Sunday, October 26, 2008

My WHRW saga -- video and transcript

Here is a video about my WHRW saga:

Bill Huston's WHRW saga from Bill Huston on Vimeo.

Hi my name is Bill Huston, and I'm from Binghamton, NY.

I've just had my clearence revoked from our local community radio station WHRW
where I've worked as a volunteer community producer for the last 6 years.

But before I tell you about that,
let me first tell you a little about myself.

I'm a techie from way back.
And I've got radio in my blood.

I grew up in the 1960s, surrounded
by audio gear, tape recorders, soldering irons
and oscilliscopes. I began audio engineering
when I was about nine.

My dad was a ham radio operator,
and a bit of a radio pioneer.
He was a member of the
Binghamton Amatuer Radio Association in the 1930s
And he built his own transmitter.
in an age when there weren't any kits,
so that was a really big deal.
I'm proud of my dad.

I got my first computer in 1979,
a Radio Shack TRS-80 with a whopping
4 kilobytes of RAM.

Heck, your IPOD or cell phone
probably has a million times that!

But that was the golden age of computers.
Me and my geek ham radio friends not only
learned BASIC programming on that old "Trash 80"
but Assembly language too. And we were hardware
hackers, adding mods for lower case and sound.

For 15 years, I worked as a computer professional,
as a Unix Systems Administrator, programmer, and
Consultant. I was top in my field and received
top dollar for my services.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because Mike Salzman, the General Manager of WHRW
says I borderlined the tech part of our annual examination!
That means "nearly failed".

Most of my friends laugh out loud when I tell them this.
They think of me as an expert techie.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of public service media work:

I've been a public access TV producer since 1995.
I've created two independent media organizations in Binghamton.

And I've done quite a bit of media reform activities,
filing petitions with different regulatory agencies,
like the FCC and the Public Service Commission,
and one federal lawsuit as a pro se litigant.

That means I didn't use an attorney. I wrote all the
papers and did all the legal research myself. I argued my
case before the second highest court in the land,
the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

I am also a published author in the area of Obscenity Law.
My paper was printed in Vol. 10 of Nexus Journal,
a peer-reviewed publication of the Chapman University School of Law.
Not bad, considering I am not an attorney, huh?
(whispered: between you and me, I never completed my undergraduate degree.)
I'm pretty much self-taught.

I'm really proud of my paper on Obscenity Law,
because I know I have contributed something original+significant
to the body of human knowledge,
which is one criteria for the degree of Phd.
And that's not my only magnum opus :)
I even have one friend who calls me Dr. Huston,
out of respect for all my work.

So, why am I telling you THIS?

Because the General Manager of WHRW says that
I failed the rules section of the annual clearance exam,
which I have passed successfully for the last 6 years!

And what was the area I am alleged to have failed?
Obscenity Law!

I'm not making this up folks.

Oh, there was one more part of the test they said I failed.
a question about "Calls to Action".

...which reads, "what is a prohibited Call to Action"?
And I answered the same way I have every other year.
It's a "call to go shopping".

This arises from WHRW's FCC license type:
Advertising is prohibited, and properly, I might add.

This rule is confirmed by the official WHRW guidebook
where an equivalence is made between advertising and
"calls to action".

This rule is also confirmed on the FCC website,
which mentions "calls to action" are prohibited
within the context of profits and advertising,
like "order before midnight tonight!", or any other
inducement to engage in commercial activity.

So with all the evidence in my favor,
what explains the fact that they marked my
answer incorrect?

We'll come back to that in a moment,
but let's first look into "calls to action" just a
but further.

Now the phrase "call to action" is misleading,
because one might think that getting on the radio
and saying something like GET OUT AND VOTE!
is prohibited speech. But that is grossly incorrect.

In fact, community organizing is one of the most
vital functions of Community Radio stations,
like WHRW.

So why was my question marked incorrect,
when it is clearly correct according to FCC rules and
the WHRW official Guidebook?

AND has been graded correct the past six years?

To answer that, let's rewind the clock one year
to fall of 2007...

that's when I interviewed a local citizens group which had
organized in opposition to a new proposed Walmart
in nearby Johnson City NY. During the show,
one of the guests mentioned that there was going
to be a public hearing that night.

So I said to the listeners, "If you are interested
in this issue, be sure to get out to this public hearing tonight!"

Station management accused me of making

What the... ?? Now I thought we were living in America
where people (like me) have a
Constitutionally Guaranteed right of Free speech,
and participation in government. Illegal???? I thought

When I pointed out the phrase "call to action" does not occur
anywhere in the CFR the Code of Federal Regulations
where the FCC rules are contained, they came back and
said I had in fact violated a Station Rule, and not an FCC rule.

Well, It all seemed to go away, when I told them,
a) there was in fact no such station rule, and
b) any such rule would be an illegal burden on my First Amendment Rights as a WHRW producer.

I also understand the General Manager
(the same one who graded my recent test)
did try to get me removed from the station at the time,
but it did not have support from the governing board.

Well now, GM Mike Saltzman has found a way to get rid of me.
And apparently he now has support of the board, which
voted 11-0 to uphold the GMs decision.
Now, there are a couple of additional irregularities
that you should know about!

First, at least two of the board members
(Daniel Jan Walikis and Tyrone Gray)
were under the mistaken impression that I
had not taken the test! So they didn't understand what they were voting on!

Next, they don't take a roll call, so they can't even
tell me which board members were present,
nor if there was a quorum necessary for conducting business.

Next, according to the station Constitution,
I qualify for an exemption from taking the test
because I have successfully passed it 6 years in a row!
There are many "old timers" at the station who
have not taken the test in years.

Next, the WHRW license is held by the State University of NY.
Now most schools use some numeric grading system,
like based on point system, 1.0 - 4.0
or based on 100%,
number correct answers / total number, etc.

So here are a couple of questions:
What was my numeric grade on my test?
and, What denotes a passing grade?

that is to say,

What is the objective standard
by which everyone is graded?

Let's listen in as we ask the WHRW
governing board that question....

WHRW Board Meeting: 9/22/08

Katelyn Manton (Program Director): In retrospect to the question on the logs
portion of the exam, there are 4 major questions...

(NB: I passed the logs section of the test.)

Bill Huston: Since I only have five minutues, can we skip the logs portion?

KM: I don't grade any other section.

BH: Aren't you, the program director, in charge of testing procedures?

KM: Yes, but I don't grade any section other than the logs section.

BH: Who is in charge of the rules section?

KM: Michael is.

BH: OK, my question for you Mike is this: How may questions denote a failing grade? How many questions can someone fail, and still pass?

Mike Saltzman: It is the judgement of the GM as to whether someone passes, borderlines, or fails the rules section of the test.

Did you get that?

It's completely arbitrary, subjective, and discretionary
on the part of the GM!

Whatever Mike Salzman says, well, that's the rule.

And the board now backs him up every time.
Why is that?

Well, because the board is not disinterested.
Everyone on the board is a cleared DJ also,

This is a major conflict of interest, because
This means they each have a show they want to keep.

So there is a lot of fear:

If they speak up, perhaps they will be the next to go.

And there have been several people who have lost
their clearence lately. Other DJs have suffered special scrutiny.

In fact, it may be a pattern. They are largely community members,
or people with radical politics, Two are minorities.
One person with a disabilty was made to feel unwelcome at the station.

OK, so let's be very clear...

For an FCC designated non-commercial / education licensee, there is only one kind of prohibited "Call to action" and that is a
PAID ANNOUCEMENT, an inducement to engage in for-profit commercial activity, also known as an ADVERTISMENT or COMMERCIAL.

This is how I answered on the test,
and this is how it is on the FCC website,
and this is how it is in the Official WHRW Guidebook
Yet it was marked "incorrect".

So what's up with that?

WHRW Board Meeting: 9/22/08

Mike Saltzman: I think that you are incorrect, and your answer was very wrong.

Bill Huston: Can we get a copy of the guidebook, please?

Rob Glass (reading from the Guidebook): ''You may not tell people to do anything which leads to profit for anyone. (Note: "tell" and "profit" are the key words in this sentence if you couldn’t tell!) Doing so is considered a "Call to Action". ''

BH: Rob, can you state the title of the section you are reading from?

RG: "Advertising and Calls to Action".

BH: Advertising and Calls to Action.

(NB: Remember, my answer was that a prohibited "call to action" was a "call to go shopping)

BH: So would you say that my answer is correct according to the guidebook?

RG: No, I would not.

(The narrator, perfectly calm and rational up until this point,
is becoming annoyed and beginning to lose his cool)

Now help me out here, people!
Am I crazy?
Or did he not understand what he just read?

who deserves a good SPANKING!??

(Rob Glass VO: "subjective, arbitrary, and HOMOSEXUAL!")

(fantasy sequence where Bill's brain explodes
Scroll: Welcome to The Matrix, Backwards Land, Samsara, etc.)

Wow, this just too weird. It's like a dream.
Life is but a dream. That's how the song goes.
And that's how it seems, sometimes.

These kids remind me of an old Star Trek episode,
"And the Children Shall Lead".

The thing that really bugs me is that these kids
who are controlling our local community radio station,
they're not even from around here.

One last point:

WHRW is student run. According to the station constitution,
most of the Board of Directors are required to be students.

Only 3 positions can be community members.
Of the three, the Chief Engineer and Record Librarian
rarely attend board meetings. The last position,
one of the Public Affairs directors, is not presently filled.

So, presently, there are NO community members
who participate as voting members of the board

WHRW is valued in the Binghamton area
as an incredible community resource.

However, the present composition of the student board
does not seem to value community members, older people,
or people with different ideological viewpoints.

Nor do they seem to value the importance of the
function of WHRW in the community, as one of the
few sources of local news and public affairs on the radio dial.

So, here's what I'm asking for you to do:

Please contact
Lois Defleur, President of SUNY Binghamton
Francine Montemuro, Ombudsman

and ask

1: that Bill Huston's status as cleared DJ be restored
2: that Bill Huston be considered exempt from taking future tests
as are all other "old-timers"
and 3: that the station constition be modified to require
a) more community members as voting board positions,
b) more disintrested board positions

Thank you


Nick said...

Bill -

Mark passed your video on to me. You make a strong case. What is going on down there?!

My best, ~Nick Venti, WHRW '99-02

Art Crass said...

You should try and bring up charges against them. It seems that there has to be some kind of laws about this or SOMETHING you can do about it.

They need to be reprimanded for this, and if it means raising hell and risking their positions at the station by making them look foolish, go for it.