Off Beat

Bring on the Mozart!

IN JANUARY THE Federal Communications Commission softened its stance on low-watt radio stations in an effort to give churches and other community organizations a cheap means of disseminating information. The change did not come without a fight from bigger outlets, including the Twin Cities' own Minnesota Public Radio, which broadcasts at 100,000 watts. On March 27 Will Haddeland, MPR's senior vice president for public affairs, penned an op-ed piece in the Star Tribune titled "FCC action threatens radio service that brings news to the blind." Haddeland contended that a proliferation of low-power stations would overcrowd the airwaves, endangering frequencies used by people who "cannot read" newspapers. Off Beat was deeply moved by the argument...until we got wind of the fact that just before it was published, MPR had applied to the FCC for its own low-watt frequency. Haddeland explains that the network's classical music station, KSJN-FM (99.5) is plagued by a dead spot in downtown Minneapolis. Construction of a 13-watt "translator," which will broadcast at 91.9 on the FM dial, will allow Twin Cities residents unfettered access to classical music. Off Beat asked Alan Freed, local advocate of low-frequency radio (and anti-MPR zealot), what he thought of the move. "It's bullshit," says a peeved Freed, who says MPR has simply found a shrewd way to rob low-power stations of potential new territory. "They're really doing this in a smoke-filled backroom, and they know it." Haddeland refuses to respond to the charge, and instead questions Off Beat's journalistic integrity for paying attention to a lowlife like Freed, whom he refers to as a radio "pirate." "I'm not going to get into charges that Alan Freed is making against us," sniffs the MPR exec.

Radio-Free USC

MPR LIKEWISE HAD no comment on some other recent behind-the-scenes radio news. In April the station announced its purchase of Marketplace Productions, producer of the popular programs Marketplace and The Savvy Traveler, from the University of Southern California (USC). The deal prompted officials from the Minneapolis-based distributor of those programs, Public Radio International (PRI), to file suit for breach of contract, charging that the two parties had consummated a deal without consulting them, as required by their contract with USC. (See Burl Gilyard's April 26 news story "All Unquiet on the Western Front.") Well, the peace-loving Off Beat is relieved to report that this ugly matter has been put to rest. In a joint statement dated May 31, MPR and PRI announced that the suit has been dropped in favor of a new deal that "calls for both organizations to invest in the further development of Marketplace." PRI will also continue to play the lead role in distributing programs such as The Savvy Traveler, while MPR will have sole responsibility for editorial and production matters. Bet you're wondering the same thing Off Beat's wondering: What might MPR have put forward to sweeten the pot? Well, we'll never know--nobody at either organization is talking, and we couldn't get much more out of USC Radio president Martha Harris: "They [PRI] haven't been negotiating with us," says Harris. "That's all I know."

Christmas Every Day

OFF BEAT WAS touched by a recent report that last year Canada's prime minister received precisely two gifts from his constituents. We're heartened, though, to note that here in Minnesota folks are far less stingy. In response to our request for an enumeration of every gift Gov. Jesse Ventura has received since taking the helm, the governor's office provided a 22-page list. In addition to two new copies of the New Testament and a tome titled The Dark and Dreadful Day of the Lord, Ventura has received 16 bottles and 12 bars of hemp-oil soap, a hemp meditation cushion, a hemp facts calendar, and "several" bags of hemp chips. (Ventura's spokesman Paul Moore had no comment on any potential therapeutic benefits of the chips; he was uncertain as to whether the governor has consumed them.) Music is another popular present for the Gube Who Has Everything: Among the 20 additions to his CD collection is a disc by a Southern California punk band called the Needle Pimps. (Song titles include "Princess Dead," "She's 14," and "Charlie Manson Raped Madonna.") In case all this has you in a gift-giving mood, bear in mind that the governor already has a microwave bacon cooker and a cheese-grater mask. How about a pair of season tickets to the Guthrie Theater instead?

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