It was over quick. For most of Friday, September 13, at the downtown Washington State Trade and Convention Center, the cavernous exhibition floor at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting was business as usual, with small clots of well-dressed radio industry attendees circulating among elaborate trade displays. But for a brief 90-odd seconds, buzzing kazoos and shouting protesters drew a small crowd of the curious to the booth of a Clear Channel subsidiary. There, conferencegoers bemusedly witnessed a "product launch" by radio activists touting "Cheap Channel Radio Inc."--at least until police escorted the four banner-wielding protesters off the premises.

In an interview with The Stranger, the protesters, from the Prometheus Radio Project in Philadelphia and the San Francisco-based Media Alliance, decried Clear Channel's dominance of the radio dial. The company owns roughly 1,200 commercial stations (more than 10 percent of the national total), including five in Seattle--AM stations KJR and KHHO, and FM stations KUBE, KBTB, and KFNK--acquired in June with the $800 million purchase of the Seattle-based Ackerley Group.

The Cheap Channel spectacle was only one small aspect of the Reclaim the Media counterconference, running concurrently with the NAB gathering.

Though the activists ran an ambitious five-day program of seminars and workshops at Town Hall and protests, speeches, and musical performances in Freeway Park--which, at least on the afternoon of Thursday, September 12, drew sparse crowds--their campaign is unlikely to have a discernable effect on media deregulation and consolidation. In fact, the same day as the Cheap Channel protest, the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that the advent of cable television's multiple programming channels and the rise of the Internet have fundamentally broadened media choices, began considering the elimination of extant regulatory limits on the number and type of media outlets conglomerates are allowed to own.