Media Talk

Nicholas Johnson, Guest

Dave Berkman, Host

Wisconsin Public Radio

July 9, 2004



Dave Berkman [DB]:  My guest this hour was an FCC Commissioner in the late 60s through the mid 70s.

He was part of a two person minority on the then seven member commission who fought against any increase in media cross ownership, who defended the limits on station ownership which was then seven AM, seven FM and seven TV stations with no more than one of each in any market, and fought for putting teeth in enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine and engaging in more than the jawboning which had characterized what passed for action by the Commission in limiting the amount of time devoted to commercials.

Things have since deteriorated so far that today any Commissioner holding what were then the pro-Industry positions would be hailed as a hero by progressive media activists.

That lonely voice back then was Nicholas Johnson, now a law professor at the University of Iowa and with whom I will be discussing the outlook for electronic and especially broadcast regulation.  Thanks for joining us this evening, Nick Johnson.

Nicholas Johnson [NJ]:  Well, Iím happy to be with you and flattered you asked, Dave.

[DB]:  Third time, as I recall.

[NJ]:  I think so.

[DB]:  If we look at where matters now stand with regard to the issues I mentioned in my opening, what we find is that the Commission is pushing to eliminate all cross-ownership restrictions, that one licensee can own up to eight radio stations in small and six in large communities, with no limit on totals so that we find Clear Channel with 1200 stations, that one can own as many TV stations as it takes to cover 37% of the U.S. population, that the Fairness Doctrine is just totally off the books, and that as a recent study showed, just over one-third, 34 % to be exact, of prime time TV is taken up by commercials and commercial announcements.  So, summarize if you will, Nick Johnson, just how the hell did it get this bad?

[NJ]:  Well, as you pointed out earlier, when I was there there were seven-year terms and seven Commissioners.

I spent seven years writing over 400 dissenting opinions describing corporate control of the FCC, its failure to act in the public interest and so forth.  Iím in the process now of putting those up on my website at www.nicholasjohnson.org.  Iím stunned. We now look back on it, as you say, as "the Golden Age of responsible FCC regulation."  And it seemed to me so horrible at the time. Now, by contrast, what we were then doing looks like almost a Ralph Nader, consumer-oriented process by contrast.

Weíve got a couple of issues here.  One is just kind of basic antitrust stuff.  The fellow that we called "the James Watt of the airwaves," when he wanted to start deregulating everything as chairman of the FCC, once referred to television as "a toaster with pictures."

[DB]:  Mark Fowler.

[NJ]:  Right.

Now, even if you agree with him that this is nothing more than a toaster with pictures or a toaster with a speaker, itís like any other business, it seems to me that theyíve gone too far with this kind of control of newspapers, cable, broadcasting, etc.

Imagine if youíre an FM station owner in a market when you are up against a competitor who owns the dominant community newspaper, owns the cable television system, owns the dominant over the air television broadcasting station, owns the billboard advertising, etc., along with AM and FM stations in that community. You own a little FM radio station and you are trying to compete.  Just from the standpoint of serving the interests of business, serving the interests of those small station owners, this thing has gone too far in just old antitrust terms.  Itís no longer a competitive marketplace for advertising, for the businessperson who wants to advertise or the broadcaster who wants to sell the advertising.

But, quite frankly, thatís not my primary concern.

My primary concern comes from my belief that this is not just a toaster with pictures.  There is nothing more essential to self-governing, and all the other values we associate with the First Amendment, than the way in which we create and own and monitor and regulate and utilize the mass media in any society.   It doesnít matter whether itís Saddam Husseinís Iraq or George Bushís America Ė itís important everywhere.

For years, the notion was throughout the civilized world, virtually unanimously, with the exception of the United States, that broadcasting was perceived to be such a precious and valuable contribution to humankind that we should not let it be sullied and controlled by advertising at all.  It was so potentially politically powerful that it should not be handed over to private individuals, that it ought to controlled by the society at large.  That was the choice in Germany, England, Japan, and Scandinavian countries and so forth Ė pretty much global unanimity on that.

Only in America, where we resist the concept of government ownership, and then get ourselves into pickles where we say something is privately owned, but because it shouldnít be privately owned in the first place, weíve got to jump through hoops of fire with regulation.

Hereís broadcasting, and they think of themselves as private owners, and yet originally the government decided how wide the band was going to be, where the AM stations were going to be, how many there would be, how high you can have your antenna tower, how much power you could operate with, what hours of the day you could operate, etc.

So, we started off on the wrong foot, and as the Congressman said in the 1920s, when they were debating the predecessor of the Communications Act, which was the Radio Act of 1927, "if we should ever allow such an incredibly powerful force to fall into the hands of the few, then woe be to those who dare to disagree with them."  Well, thatís a remarkably prescient view of someone back in a time when they didnít have a clue how this little black box operated that would permit the human voice to go through the air and so forth, but he saw that danger coming.  And Congress generally did. I would swap in a moment todayís Congress for the Congress of 1920s on these issues.  They really understood it.  They were concerned about monopoly in the marketplace and they were even more concerned about the monopoly and oligopoly, limited control of mass media, in terms of its adverse impact on a democratic society.

That is precisely what we are now dealing with, although it is much more serious than that for reasons that Iíll explain later after I take a breath and you take back the microphone.

[DB]:  Okay, I want to ask you to put on your law professoring hat, Nick Johnson.  I want to ask you about one aspect of all this which has received short shrift from activists who hold Congress and the Commission responsible for the increasing media concentration, and lack of regulation beyond the purely technical.  Much of the deregulation has resulted from court decisions which, using the first amendment as the basis, have ordered the Commission to end all but the technical limitations.

Even the recent decision by the Philadelphia Circuit Appeals Courts, which put the FCCís latest deregulatory attempts on hold.  It appears on careful reading to be saying, not that what the Commission has done is wrong, but that it only needs to show what it's proposed is in compliance with previous court decisions mandating deregulation. And if you look at what the Supreme Court has signaled, it looks as if it would declare unconstitutional any non-tech restrictions.  Is there any role that either Congress or the Commission can play in re-regulation?

[NJ]:  Well, that was, ironically, the reason why it was very much worse that I referred to a moment ago, not realizing you were going to give me a segue into it so quickly.

When AT&T owned all telephones in the United States, all the switching stations, all the long lines, the manufacturing plants, phone books, the whole darn thing, there were a lot of complaints. There was some humor from Lilly Tomlin with her telephone operator telling the customers, ďWe donít care, we donít have to, weíre the telephone company.Ē

[DB]:  And now sheís doing an ad for a telephone company.

[NJ]:  Right.

Anyway, what you did not hear during that time, by way of complaints, was the ACLU or anybody else raising First Amendment claims.  Now, why was that?

That was because the Constitution, the law, the statutes, the regulation, the custom, the expectation, and the culture within AT&T all agreed on two things.  One, everybody who wants a phone is entitled to one; and incidentally, entitled to one pretty damn quick.  They had put in an additional switching station just for that person if necessary to wire them up and put them on the network.

Number two, not only could you get a phone, but once you got a phone, you could say anything you wanted to over the phone.  You could use this incredibly powerful communications system, either one-on-one, or as mass communication, as we see now with conference calls and telemarketers, this mass communications network.  Everybody could get access and once they got access they could say anything they wanted to say, at least so far as the phone company was concerned.  Now, somebody could still file a defamation action against you, you could charged with harassing somebody, or you could be charged with fraudulent sales practices. But the telephone company was not going to object to what you were saying over the phone.

Now switch to today, and what youíve just been referring to. The Supreme Court now makes clear that no matter how large an audience you have, no matter how dependent the public is upon your near monopoly channel of communications in your community, whether itís a newspaper, radio, television, whatever it is, you have a First Amendment right to speak.  I donít know of much of anybody who complains about that. I mean, I think Rupert Murdock is as entitled as anybody else to have his views be known.

But what they go on to say is that with that  First Amendment right to speak goes a First Amendment right to censor everybody else, no matter how much media power you have.  So they decided in a case in Florida, where the Florida legislature passed a law that said a newspaper can be as vicious as it wants, and attack a political candidate, but when they do, it has to give that candidate an opportunity to reply. This case involved the Miami Herald which pretty much dominates Dade County. The law said it had to give that politician an opportunity to respond in the paper.

The Florida Supreme Court agreed with that, they thought it was a perfectly reasonable and constitutional law, and so did most folks.

Well, the Supreme Court of the United States said ďOh, no, you canít do that.  Thatís just editing, thatís just the newspaper deciding what they want to put in the paper. That includes an equal right to decide what they want to keep out.  You canít force them to do that.Ē

Then we had the Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace case. It involved WTOP, the station owned by Kay Graham, The Washington Post, in the Washington, D.C. area. A bunch of business people who were used to being able to buy anything, and I mean anything, for money, were stunned when they had a commercial they wanted to run and couldn't get on the air. A general had discovered along with them that war is not only "unhealthy for children and other living things," but is also unhealthy for business.  They wanted to run this commercial. They went into the station, and something like this exchange occurred. They said,

"Youíve got time for sale?"

"Oh, we sure do. We have sales people out there trying to drum up business all the time."

"Well, here we are, weíve walked into your station. Give us your rate card, we want to buy some time."

And the station's advertising manager said, "Whoa, just a minute now, letís look at that copy. Oh, my God, weíre not going to let you say that over this radio station."

Well, the businessmen were stunned. They didnít realize that could ever happen to a businessman who was well intentioned, had the money, put it on the counter, was a willing buyer.

They went to the FCC and the FCC agreed with the station.  I wrote a stinging dissent.  It went to the Court of Appeals and they overturned the FCC, it went up to the Supreme Court justices, and they said,

"No, U.S. Court of Appeals and Commissioner Johnson, youíve got it wrong.  With the WTOP owners' right to free speech goes their right to censor. They can keep that commercial off if they want to, even though they are selling time for other points of view, even though they are out there selling commercials, they can make this content-based decision. Such censorship is not only not prohibited by the Constitution, it is their constitutional right."
Well, it goes on.

Ralph Nader had figured out something called the Citizenís Utility Board to represent public utility customers interests. He argued that the customers of PG&E, the gas and electric utility out in California, were paying for the envelope that brought them their bill, paying for the stamp, paying for the printing of the bill, and the envelope had a half an ounce left in it that wasnít being used. He wanted to put a little announcement in there that people could join this public utilities board, ďCUBĒ he called it.  And, by golly, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed with him. "Thatís a good idea," it said.

But once again it was the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned this common sense. When PG&E took it up to the Supreme Court, the Court said, "It doesnít make any difference that the subscribers are paying for the envelope, the stamp, the printing of the bill, and itís got an extra half ounce in there Ė that extra half ounce belongs to PG&E. They are exercising their First Amendment rights and they can keep everybody else out of that envelope if they want to."

[DB]:  Let me just interrupt you for a moment.  I have to do a quick promotional break.

*  *  *

Now continue for us, if you will, Nick Johnson, with that history.

[NJ]:  Well, let me just wrap it up.

The point I was making is that even though AT&T had an absolute monopoly, because anybody who wanted to get into that system could do so, there really was no problem with that ownership.  So, ownership is not the problem.

The problem is when you combine ownership with the current Supreme Court position that every owner has the right to censor everybody they disagree with.

Now, when you have that policy, youíve got a problem even if nobody owns more than one radio or television station throughout the United States. Within even a little community, the person that owns the station can keep the local troublemakers off of the station, they can decide they are not going to sell them time, they certainly arenít going to give them free time. They can control the content of what the people of that community get to find out about.

Now obviously, if you are going to permit the owner to censor the content, and then permit them to own 1200 stations, radio station like Clear Channel, you have a real un-American practice insofar as what the founders of this country had in mind with the First Amendment and with the public dialogue.

[DB]:  The bottom line question Ė is there anything that either the FCC, if it were inclined and clearly isnít, or Congress, which seems to be somewhat ambivalent, could do in light of what looks like the Supreme Court, at least as presently constituted, saying you canít do it?

[NJ]:  Itís going to be difficult, but my preference would be to start off by limiting ownership to one station to one person.

The Act still says that licenses are to be given, or taken away, or renewed, to serve "the public interest, convenience and necessity."  So, by my standards when I was on the Commission, what that meant, it seemed to me that at least youíd have to agree, that it means something more than profit maximizing 24 hours a day. Because profit maximizing 24 hours a day is going to occur in a marketplace system with no regulation whatsoever.  And it also should mean that the person who wants to own two stations rather than one should have a burden of showing why the American public is going to be better off, why this is going to better serve the public interest, than if she just owns one station.

[DB]:  What we have now, we had Ben Bagdikian on about a month ago.

[NJ]:  Yeah, I saw that. I was listening to some of your archived programs. Since you were promoting that on the air here a moment ago I might mention to any listeners that havenít done it, you can listen to Dave all the time.  Just tune him in on your computer.

Benís great, and apparently even though he told me he wasnít going to revise his book and come out with the 87th edition, heís done that now I guess.

[DB]:  Actually, itís the eighth.

[NJ]:  Well, I was just teasing.  This monopoly in media is the subject of his wonderful book. I urge anybody to look at it, in addition to my website, www.nicholasjohnson.org, for things Iíve been writing over the past 40 years.  The reason he has to come out with eight editions is that the problem just keeps getting worse and worse.

[DB]:  What was it?  Fifty companies controlling most media when he first did it in 1980?  Itís now down to five.  He says 80% of all media are in the hands of private corporations in the realm of broadcasting Ė just four, Viacom, Disney, GE, Murdochís News Corp.  That's the question, and we are going to get to it about a minute before the bottom of the hour.

[NJ]:  And itís deliberate.  When Time and Warner merged, way back then, I asked them, "Why the hell do you guys want to merge anyway?" And I was told by one of the executives, "Someday thereíre going to be five firms that control all the media on planet Earth and we intend to be one of them." And so it has now come to be.

[DB]:  I left out Time-Warner, thatís right, it was five and Time-Warner was one of them.  He had not included GE at the time which would now be part of that.  In any event, do we end up with one or two, and at that point does antitrust rather than the FCC take it?

[NJ]:  I donít see the antitrust scholars very upset about much of anything, to tell you the truth.  Iíve never seen a merger I liked, and Iíve got an antitrust colleague who's never seen a merger that he doesnít like. So Iím not sure thatís the way it will go. What we are talking about is public policy.

[DB]:  Weíve got to break it here.  It will be all phone calls after the break.  Dave Berkman joined here by Nicholas Johnson, former FCC Commissioner, hero to a lot of progressive folks during the 1960s.

[First Caller (Greg from Stanton)]:  Just kind of curious.  I recently heard about Rupert Murdoch being the sole source for his newspapers' picks of candidates. It leaves me thinking: it had to go through the editor of the newspaper as well as the editor of the news stories.  It had to go through the news people, and nobody objected to publishing it.

[DB]:  You donít say no to Rupert.  Rupert is a throwback to William Randolph Hearst. Weíve seen nothing like him in American media for 80 or 90 years.

[Caller]:  But what does he do? Does he limit the editor, or tell him what or what not to print?

[DB]:  Yes, if you read the New York Post, the New York Post will decide on a political candidate, and then virtually changes its whole news page, as opposed to editorial page coverage, into a continuing editorial in favor of that candidate.  The Murdoch press is notorious for this.

[Caller]:  And then the other topic is, I donít know if you get our local stations, but we have a gentleman named Mark Hyman who is vice-president of corporate relations for Sinclair. He gives an opinion, and you are allowed to argue with that opinion. But guess where? Online. There is no confrontation on TV. Itís almost like Rush runs the opinion section there.

[DB]:  I have to qualify what I said earlier. I said we have nothing else like Murdoch.  Sinclair Broadcasting, which is now running local newscasts coming out of its headquarters in Baltimore, at times runs newscasts that make Rupert Murdoch's Fox cable channel look almost liberal.  You are talking about this kind of excess in broadcasting.

Is there anything today that can be done about that, Nick Johnson?

[NJ]:  I would add an apocryphal story I often tell, in response to "How does Murdoch do it?"

I tell the story of the new journalist who goes out and on her own puts in a lot of time coming up with a wonderful bit of investigative journalism. She is so proud, and puts it on the editorís desk. The editor looks it over and says, "No, I donít think we are going to run that."

So, the second time she has an idea for a story she remembers the first experience. Now she goes to the editor first and pitches the story idea before she does any research or writing. Once again he says, "No, I donít think weíre going to do that story."

The third time she gets the idea she remembers her first two experiences. So she doesnít even go to the editor with the idea.

And the fourth time? The fourth time she doesnít even get the idea.

In other words, you can very quickly figure out, in an institution in which you have no job security whatsoever, that if you are making mortgage payments and raising kids, and donít have media job options elsewhere, you know what is pleasing to the boss and whatís not, and youíve watched the people whoíve been fired for what theyíve said.

Somebody told me the story yesterday of a fellow in Saddam Husseinís cabinet, who addressed the question -- apparently a true story -- whether Saddam would benefit himself and his government by resigning, just temporarily. The fellow suggested that maybe that would be a good idea, and then Saddam could come back in power later and they would have accomplished their purpose. The messenger of that idea was apparently cut up in small pieces and put in a box and delivered to the family.

Now, Murdoch hasnít gone quite that far yet, I donít think he cuts up people in small pieces and delivers them to families in a box.

[DB]:  They just havenít found them.  But as Dick Cheney says, simply because they havenít found them doesnít mean they donít exist.

[NJ]:  Thatís right.  People catch on to whatís expected of them when they don't have tenure or a lifetime appointment.

I remember a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals where I clerked before I clerked for Justice Black. I wrote him a note because they were burning crosses in his lawn over some of his civil rights opinions. This was the 5th Circuit down in the south in the 1950s.  And I said how brave he was and so forth with these opinions he was writing. He wrote me back about the effect of a lifetime appointment on oneís courage.  So there is something to that.

[DB]:  As I keep stressing here, very little censorship is overt. Most of it is self-censorship, because you know what the boss is going to be comfortable with.  We are going to go to Nancy from Grafton.

[Caller (Nancy)]:  Hi.  Does the FCC rule on the power thatís allotted to stations, because here in our area, we have a polka station, 104.9 in Hartford.  Well, a country station came in at 104.7 and itís so powerful that itís just drowned out the 104.9.

[DB]:  Thereíve been so many complaints about that.  I believe the Chicago Technical Bureau of the FCC is looking into it.

[Caller]:  I wrote letters to the FCC and heard nothing back from them and a lot of people did that listen to that station, and thereís a lot of people that are really upset.  I just wondered, does the FCC control this?

[NJ]:  The short answer is ďyesĒ.

The longer is that there are a couple of possibilities.  One is that the station is over-modulating, because the FCC no longer requires engineers, so nobody knows what the hell is going on. Another is that the station is deliberately putting out more power because the larger your audience, the more you can charge the advertisers, since you are selling your audience to the advertisers at a cost per thousand listeners.  But, thereís another possibility, and that is the FCC -- in its response to the political pressure that comes from large campaign contributions to local members of Congress and so forth -- may have been changing its rules to try shoehorn in more and more stations.

The FCC does decide where stations are going to be located, how much power they are going to have, and what frequency they are going to operate on.

[DB]:  There was a transmitter move that was the cause of this, it wasnít a shoehorn in, but the transmitter moved clearly close enough to a station where it would have some negative implications.

[NJ]:  Or itís another variety of shoehorning something in.

I complained about it. I wrote a lot of dissenting opinions about that while I was on the Commission, with AM radio stations.  They kept dumping in more and more AM radio stations. And as anybody knows who is driving out west and tuning into anything between about 1100 kilohertz and 1700 kilohertz at night, you donít get anything but just a lot of interference.

[DB]:  I would write a letter to your local congressman, which he will refer to the Commission.  It would seem to me that if you want to become paranoid and think about political sensitivities, polka listeners are probably a group, and Iím making some assumptions here, that the present administration doesnít want to offend.

[Caller]:  Weíll see.

[DB]:  We are going to go now to Nick from Milwaukee. Nick has a question for Nick about a fascinating matter.  Go ahead, Nick.

[Caller (Nick)]:  Thanks for having me on.  My question is, Iím a younger man, and during the week I travel down in Illinois and during that time, when, of course Iím not listening to NPR, I tune into the Howard Stern show.  I am curious, that as a former FCC Commissioner, what your take is on the whole Howard Stern-FCC battle.

[NJ]:  My first suggestion would be that you find WILL out of Champaign-Urbana and listen to them. Theyíre pretty good, too.

[DB]:  Actually, you can get WBEZ in northern Chicago.

[NJ]:  All right.  But, I think that the emphasis the FCC and Congress are now putting on the so-called "indecency" on radio and television is politically driven hypocrisy.  It doesnít bother me if the FCC wants to concern itself with offensiveness on radio and television.  But, letís start with the commercials.

[DB]:  You know what bothers me.  Michael Copp, who some people are looking at as the Nick Johnson of the 21st Century, in fact is even more censorious, has come on even more strongly against this terrible material that the Howard Stearns of the world preach.  And there are some anti-First Amendment implications there that sure scare the hell out of me.

[NJ]:  Well, they do me too.  And Iím a big fan of Michael Copp.  I just disagree with him on this one.

The position I took as a commissioner was, weíve got laws against obscenity and pornography and those laws are clearly constitutional. But I think when you start talking about "indecency," by legal definition indecency is protected First Amendment speech. It is also vary vaguely defined.

And when you start fining people millions of dollars for what some commissioner decides is indecent, well, talk about "chilling effect," to borrow that phrase from First Amendment law.

If you want to control a nation, the first thing you do is that you see to it that the media is controlled by the people that share your ideological beliefs. The FCC has done that.

The next thing you do is to concentrate the ownership in as few hands as possible, so you can have all the owners into the White House for breakfast around one table, instead of having to have a whole big White House dinner for them which is a lot more expensive and harder to manage.

And then, even though youíve got a handful of folks who agree with you ideologically and are willing to do your bidding, you still need to scare the hell out of them with something like this. They know they cannot step even one foot out of line. It's like giving the police the authority to stop any car on the road they want to, because everybodyís got a red tail light or something thatís wrong with their car that you can stop them for.

So if youíre going to be able to fine anybody you willy nilly decide you want to fine three million dollars for some one word -- or something else that Cheney finds perfectly acceptable on the floor of the United States Senate -- youíve got their undivided attention, let me tell you.

[DB]:  One of the interesting ironies here though is that Stern, whose eight million listeners tend to be predominantly male, tend to be predominantly conservative, Bush quoters, you name it.  He has become so incensed over this, that if you catch him, they are basically anti-Bush diatribes, and thereís a good chance that 500,000 or 600,000 of those votes or more, picking an arbitrary number, will end up following Stern and voting against Bush. In swing states, that could spell the difference and the White House, according to the Times and a few other newspapers, is clearly worried about this.

[NJ]:  Well, they may be worried, but I donít think that Kerry is any more likely to accept the support of Howard Stern than he has been to accept the support of Michael Moore.

[DB]:  Yes, but he ainít disavowing it either.

[NJ]:  He is certainly not complaining about it.

But, I think if you want to look at offensiveness, turn on your television over the dinner hour.

As Iíve written elsewhere, I would be far less concerned about trying to explain Janet Jacksonís right breast to a four-year old kid who has been breast-fed than I would trying to explain to him what is it you are talking about when you say any erections that last more than four hours had better be taken care of. Or the hemorrhoids and the diarrhea commercials. I mean if you want to concern yourself with offensiveness, it seems to me that you might as well start with offensive commercials.  And the fact is that, not only will the FCC not start there, they wonít finish there.  They will never get around to offensive commercials, because commercials make money and thatís what makes America great.   So, thatís why I say it's hypocrisy.

[DB]:  The other side of that coin is that you can end up saying that old people have problems with their orifices. Old people watch newscasts. And thatís why you see these commercials on nightly newscasts and why advertisers want to target those things that help the elderly.  Interesting question.

We are going to go to our next caller who is Jeff from Stoddard.

[Caller (Jeff)]:  Hi, I have been dying to ask this question to somebody for years, and this is probably the guy.  I want to know the rule, or the rule that requires a station to cut its power or directionalize its antenna during certain hours of the evening.

[DB]:  You are talking about AM stations.

[Caller]:  AM stations, correct.  And that time changes with daylight savings time, or as the year progresses along it gets different.

[DB]:  Should we get into the ionospheric layer, Nick Johnson?

[NJ]:  We are going to have to, at least briefly.

I tell my students in my Law of Electronic Media class that we will spend one evening discussing "everything you need to know about electrical engineering but were afraid to ask."

The answer to the question is that you can have clear channel AM radio stations where nobody else is operating on the same channel.

But if youíre going to have 10,000 AM radio stations around the country, you canít put two stations on the same frequency, even though they are across the country, if they are going to be operating at night.  Because at night, there is something like a giant tennis ball that surrounds the earth, off of which radio signals bounce. They go up and they hit that layer and they bounce back down to earth, and with as clear a signal as if you were right there in that town. So if somebody else is operating on the same frequency, it interferes.

If you are going to have a station at all, you are going to have it limited to daytime hours.  Now there is no problem with daytime hours during the summer. The problem comes in the winter because the money in AM radio is during what is called ďdrive timeĒ.

[DB]:  Yeah, WHA, our Madison AM station is severely limited after sundown. Although a little secret I will let some of you in on is that in fact WHAD, whose antenna is significantly to the west of Milwaukee even though it serves the Milwaukee market, pretty much covers most of Madison and you can pick us up at 90.7.  Does that answer your questions, Jeff?

[Caller]:  Oh, I guess the answer is the atmospheric conditions mostly then.

[NJ]:  Yes.

[DB]:  Okay, thank you. Next up is Tim from Madison.

[Caller (Tim)]:  Good evening.  What I did is, is kind of curious, after the Janet Jackson episode at the Super Bowl. What I do is to make it a point to listen to, for example, the 700 Club with Pat Robertson, and also the Coral Ridge Hour with Dr. James Kennedy on Sunday morning.  They have these vast writing campaigns. Okay, what you do is that if you call our 866 number, we will send you out a form to petition the FCC to change the regulation.  From the religious right, they had actually millions and millions of people to write it, to petition the FCC on regulation.

[DB]:  And you certainly faced that back when, Nick Johnson?

[NJ]:  Well, yes, but that is the way America is supposed to work.  If they get more petitions signed than we get signed, then they win.  Are they organized?  Yes.  Does it take the form of foundations that didnít exist thirty years ago?  Yes.  They are funding this effort.

[DB]:  The Left is finally getting smart on that. Moveon.org has been very effective.

[NJ]:  Yes. We havenít even begun to talk about the Internet yet, aside from the most wonderful programming available on the Internet, which is Daveís show that you can listen to.

[Caller]:  What I do, if I may mention one thing is, what I do that I find ironic, because what you do is if you go to public beaches of the world, whether itís Italy or Beirut, or South American whatever, you see topless women on the beach.

[DB]:  Okay, I think we get where you are coming from.  Iíve got to cut it here, not for the content of what you are saying, but because we are at the end of the hour.  I want to thank you, Nick Johnson, former FCC Commissioner, and for those of us that are old enough, a great hero of a past era.