Keep Austin Indie

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   It's frightening how much the local media landscape has transformed in the last few years. As reported in "Dialing for Dollar$" [News, Dec. 17], currently 23 of 27 radio stations are owned by just five chains! In a community with a tradition of grassroots support for cultural uniqueness, it's sad to observe the consequences from FCC media ownership deregulation and neglect of its localism mandate. With the shutdown of Radio Free Austin, uncertainty over Austin Music Network's future, and the deaths of many indie publications, how can we "keep Austin weird"?
   What Clear Channel doesn't understand is that the amount of advertising on our airwaves isn't what turns listeners away – it's the prepackaged formats programmed without considering why Austinites chose to live here. All the changes in the local media landscape should be the clearest signal that Austin media is failing to satisfy this market.
   Austinites should remember that dissatisfaction inspired an outside proposal to KAZZ to experiment with a pioneering radio concept a couple of decades ago as KOKE’s signal echoed across the national media landscape. Radio owners should also take note that Besley Corporation turned the table years later by guaranteeing creative control in order to attract an innovative program director to makeover KGSR. Granted, corporate radio has its limitations, but noncommercial stations like KVRX can step up by giving more support to our local music scene.
   Maybe the Chronicle should bring back the Biggest Waste of the Airwaves category. But since that award would be shared by too many, perhaps the Chronicle can spotlight what's still worth tuning in to on our airwaves instead, once the media landscape settles down a bit.
James Lee
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