You may have heard that the Federal Communications Commission held its localism hearing last week in Monterey, and lotsa folks stepped up to complain about the lousy job being done by Bay Area broadcasters. What you might not know, however, is that a few days earlier the FCC quietly announced it was getting tough on a local radio station for not properly documenting its public service programming.
And who would this scourge of the airwaves be? One of the commercial stations owned by evil radio giant Clear Channel? Nah. Try KALW, a small public radio station with about 140,000 listeners owned by the San Francisco Unified School District.
The commission has ordered an evidentiary hearing on whether KALW (91.7 FM) should lose its license for failing to properly maintain its public inspection file and for possibly lying to the FCC. Even if the feds let KALW keep its license, they could still fine the district for "willful and/or repeated" violations up to $300,000. The FCC order comes nearly seven years after what station lawyers call a group of "disgruntled former employees" first challenged KALW's license renewal.
Broadcast stations are supposed to maintain, update, and keep available to the public a detailed file showing all the wonderful ways they serve the interests of their local communities. KALW reps, according to the FCC, could produce only a quarterly program guide and a list of issues covered by syndicated National Public Radio programs; station managers couldn't locate the more-comprehensive reports on local programming they claimed they once had.
Not good enough, the commission said. It noted that station employees had warned management about the public file being "disorganized and incomplete." Thus, the FCC claims, there are real concerns as to whether school officials lied when they certified the file was complete in order to get KALW's license renewed.
Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein voted to order a hearing, but also issued a statement expressing concern that the same standard wasn't being applied to corporate radio giants, one of which was recently let off the hook in a similar case. "When the commission finally decides to make an example of a station and designate its case for a hearing, it chooses a small noncommercial broadcast station run by the local school district. We are troubled by the message we send when we send small, independent stations to hearings but give a pass to stations owned by larger media companies for troubling allegations."
KALW general manager Nicole Sawaya, who started at the station three years ago, was reticent to discuss the case. "The wheels are in motion and hopefully after the hearing we'll be exonerated on all counts," she said.
Local Leftist Crossballed
Comedy Central watchers may have recently seen Cal grad and leftist agitator Hoku Jeffrey on the fake political debate show, Crossballs. Only Jeffrey, like scores of other real-life Crossballs guests, didn't realize he was being set up to look like a fool.
For those who don't know the show's premise, it's a spoof of Hardball or Crossfire in which real-life pundits and activists square off against comedians pretending to be pundits and activists. The comedians, of course, say crazy stuff for laughs. (One fake free-love advocate told a real Bible-thumper, "There's nothing more pro-family than incest.")
The show's producers are fond of inviting true believers with no sense of humor, which is probably why they tracked down Jeffrey. For those who don't know, he's a former student-government senator and current California organizer for the concisely named Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary. That's BAMN for short. The Trotsky-lite group is veeerrrryyy serious about defending affirmative-action equality for integrated immigrants, a prime of example of what conservative columnist P.J. O'Rourke calls "the perennially indignant."
Reached at his East Bay office, Jeffrey didn't sound as much indignant as embarrassed. He says the hoax began in May, when he got a call from a producer who asked him if he would appear on a new MTV program to discuss immigration issues. The network paid him $200 for his appearance and Jeffrey signed a release that he didn't read too closely. "It was a whole charade," he says.
Unfortunately, Jeffrey realized that just a bit too late. He says things got off to a strange start when the host introduced him as being from the Cotillion (not Coalition) to Defend Affirmative Action. The comedian pretending to be on his side quietly egged him on halfway through the show. "Don't be afraid to get angry," Jeffrey says his cohort advised him. Other than that, he couldn't recall details of what people actually said. The show's Web site features this snippet uttered by a fake xenophobe: "A big part of the American dream is the white picket fence. Obviously, illegals have no regard for fences."
Jeffrey had forgotten all about his cameo until friends called him after seeing him on the show and tried to console him: "People were like, 'You did the best you could with what you had. '" A posting on the Calstuff blog was less gentle: "He made a total ass out of himself."
Feeder, however, thinks Jeffrey deserves some cred for not taking the whole thing too seriously.
But Where Was Jacques?
The Oakland Tribune led its edition of Tuesday, July 20, with a big fat juicy story about Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown firing his flirtatious French alter ego, Jacques Barzaghi. According to the article, the dismissal had occurred the previous day, and led to a verbal altercation: "Additional security was called to City Hall when Brown asked Barzaghi to leave after a heated argument in the mayor's third-floor office."
But that report precipitated yet another heated argument, this time between Jerry's people and the Trib. Brown's press aide Gil Duran claims Barzaghi didn't even show up to work on Monday because the mayor actually broke the bad news to him on Saturday. (Ah, right, that would be the day the Trib broke the news about a nasty little domestic incident: Aisha Barzaghi had called 911 the previous week following a squabble with her hubby, and told police Jacques had tried to push her down a flight of stairs. At Jerry's request, Police Chief Richard Word responded in person; Monsieur Barzaghi denied the allegation, and no charges were filed.)
Since Jacques wasn't at City Hall on Monday, Duran claims, there couldn't have been a shouting match that necessitated armed security. He acknowledges that when he arrived at work Monday, a cop was already there drinking coffee, but he says Word had sent the officer as a precaution. When the mayor arrived, he told the cop to leave, Duran says.
The Trib later ran a correction saying it had "mischaracterized the day and place of a discussion between" Brown and Barzaghi. But City Hall reporter Heather MacDonald says several sources told her that Jacques was in the mayor's office that Monday. And the police, she adds, confirmed that extra security was called in. In other words, she stands by the rest of her story. Well, um, except for two sentences of background info borrowed without attribution from a March 2003 Express cover story. A contrite MacDonald acknowledged and apologized for the cribbed couplet, and swore it happened inadvertently under deadline pressure.
Ah, deadline pressure -- the very thing that may well be responsible for the following item ...
Menace 2 Social Security
BART riders beware -- an elderly flasher is once again a free man. A near-deaf, 87-year-old Richmond man was acquitted by a Contra Costa County jury late last month of allegedly exposing himself on a Pittsburg-bound train last August. According to court records, a train operator checking cars at the end of the line saw an old man in a wheelchair sitting with his sweatpants down to his knees. The old fella was purportedly pleasuring himself while staring at a woman across from him who'd fallen asleep. The accused later told police, "I was just rubbing Vaseline on myself. I have a rash." The cops didn't buy it. The man allegedly had had several run-ins with BART cops for similar past incidents and had been convicted of similar crimes before. The jury, however, didn't have the heart to send the old rash-rubber to prison. The panel took less than two hours to return a not-guilty verdict.
Bottom Feeder, by the way, has next week off. If you happen to see him on BART in his wheelchair and sweatpants, don't be afraid to come up and shake hands.
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