on WRPI in the late 1980's. This is very funny, very good. Thanks.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2002

chucklehead dj voice

"The most 80's hits of any station *ever* to promise only hits from the 60s and 70s, 95.7, KJR FM! Seems like it never ends, doesn't it? Here's Toto from 1982, maybe this one'll fool ya, I dunno."

/chucklehead dj voice

Come on, it's funny.
posted by mediareport at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2002

I hate KJR-FM. I especially hate them because they replaced my favorite station, The Beat. [warning: incoming self-link] I even wrote an article (which mentions the 60s/70s vs. 80s discrepancy) about it for the Seattle Weekly.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:30 AM on September 14, 2002

Wow, arielmeadow. Did they really broadcast listener calls during that stupid format stunt and laugh at them on the air? That's so stupid. Everyone I've ever talked with in commercial radio mentions that most listeners have 4-5 stations they regularly tune into, and scan the dial frequently. Pissing off the local market for any reason is just dumb, and that's from the industry's own perspective.

So did the Seattle dailies cover this thing at all? Here in Raleigh/Durham the two dailies do very little critical coverage of mainstream radio or TV.
posted by mediareport at 10:40 AM on September 14, 2002

Salon has a decent series of articles on why Clear Channel sucks.
posted by titanshiny at 10:41 AM on September 14, 2002

I have aquired some new auditory heroes today in Negativland. Thank you Mefites.
posted by BartFargo at 10:42 AM on September 14, 2002

Oho, are you in for a real treat, BartFargo. They've done plenty of just-ok to not-so-great work, but at their best they're among the world's funniest, smartest audio artists. Escape From Noise blew my mind when I first heard it, opening up whole new art forms for me.
posted by mediareport at 10:49 AM on September 14, 2002

mediareport: exactly!

I'm sure this Seattle subversion was even funnier in real time. I only wish this kind of thing went on in the NYC area.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:17 AM on September 14, 2002

Reading the original post, I was wondering why to care that they were playing 80's music instead of your hits from the 60's and 70's. But listening to the broadcast makes me realize how sloppy it is as a DJ, especially one that's being broadcast to so many stations around the country.

Anybody looking up Negativland should also look up their album "Helter Stupid".
posted by destro at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2002

Saying you play the best of the 60's and 70's only implies that you don't play lesser songs from that era. It says nothing about whether you play songs from other eras.
posted by HTuttle at 11:48 AM on September 14, 2002

"Thunder Island" is hardly one of the best of the 60's.

I half expected to see "Run Joey Run" by David Geddes when I saw that on their playlist.
posted by at 12:03 PM on September 14, 2002 70's.
posted by at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2002

Run Joey Run rocks, dude.

Believe it or not, David Geddes was the name of the dentist I patronized in 1975.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't the same guy. He's still a dentist.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2002

Saying you play the best of the 60's and 70's only implies that you don't play lesser songs from that era.

Right. Logic is the point here. ;)

destro: You're right about Helter Stupid. The media storm they caused with the fake press release linking "Christianity is Stupid" to a teenager's murder of his parents took them by surprise, but they quickly recovered, turned the coverage into an audio collage and released it as their next album. Brilliant.
posted by mediareport at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2002

So, 327, did you actually read the article or are you just trying to be a snarky bastard?

I was just trying to be a snarky bastard.

Face it, it's a third-rate world and commercial radio is what the people want. If not, how else to explain its success?
posted by at 12:34 PM on September 14, 2002

it's a third-rate world and commercial radio is what the people want. If not, how else to explain its success?

Because they don't know any better.

If you aren't aware something exists does that automatically mean it's not worth your attention? I mean, I wasn't aware of Negativland before this morning. Does that mean they aren't worth knowing about? People should go out and actively seek what suits their tastes instead of settling for what they are told are "the greatest hits of the 60's and 70's" or "Must See TV" The world would be a much better place. And if they don't -- what then? Just because something is successful that doesn't necessarily make it right. That kind of Nietzschean capitalist attitude is the height of immorality and irresponsibility..
posted by BartFargo at 1:28 PM on September 14, 2002

So did the Seattle dailies cover this thing at all?

Mediareport, if by "this thing" your talking about the Quick96/KJR-FM stunt, then yes, the Seattle P-I did cover it, first falling for the hoax, and then announcing when the station switched permanently to the KJR-FM programming permanently. The Stranger (a weekly, not a daily) also included a little mention in David Schmader's Last Days column. Plenty of bloggers got outraged, but few media types noticed.
posted by arielmeadow at 1:32 PM on September 14, 2002

Just as I started reading this, "The Last DJ" by Tom Petty came on my (non-Clear Channel) radio. Spooky.
posted by kayjay at 1:34 PM on September 14, 2002

"it's a third-rate world and commercial radio is what the people want.."

I am a people, m'kay? And I DON'T want commercial radio. I know of not a single individual who is satisfied with commercial radio as it exists today.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2002

Thanks, arielmeadow, but I meant this week's micro-radio stunt. Has it gotten any daily newspaper or (laughs) TV coverage?
posted by mediareport at 1:54 PM on September 14, 2002

If you aren't aware something exists does that automatically mean it's not worth your attention?

Certainly not! And commercial radio is generally such a narrow, tired format, you're not going to hear much of anything on it.

The way I see it, Clear Channel bribes congress (legally, with campaign contributions), congress passes the 1996 telcomm act, Clear Channel buys up lots of stations, turns them into shit. Now you get shit instead of good radio.
posted by 4midori at 2:53 PM on September 14, 2002

PS It isn't really family appropriate AND it kind of stinks more than a little.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:57 PM on September 14, 2002

I am a people, m'kay? And I DON'T want commercial radio. I know of not a single individual who is satisfied with commercial radio as it exists today.

M'kay, but I'm not buying it. If no one is satisfied with commercial radio, then who's listening to it? And if no one's listening to it, why are advertisers supporting it?

Because they don't know any better.

I'm not buying that one either. They say that people get the government they deserve. Well, that applies to lots of things. Commercial radio is what it is because no one cares enough to do anything about it. There is a wealth of worthwhile things to listen to. Anyone dumb enough to devote >1% of their consciousness to Clear Channel gets what they deserve.
posted by at 4:05 PM on September 14, 2002

Do you think that it works the other way? That if awesome people with great taste in music started being more involved in their area radio stations that they would get better? Just like our government might get better with more citizen participation?
posted by teenydreams at 4:20 PM on September 14, 2002

I'm open for suggestions on ways to change the quality of radio. Boycotting probably won't do much. Right now I figure most options fall under these categories:

1. Support your local non-ClearChannel station, if there is one.
2. Satellite Radio.
3. Write your congressman/woman.
posted by destro at 4:44 PM on September 14, 2002

Oh, please, anything but satellite radio. Part of the *problem* with radio is fragmentation, which satellite radio enshrines into permanence with its plethora of narrowly defined channels.

I *want* to hear the music of Bill Monroe followed by something from the mind of Peter Gabriel. *That's* radio.
posted by Cerebus at 6:22 PM on September 14, 2002

I think the trend, which will only accelerate, is for stations on the fringe of metro areas to take up the slack when the metro stations turn cringe factor 7. New York's primary stations have all SUCKED for decades, now, but there are a few stations in the 'burbs which are worth buying exotic radios to receive, etc.

One question: with the availability of college radio and non-commercial radio, how can you stay angry at commercial radio? It's obscene, it's a wasteland, but don't you just ignore it?

But the way,
posted by ParisParamus at 8:28 PM on September 14, 2002

Actually, BY the way, if you want to know how depraved commercial radio has become, take a look at the New York Radio Message Board, whereon stupid discussions amongst amateur and professional commercial radio programmers ensue. Better yet, sign up and be subversive. But not too subversive, else you will be banned by the guy who runs the place.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:37 PM on September 14, 2002

Because they don't know any better.

Yeah, damn the hoi polloi, those whose taste is all in their mouths. If only they were enlightened, like us, the world would be such a better place.
posted by kindall at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2002

The small towns and fringe areas aren't safe from CC, either.

Think about the poor rural farming community of Russellville, Kentucky who are not represented by the only FM station licensed in that town - 101.5 FM - which was bought by Clear Channel from Gaylord Entertainment and changed overnight from a Christian music format to an hip-hop/gangsta format. Why? Because the #1 radio station in Nashville was an urban/hip-hop station that wasn't one of theirs. And since this station's signal pumped well into metro Nashville, well ... fuck you, tobacco farmers, chew on DMX.

Granted, it was a smart business decision - they are now #2 overall and the #1 urban format in Nashville. But I'm quite certain they're not real popular in Russellville. Is representing the surrounding community a requirement of radio station licencees?

It appears that they've also bought another small town station - a country/gospel station in St. Joseph, TN (population 789) which also just so happens to broadcast on 101.5. Rumour is that CC plans to scrap the local format and turn it into a 'repeater' for hip-hop WUBT, doing a disservice to yet one more rural community in the pursuit of absolute dominance and the mighty dollar.

Fuck Clear Channel. Fuck them with a rusty-spiked dildo.
posted by at 12:14 AM on September 15, 2002

Fuck Clear Channel. Fuck them with a rusty-spiked dildo.

My point exactly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:20 AM on September 15, 2002

A clear channel station near me (wpyx albany ny) has the WORLDS WORST PLAY LIST!! honestly they play the same 5 songs from floyd,rush,Zeppelin(you get the idea) How many times do you have to listen to "have a cigar" before floyd makes you want to puke? The only thing worse is the incessant self promoting telling us how much clear channel does for the community ect.
posted by hoopyfrood at 8:21 AM on September 15, 2002

Clear Channel is just the group that's had the greatest success taking advantage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. There are plenty of other group owners out there who are doing the same things. (They're just doing them on a smaller scale and they've done a better job with their p.r.)

Every company in America has to try to make the most money without violating the law. The FCC has relaxed the law and its application/enforcement considerably in the last decade. It allows stations to get away with not serving their community of license to the degree they used to. (acknowledged: yes, not serving their communities and having cookie-cutter stations will bite group owners in the ass eventually, but it may be a while. Big group owners have the market power to lower the collective bar a little.) Also, the FCC is currently looking at relaxing ownership restrictions even more.

Regarding satellite radio: It doesn't do a thing to address the 'diversity of voices' problem that large group owners have created. There are two satellite radio providers, XM and Sirius. I doubt both will survive the decade. So you have one company controlling all the channels in a specific medium.

Granted, they're a private company and they get to do that if they want, but that's kind of my point. Satellite radio is not going to inform cities or states about local news issues, weather, or disasters. It does not use the frequencies that belong to the people, and thus it has no obligation to its listeners. Unfortunately, group-owned radio is only slightly closer to that ideal, and the FCC doesn't seem to think that's much of a problem.
posted by teenydreams at 2:59 PM on September 15, 2002

So you have one company controlling all the channels in a specific medium.

And don't forget that one of the companies that has a stake in XM is (wait for it) Clear Channel:

Our strategic investors include General Motors, Hughes Electronics and DIRECTV, Clear Channel Communications and American Honda.
posted by mediareport at 7:03 PM on September 15, 2002

One of the local guys on our 'right-wing-cavalcade' (Beck/Limbaugh/Hannity) news/talk station (WLAC-AM, a CC affiliate natch) was joking around coming on the mike at the end of a CC promo spot:

"Clear Channel: We Own Everything."

Man, what I wouldn't give for a recording of that.
posted by at 7:17 PM on September 15, 2002

Sorry for the length of this, but I’m forwarding this Negativlland in-house communication in hopes of clearing up some of the misconceptions about that whole KJR thing.
Over The Edge

From O.D. Edge

I think the above references on this list to Jack Dickabitch's KJR rant, broadcast to the world via Internet as it was, can be fully explained by describing it as the spontaneous event, with so little preparation, that it was. (That’s not how you spell "Dickabitch", but I don't know how, and neither does anyone else, and that was one of the points I made to Jack. I said, "This thing cannot and will not spread into other major markets if no one can spell your name!" I went on to remind him that almost all publicity still progresses first from region to region via print, now including the Internet, before it ever finds any interest among any other national electronic media. A logically spelled name is a must to get there! But he did not have time to change it, so I guess the CD-R package will have to suffice, but the market for that is questionable too.)

As to the content of his broadcast: Yes, perhaps he over-obsessed on the lying liberal sprinkling of the 80s into the 60s and 70s, but Jack’s final segment, written in great haste, certainly addresses Clear Channel's mode of human-denial broadcasting over the public's airwaves. But Jack had a point there, and I think you must admit that going to all the trouble of producing expensive, highly orchestrated bumpers and jingles proclaiming something without exception, and then actually broadcasting 80s songs in there covertly, should be scrutinized. Were they either hoping or wishing that no one would notice? Were they not indicating there was any difference intentionally? Were they trying to blur history for a certain generation of listeners or was it just a matter of the natural and necessary "history melt" that effects more or less everything as time goes by? And for what purpose? What kind of people think this way? Well, something to think about… By the way, he’s not Jack anymore. On my advice, and with some time to reflect on his career strategy, he is now Rich Dickabitch, though he is retaining the original spelling of his last name, which I don’t remember, against my advice.

Omer D. Edge
Chief of Autoschematics Programming
UMN Broadcasting
posted by DJ at 12:55 PM on September 30, 2002 [1 favorite]

« Older   |   iCal weblogs Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments