Government should not allocate LPFM
William O'Shaughnessy, president, Whitney Radio, New Rochelle, N.Y. -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/16/2000 8:00:00 PM
The editorial in my beloved New York Times frames the LPFM controversy as a case of the "haves" against the "have-nots." We cannot win that battle.
From the very opening salvo in this war, I have been of the view that we cannot prevail if our response is based solely on technical grounds. The FCC has its studies. We have ours. But we broadcasters, above all, know you can "buy" just about any "study" you want. So they have theirs, which we consider "flawed." And we have ours, which the Commission (and now the New York Times) has called "bogus."
I again respectfully suggest it is the process leading to the allocation of these grants, the dispensation thereof, which is the problem. Who will have the power (or wisdom) to bestow these electronic podiums? And based on what criteria? Should the federal government even be in the business of evaluating the worth and merit of those lonely, "unserved" voices crying in the wilderness?
Even if government and its well-meaning agents-the FCC bureaucrats-were suddenly possessed of the judgment of Solomon and their judgments instantly informed by some kind of divine wisdom, which would make them so prescient and wise that they could reach into the multitude and cacophony of voices and absolutely identify the most deserving advocates and beguiling proponents of the current most wonderful and meritorious cause du jour.what about next month? Or next year? Eddie Fritts, with whom I have often disagreed, had it exactly right when he called LPFM "social engineering."
The government cannot, at a precise moment, fix, for all time to come, every problem of society. Societal pressures shift. The integrity of the recipients erodes and diminishes or becomes irrelevant. And yet the "grant" or franchise is still out there because the government, in the spring of 2000, all of a sudden decided to permanently "fix" something, which is continually moving and evolving.
I don't think a Democratic-controlled Commission should be in that business. Nor do I believe a Republican-influenced FCC (which we all desire) should bring its biases and preferences to the issue.
I am greatly taken with the notion that a radio station achieves its highest calling when it resembles a platform, a forum for the expression of many different viewpoints. I believe, as E.B. White suggested, that the instrument known as a radio can be more than a box or kitchen appliance. Or a jukebox.
We also have to acknowledge and share the concern of those academics, sociologists, free-speech advocates and many journalists that consolidation may not have been all that beneficial to the listening public by causing fewer voices to be heard in the land.
NAB has chosen not to advance the argument that we program in hundreds of languages and in many different formats. You can also get on stations in every market and tear down city hall, lambaste the mayor and rage and vent against "those people." As an essential part of our defense, we have not identified or celebrated the tremendous diversity that still exists on the airwaves of America.
And so we are faced, in an election year, mind you, with a federal government that wants to do some "social engineering."
Damn, but Eddie Fritts was right on this one!
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