Committed to the First Amendment
Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/23/2002 8:00:00 PM
Maybe if New York broadcasters promised to rechristen the site Mayor's Island, Michael Bloomberg would not dismiss out of hand the proposal by a still-hurting industry to locate a new broadcast tower on Governors Island. Hurting because 13 stations lost their antennas, and the lives of engineers working on them, when the Twin Towers fell. Hurting because, though back up on the Empire State Building, most are operating at lower power, unable to reach their entire markets. Hurting because they have yet to find a suitable site other than the site for which the mayor has prejudged them unworthy.
Mayor Bloomberg has taken a let-them-eat-cable approach that insults the entire broadcasting industry. "In this day and age," the mayor said on his radio show, broadcast on WABC(AM), "if you can see the sky, you can see a satellite. Or we have cable systems, and so having broadcast facilities is less important than it used to be." Tell that to Rudy Giuliani, who two weeks ago talked of the critical role NY broadcasters played during and after Sept. 11 (B&C, June 17).
Bloomberg has his heart set on opening a campus of the City University of New York on the island—a great idea that would not preclude placing a tower there. We're not saying that the environment, flight plans and aesthetics shouldn't be part of deciding whether to put a tower on the island. We're just saying that the first thing that needs opening in regards to the island's future isn't a college administration building, it's the mind of the mayor.
The FCC has decided to tackle all the ownership rules at once with an eye toward a spring 2003 unveiling. We're all for the commission's taking the time to get its ducks in a row on media ownership, but the commission already had a ready-made argument for scrapping its broadcast/newspaper-crossownership rules and should have already done so.
The commission extended the voice test to include newspapers and cable when it okayed same-market radio/TV crossownership in 1999. It was the right decision, and applying it more broadly would pave the way for newspaper/TV crossownership and duopolies in smaller markets.
The non-network station groups may have damaged their chances on newspaper/TV crossownership by hard lobbying against lifting the station-ownership caps. Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree suggests that the FCC sees all the rules as kissing cousins. Still, that doesn't change the fact that local-market voices have multiplied rapidly since the restrictions were put in place. The FCC has recognized that. The aligning of ducks notwithstanding, it shouldn't take a year to make it official.
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