An UnRomantic Take On Why I Oppose SOPA and PIPA

Today is protest day to hopefully stop Congress from passing (and the President subsequently signing) SOPA and PIPA into law. These two bills, at their core, deal with protecting piracy and intellectual property. Those two things are very important to content creators like bloggers, musicians, movie studios and the like. That’s why Hollywood and MPAA and high end luxury brands support the legislation.

You can read a great breakdown of the legislation here and here. You can also get a good synopsis, using sports as an example, of the potential impact here.

But I think that what’s really helpful for people to understand is the way such legislation can play out in real life.

The first thing the legislation, as written would do, is put sites like you tube and wikipedia in a position to be the government’s assistant in enforcing the law. As we saw wire tapping and phone records searches a few years ago, the government can get very heavy handed with companies when it wants to. This usually results in corporations engaging in outright battles with the government or, more likely, giving the government more information than it probably should and using heavy handed tactics to avoid the government’s gaze. It also can result in a great bit of secrecy in terms of how user content is maintained and shared with the Agencies who regulate the collector.[Remember, SOPA/PIPA are geared toward foreign sites just as the wire tapping laws were geared toward international conversations yet the effect was much more broad]

In the case of SOPA and PIPA, depending on the complete text of the bills and any subsequent regulation, the onus on a company like google to prevent piracy could be consequential enough so as to not only prevent a wide range of certain uploads be banned from the site but also providing IP addresses and other user information to the government under even the slightest suspicion that something uploaded is not owned by the user.  This includes linking to such content. In one fell swoop, the ability of independent musicians, writers, filmmakers and the like to engage even in “fair use” of copyrighted materials would take a severe hit.

More than a hit, as happens when many big bills are passed, the first sites and people to get caught end up being punished with a heavy hand. A great example of this: the initial lawsuits the recording industry filed against downloaders. In the beginning, young people with little to no income were hit with HUGE legal fees and fines changing the trajectory of their lives in many cases. Now? Hardly anyone is punished for illegally downloading at all. The threat is still there, but years later the strategy of prosecuting folks in this way is accepted as impractical and pointless across the board. The industry has essentially dropped the effort.

At the time, many analysts stated that it was impractical and that the industry should spend more time improving its business model and less time attacking the consumers it desires. But the recording industry didn’t listen, and they’re not listening now.  You can imagine that the first wave of people affected by SOPA/PIPA could very well have their lives or businesses destroyed only to see the same activity they were prosecuted for grow further into something that the government and affected industry simply cannot control.

Speaking of control, in a time when the government is downsizing across the board, I question the Federal resources needed to execute SOPA/PIPA in the way that it is intended. The United States Congress may pass laws, but they do not enforce them, nor do they write the regulations that provide specific interpretations of the law’s implications–nor do they always properly fund them. Not only would a cash strapped Federal government have to write regulations to flesh out SOPA/PIPA, it’d be responsible for its enforcement.

Without giving a specific example, there are many cases in which Agencies use a method called “targeting resources” to enforce policies that are on the books for programs/laws that are under funded. Using this model, Agencies examine the activities of those who are a HIGH RISK and pay very little attention to other possible offenders. It’s a tacit admission that the Agency doesn’t have enough resources to enforce the law in a balanced manner. There’s no reason to believe that with the infinite size of the world wide web that SOPA/PIPA wouldn’t become yet another example of resource-based enforcement tactics. Not to mention the political incentive to “make examples” our of certain cases.

A few months ago, a couple hip hop sites were shut down for a period of time due to suspected copyright infringement by the Department of Homeland Security. As any blogger knows, record labels often send  songs to sites as a promotional tactic. The music sites then entice readers by labeling the music as “exclusive” or “leaked” –something that benefits both the label and the blog site. Label gets to test the feedback for the song and the blog gets to look like it got its hands on something no one else could.  In this instance, Universal records seemed to want to have it both ways: don’t post the music I don’t send you. Even though, over time, what was sent can be difficult to track due to simple issues like employee turnover and recordkeeping.

Both sites were later restored. Not many people are talking, but you can presume the sites were found either not prosecutable or not worth prosecuting. If you apply the same sort of thing to SOPA/PIPA, you can be going about your business one day and have your site snatched down only to later find you did nothing at all or what you did do wasn’t adequate to warrant the resources it would take to punish you further. in other words, you chance having a business ruined for nothing. In the case of the two music sites, they were restored rather quickly. However, there’s no reason to believe sites or businesses, and by proxy lives, couldn’t be held in limbo for years at a time.

As many have stated, additional action needs to be taken to protect creators from piracy. However, that legislation should be practical, balanced, and reflect an understanding of today’s web and the future of the web. SOPA/PIPA seem to be examples of what happens when Congress is largely disconnected from the internet and obtains the bulk of its information and advice from a very closed set of powerful groups on a subject they know little about individually or collectively.











Congrats Forbes: You Printed One of the Most Offensive Things I’ve Ever Read

I’m not going to spend much time on this post because it makes me irate. But Forbes published an article by Gene Marks titled “If I Were A Poor Black Kid.”  I’m always wary of anything written that purports to have the author put himself in another person’s shoes. Because, quite frankly, it isn’t possible. The best thing you can ever do is assess a situation and provide advice based on the challenges. Mr. Marks did NEITHER before he wrote his piece. How do I know? Cause everything he said has been debunked by others. It’s no surprise that Mr. Marks is a business and technology writer and perhaps he should stick to those subjects.

Let’s quickly eviscerate his nonsense.

The biggest problem here is that Mr. Marks puts actions in the hands of a child that are, for all intents and purposes, out of the child’s control.

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities.  Getting good grades is the key to having more options.  With good grades you can choose different, better paths.  If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

In one fell swoop Mr. Marks ignores ever single thing in a child’s life that impacts their reading ability and grades: the child’s health, the health of the parents, the school, the teachers, the responsibilities the child has at home, among others.

This is odd because Mr. Marks WANTS poor kids to rely on others to get ahead:

If I was a poor black kid I would get technical.  I would learn software.  I would learn how to write code.  I would seek out courses in my high school that teaches these skills or figure out where to learn more online.  I would study on my own.  I would make sure my writing and communication skills stay polished.

Because a poor black kid who gets good grades, has a part time job and becomes proficient with a technical skill will go to college.  There is financial aid available.  There are programs available.  And no matter what he or she majors in that person will have opportunities.  They will find jobs in a country of business owners like me who are starved for smart, skilled people. They will succeed.

So…a poor black kid needs BOTH secondary schools AND colleges to provide guidance and financial assistance. Wouldn’t it then follow that he needs them to let him know that this guidance and financial assistance exists?


He goes on to write:

And I would use the technology available to me as a student.  I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays.  That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home then on the streets.  And libraries and schools have computers available too.  Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet.  Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all.

If I was a poor black kid I’d use the free technology available to help me study.  I’d become expert at Google Scholar.   I’d visit study sites like SparkNotes andCliffsNotes to help me understand books.  I’d watch relevant teachings onAcademic EarthTED and the Khan Academy.  (I say relevant because some of these lectures may not be related to my work or too advanced for my age. But there are plenty of videos on these sites that are suitable to my studies and would help me stand out.)  I would also, when possible, get my books for free at Project Gutenberg and learn how to do research at the CIA World Factbookand Wikipedia to help me with my studies.

If you read my blog, you know that I have worked in politics and government for a long time. I am almost 30. I earn six figures each year and am constantly on the computer. My question: What are these sites? I have never heard of most of these sites? In terms of Wikipedia, is that now an official source in school? And what does the CIA world factbook help you do in secondary school? Some of the other sites he goes on to list like Evernote are sites I just recently discovered. I love Evernote. How I would have used it as a kid is beyond my imagination. Skype  as well (yes poor black kids should skype their way into college, apparently).

As far as internet is concerned, Marks is hoping that he, as a poor black child, will be one of the ones that CAN afford a computer and internet (however cheap). Also, what’s cheap to an impoverished person? He should have listed an acceptable price that he’d be willing (able?) to pay as a poor black kid. To speak from experience, growing up in a rural area, internet service isn’t cheap nor is it accessible to many–it’s also slow and takes triple the amount of time to do work than a faster connection.

Mr. Marks suggests that poor kids go to the library. Oh you mean the ones that are closing at a fast clip? So that they can wait in line for a computer behind all the adults (like their parents) who are using them to apply for jobs?

My goodness Mr. Marks, a busy man such as yourself should know there are only so many hours in a day.

Now, onto his worst point:

Or even a private school.  Most private schools I know are filled to the brim with the 1%.  That’s because these schools are exclusive and expensive, costing anywhere between $20 and $50k per year.    But there’s a secret about them.  Most have scholarship programs.  Most have boards of trustees that want to give opportunities to kids that can’t afford the tuition.  Many would provide funding for not only tuition but also for transportation or even boarding.  Trust me, they want to show diversity.  They want to show smiling, smart kids of many different colors and races on their fundraising brochures.   If I was a poor black kid I’d be using technology to research these schools on the internet too and making them know that I exist and that I get good grades want to go to their school.

Okay…I don’t even know where to begin. Are there enough scholarships at all private schools for all poor people to go if they applied? If not, why bring up an option that isn’t readily available to all kids? Further, who would even know this? Many kids who take advantage of scholarships and voucher programs don’t find out about them on the internet–they find out from adults like Mr. Marks who happen to work as guidance counselors or social workers etc.

The bottom line here is that Mr. Marks puts the future of a child completely and totally in the child’s hands expecting poor black kids to know things that most children, of any income level, simply would not know. If children are capable of finding out everything they need to know on their own and addressing it all themselves then why do we call them children? Let’s just get rid of those pesky child labor laws and put these 10 year olds to work. Maybe we can start by having them paint the schools just like Newt Gingrich suggests.

The best thing the article does is show that in order to overcome disadvantages poor people really need to be up an additional 8 hours daily at the very least. No wonder my mama used to always say “there just ain’t enough hours in a day.”

Mr. Marks has one thing right: there ARE services and resources that can help poor people make up for SOME of the disadvantages of being poor. However, those services and resources are disappearing quickly, hard to come by, limited in scope, and barely promoted to those who need them. If I were a well-to-do middle age white man who thought like Mr. Marks, I’d go pick black kids up and take them to the library, visit poor schools and help poor black kids’ parents fill out those abundantly available private school scholarships. Maybe I’d use my cushy Forbes column to advocate for better schools, nationwide broadband access, and more computers in libraries that do exist. Perhaps I’d even let a few black kids come over and use my computer.

But I know for sure that if I were Mr. Marks I would have used technology to find out that most of what he said has already been addressed by people who study sociology. How can someone so obviously connected be so utterly DISconnected?





The Biggest Issue I have With Google Plus — WHY ARE YOU ADDING ME?

First of all, is anyone still using Google Plus? I can honestly say that I was NOT at all looking forward to maintaining another social network. I joined Google Plus because I heard that when it comes to sharing it really beats twitter. Or, at least it was the first couple weeks it was out. I do notice that people are RTing blog and news posts a lot less these days and I think that a lot of it has to do with long term use of twitter changing the landscape of how people feel about those they follow and the content they post. I have some other theories too…

But we’re not here for that right now!

I did join google plus, I started adding people to circles.  My main purpose for google plus was to enhance football conversations as a complement to my football blog. I tweeted to my twitter followers that if they want to be in my football circle to add me. So…people start adding me. I quickly note that some of the people adding me do not like football. I know this for a fact!

So…why were adding me?

Obviously, the answer to this is because they want to keep up with my non-football updates. But how would I know that? See, when someone follows you on twitter it’s easy for them to follow and unfollow if you’re content isn’t what they’re looking for. When someone adds you on facebook, they’re getting whatever you post to your timeline that is accessible to them. They know that they won’t like everything you post, and they’re not looking to do so.

But on Google Plus, you have NO CLUE why people are adding you. And it makes it a much harder social network to manage, especially if your plan is to be a one-trick pony.

The way I’ve tried to solve this problem is by creating a temporary circle I called “why did you add me?” I posted an update to ONLY that circle that said tell me which circle you’d like to be added to: football, social media, or general updates. This is a fine strategy except that most of the people in that temporary circle will never see the post. Should I repost? I don’t know.

The best way to achieve this goal is to tag the folks in an update so that they get a notification about it. That’d be fine if I didn’t have 106 requests.

What google doesn’t seem to understand, generally speaking, is that people want to be able to choose how they use a social network. This is the same problem that surfaced with google suspending accounts that don’t use real names. Why would I use my real name when everyone on the web knows me by “J Danielle?” For a supposedly groundbreaking social media site, there’s absolutely no respect or attention to the personalities that exist online.

Getting back to choosing how you use a site, there’s no fool proof or easy way to separate people in a way that lets “influencers” reach the right audience and also helps “audiences” get tailored content.

I have other issues with google plus as well, such as the SPAM. I mean who wants email notification that a spammer added you to a circle?

I’d be interested to see how others are using google plus? Is there a way to separate people appropriately that I haven’t found yet? if you can totally debunk my argument by showing me how to achieve my goal, that would be absolutely great.




Spanking Uncle Should Take You Tube Video Down

Please no one else send me the youtube video of a supposedly concerned Uncle hitting his 16 year old nephew on camera. I don’t find it funny nor do I think it’s appropriate.

I’ve said many times that I’m not a fan of people hitting others—unless both parties are adults and getting paid for it. However, that’s not my main concern with this video. The biggest issue is what drives someone to post something like this on you tube for millions to see and what makes the viewers of the video laugh as though it’s not glaringly inappropriate.

With the advent of the internet, adult immaturity is constantly on display and no one can seem to do anything without broadcasting it to everyone else. I’ve personally been known to over-share on twitter and to sprinkle my blogs with things of personal note. But that’s my choice as an adult who knows the consequences that could happen as a result. For that reason, I ask why couldn’t this act of discipline remain a private matter?

A 16 year old does not know the consequences of having face splashed across the internet. We’ve seen this so many times with kids who post inappropriate things on social networks. But in this case, the 16 year old is not making the decision. He, as a child, is having his own privacy violated and any consequences thereafter are a result of an adult family member’s decision—not his own.

This is akin to having a parent with bad credit use their child’s name on bills and credit cards. Many a child’s credit has been ruined before they are of age because an adult made a choice for them that affected them negatively going forward.

I actually thought about that this subject this week at the “Princess Boy’s” parents continue to flaunt their little boy on TV. At some point you get the feeling that, despite what the parents may say, it ain’t about the kid.

The media has been talking a lot over the past few months about the consequences of bullying. This is the ultimate example of bullying. Someone whoops your ass and then posts it on the internet. Only, in this case tens of thousands of people laugh and egg the person on because, you know, it’s for your own good. It’s also an invitation to bully the child in the video something that could lead to him feeling an even greater need to prove himself tough when confronted.

People can argue that being hit is in the boy’s best interest. That’s fine, although by the time you’re 16, if you’re tough like I was, a beating is of no consequence anyway. It doesn’t change anything for the short or long term. But putting a child’s face online in any capacity ABSOLUTELY does.

When I hear people defend the Uncle’s actions what I hear is a sense that black folks need to do whatever they can to keep their children out of trouble. I heard one person say humiliating a child is better than having them join a gang. (By the way, it’s interesting what false choices people will provide when convenient). I wonder if people are aware that it is possible to both identify with the Uncle’s frustration and recognize that he has made a very serious error in judgment by putting his nephew on the internet.

It’s as if there is a complete lack of awareness of the vastness and power of the world wide web as well as the longevity of what is posted. No surprise given the behavior many adults are willing participate in online. As sites like Facebook delve deeper and deeper into your privacy, adult internet users post more and more, oblivious to how the innerwebs work in totality.

It’s sad because these adults are responsible for the lives of others and should make it their business to know better and exhibit better understanding of web use.

There are many parents of teens who do not allow their under-18 children to posts any pictures or videos of themselves online. What an extreme we’re dealing with here. While many parents are working day and night to protect their children’s identities and privacy some caretakers are willing to sacrifice a child’s safety and psychological health just to impress and entertain some strangers online.


J Danielle, My Comment Was Deleted! What The Fuck, Dude??

I know I know. We all have strong opinions and sometimes those opinions go off topic or are crude and mean spirited. If you have such opinions and feel a burning need to express them there are two web sites I recommend in lieu of you posting those thoughts in my comment section: WordPress and BloggerThere, you can create your own site and name it anything you want (provided the name isn’t taken) and from there you can post all the mean spirited and all-the-way-off topic shit you want. You can even link to my post if that’s what inspired you to speak out.

But please, as long as you are in my comment section, conduct yourself with some dignity. If I can do it, I KNOW you can.


DC Mayor Fenty’s Campaign Ads Suck

As a resident of the District of Columbia, at some point in the next few months I’m going to have to decide who I want to be the next Mayor. Current Mayor Adrian Fenty is in a heated primary battle with Council member Vincent Gray, and is losing ground as we speak.

I’m not a big TV watcher, I usually turn on the TV once per week to enjoy something mindless, so I may be a tad late weighing in on Fenty’s ads but what the hell.

The series ads issued by the Fenty campaign aim to debunk what the Mayor and his advisors believe to be “popular” misconceptions about the Mayor by mentioning them explicitly. In some cases this can be a good thing, for example, if the claim is something that can be proven e.g. a voting record, such a strategy can work. But when you aim to dispel myths of personality traits things just get silly.

One of the ads features a woman talking about how some people say Fenty is “arrogant.” She goes on to list out some positive things that he’s done for the community, as though one can’t be effective AND arrogant. In another ad, a woman says that people say that Fenty doesn’t “listen to the people,” and then goes on to list evidence of decisions Fenty has made presumably at public behest.

I found this ad to be ineffective for two reasons: 1. I’ve lived in the district for 2 years and in a suburb a mile outside of NW DC for 2 years before that. I’ve never heard that Fenty doesn’t listen to people. In fact, as far as I know, the Mayor is known to personally answer emails, now the seed of doubt has been planted in my mind. 2. Providing a few examples of when the mayor has listened doesn’t tell us much about his overall penchant for considering feedback.

Fenty has suffered some losses in the straw polls held so far. I think this is a good time for he and his team to reevaluate Fenty’s current ads and consider spending more time telling us what he’s done, rather than what strawmen think. It’s almost never a good idea to repeat back to people the negative words they or others have said about you. The words get stuck in the brain of the listener (having heard them multiple times) rather than the message you seek to convey.

For the record, I have NO idea which candidate will get my vote.


Antoine Dodson, Minorities, and News Cameras

Like everyone else, I watched the video of Antoine Dodson’s uncomfortably hilarious comments regarding his sister’s assault by an unknown intruder SEVERAL times. Since the day the video posted, the story has only gotten bigger with many people taking some, shall we say, ‘creative‘ license with it. Now, Dodson has a twitter page, a youtube channel, and has apparently hosted some meet-and-greets to talk to his “fans.”

The Alabama news station that aired his comments came under fire with many people rehashing a point of view that has bothered me for a very long time. That being their suspicious that the news cameras always pull aside the most “ignorant” minority to get their opinion and air it intentionally to make minorities look bad.

Let me quickly say, as a minority female I’m 1000 types of sensitive about how gender and race plays out in the media. In fact, with this being a media analysis blog, sometimes I have to avoid addressing certain trends I notice so that this blog doesn’t accidentally turn into the bastard sister of Racialicious.

Having said that, the belief that there is a spirited effort to embarrass minorities in those situations is a lazy perspective that begs reconsideration. The truth is, news cameras typically interview people who are standing near the place of the crime. In the case of violent or physical crime, it’s not surprising that the people nearby might not dress or speak English the way some segments of society would like them to. It’s also not surprising that they wouldn’t be super concerned with their image or even aware of it. I know that’s surprising in a society that has taken personal branding to new and unchartered territory.

Dodson’s comments, while not particularly articulate, were still eloquent and relevant. When he says “Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husband because they raping everybody out here (sic),” he’s essential saying that you need to protect your family because anyone could be a victim. His accent, grammar, and dramatic delivery didn’t distract me from that message.

Where I differ with the Alabama news is on airing Dodson’s threat to the intruder. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for a news station to broadcast someone threatening to “find” someone. However, I wasn’t bothered by the fact that Dodson made the comments. Remember, though he has perfect comedic timing, this was a serious situation in which his sister had only hours before been attacked, he’d fought off the perpetrator, and was still visibly upset.


Oprah’s “Win Your Own Show” Competition Closes Soon!

For the past month or so, Oprah has been promoting a competition in which you can win your own show. You can audition in person or online. The contest ends on June 26th! So, if you’re interested, hurry up and get in the game.

I perused through some of the videos and there’s really no standard way to approach the competition. Everyone is doing something different. Might as well submit something if hosting is your thing.

Contest rules for video submissions are here.

Good Luck!


Image Watch: Philly Police Harass TV Personality Marc Lamont Hill?

This morning I logged on to twitter and saw some discussion about Columbia Professor and TV personality Marc Lamont Hill being harassed by the Philadelphia Police. The story he recounts is interesting to say the least (click on each photo to enlarge it):

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I find Hill’s story to be problematic.  Briefly, I’ve never heard of the “illegal discharge of a passenger” charge, and a quick google search of the phrase in quotes turned up results that led only to Hill’s twitter page and to pages related to his stream. Further, the dialogue between Hill and the officer sounded contrived, in particular the part where the officer expresses disbelief at Hill’s Ph.D. Philadelphia is a city with many educated minorities and is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the country: University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, Saint Josephs, and Villanova. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for the police to run into educated minorities.

Because minorities (successful and not) are still victims of harassment by police and many true stories sound implausible initially, Hill’s claims cannot be dismissed out of turn. I made calls to both the police department and the Mayor’s office and will update when and if I receive a response.

When I last checked Hill’s twitter mentions/replies were full of support for him and many expressed hope that he obtained the officers’ badge numbers. Sherri Shepherd, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” immediately expressed her sympathy for Hill. It will be interesting to see if she mentions the incident on her show.

Hill is frequently tapped to comment on race issues. If he doesn’t take action in this situation, it could be damaging to his reputation. Certainly, someone who was calm enough to release a stream of tweets shortly after an incident would be expected to be calm enough to request an officer’s badge number especially given his knowledge of these situations.

The Philadelphia police are not without their image problems. Recently, in 2008, Philadelphia police were caught on tape beating a suspect and the video became a sensation on YouTube. The city’s police department image issues are not new–people are still discussing the case of Mumia Abu Jamal and the city’s bombing of a Philadelphia house in 1985 in connection with the “Move” organization. In fact, the 25th anniversary of the bombing was recently covered in the media–though not extensively.

I will update this post once the story plays out and I hear back from the Police department and/or Mayor’s office. If this story gets picked up, I think it is a good opportunity to analyze the way a media personality and a city and police department handle a difficult issue.

MediaSTRUT is an analysis site that aims to analyze how public figures handle the media and, conversely, how the media handles them.


Why Cathy Hughes Should Stop Her Radio Ads–NOW

I’m not an avid listener of the radio. Typically, I only listen to the radio when I’m in the car and have somehow forgotten my MP3 player. Even so, I have not been able to avoid hearing the radio ads voiced by Radio One founder and Board Chairperson Cathy Hughes.

The radio industry is coordinating to fight a so-called performance tax that would require radio to pay record labels for the music it plays. On the effort’s web site, No Performance Tax, there are ads available for broadcasters to download. However, Hughes has recorded her own ads in an effort to personally appeal to listeners. As we all know, mainstream radio is a dying industry and a performance tax could be the final nail in the coffin if radio doesn’t make drastic changes to its format and business model. Nevertheless, Hughes’s ads are problematic.

For those of you who haven’t heard the ads, there are at least 3 different ones. In the ads, Hughes uses an indignant and professorial tone. The ads incorporate samples of music from the group New Edition and also clips from a Michael Jackson interview on the recording industry, among other sound bites. One of the ads even features the chorus from Ludacris’s “How Low Can You Go.” The sound bites aim to help Hughes prove that the recording industry isn’t kind to your favorite artists and radio is yet another victim of their greed. In the ads, she mentions specific members of Congress who support the performance tax and asks listeners to consider this information when they go to the polls.

Putting Hughes’ condescending tone aside, the ads make the mistake of assuming listeners are satisfied with radio as it stands. If listeners support Hughes’ attempt to beat the performance tax then that means that radio will almost certainly remain the same. And how many urban listeners would say there’s nothing about radio they would change?

Listen to Cathy Hughes talk about the performance tax:

Radio Needs to be Improved

The fact is radio needs to be improved. Up until the recording industry started to lose money to file sharing services, radio had a very cozy relationship with radio. Though it’s illegal for record labels to pay radio stations to play music, certainly even when the rules aren’t broken labels can provide radio DJs and other employees with perks to get artists on the radio.

Not only does this practice prevent up and coming artists from being played, it also means that many of the same artists (and many of the same songs) are played repeatedly thereby decreasing the listener’s enjoyment of radio. I think it can be assumed that this is one of the many practices that has contributed to radio’s decline. And now that there are all sorts of music services and file sharing sites listeners are even more hyperaware of how much music radio stations DON’T play.

The Performance Tax Doesn’t Sound That Bad On Its Face

To Hughes’s point about how artists are treated, there are very few artists actually played regularly on mainstream radio. Therefore, if radio no longer existed, due to its reliance on relatively few artists, only those artists would be truly impacted. In thinking about how that could play out (possibly a sort of leveling out of the playing field), on the SURFACE** level, it’s hard to justify NOT supporting the performance tax unless you are viciously anti-music label. The average listener probably doesn’t feel a sense of urgency around this issue.

The Ads Are Insensitive

As we sit in the midst of a war, a recession, a major debate about health care, and now, an oil spill that is becoming more disastrous by the second, asking listeners to vote based on the future of radio is out of touch. It’s hard to imagine people basing a vote on radio given it’s relative insignificance to most people.

What Hughes SHOULD Do

Use Real Artists NOT Soundbites

If Hughes must continue recording personal ads, she should perhaps find some independent artists who will say something to the effect of I can’t afford to pay radio to play my music (which is basically what independent artists have been saying for years). But of course then she’d actually have to play the music of non-major artists.

Focus on Regular People

Also, she should actually explain how the performance tax would impact people rather than how they would affect artists. Remember, Cathy Hughes’s audience is urban. Urban listeners are bombarded with music in which artists brag about having material goods. It’s really difficult to get the average listener to feel sorry for how the performance tax would cheat Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Hughes would be better off explaining how the tax would impact regular people. If radio is dismantled there’s an impact beyond what music the listener hears. For many, in particular in minority communities, radio is a source of important information about local events and businesses as well as how to obtain available public resources.

Show That Radio Wants to Be Better Not Stay The Same

Finally, Hughes should make mention of any improvements that radio is attempting to make that would be stifled by the tax. Once again, it’s very hard to make a case for why people should be satisfied with radio in its current state.

**MediaSTRUT is a web site devoted to media tips and analysis. Media strategies are critiqued based on how the target audience would receive them. The full implications of the related policies are not necessarily considered. For those interested, the Obama administration appears to support the performance tax.




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