Open Mike8/03/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Editor: It stuns me that your magazine—the clarion voice of reason over the past 80 years—would be such a quiet pussycat on this astonishing stoppage of the radio/TV station license application transfer process since June 2, 2003. I don't think that this type of arrogant stoppage of normal, plain vanilla license transfer applications has ever had a similar block since the 1934 Communications Act became law.
Not only has BROADCASTING & CABLE been shy to speak up on this vital issue, but ditto all other major trade publications. Doesn't this display of haughty bureaucratic unilateral power make you mad? What happened to this industry's gut passions for yelling to the world: "This is flat-ass wrong. This high-handed stoppage of normal radio/TV transactions doesn't pass the test of Jesuit-Yeshivah logic."
Yes, as a station broker, I have an obvious axe to grind. When I was privileged to talk with Ken Ferree of the FCC at the recent New York State Broadcasters Conference, I expressed my concern about the predictable six-month length of this license transfer application freeze versus his dewy-eyed 21/2-month estimate. I also asked why the FCC didn't at least permit the vanilla-type applications to go through, those that had no remote base for a FCC past, current or revised regulatory concern?
Said Ferree: "Because that's what we [the FCC] decided, period, end of comment. We can't be concerned about making exceptions along the way."
National Association of Broadcasters President Eddie Fritts, standing next to Ferree, suggested this was something that the NAB should look into. To date, the NAB has been curiously quiet on this issue. Maybe it's just too small.
Although the revised Application Transfer Forms have been published in the Federal Register, the best-case scenario is that the FCC will begin processing all applications around mid September. That's if various headline-grabbing Senators don't bollix the works up and cause further delays.
Watching what has been going on—or not going on—at the FCC and on Capitol Hill clearly indicates that the normal station transaction process could be shut down until Halloween or beyond. Doesn't anybody care? Or are we all just going to roll over and play dead because this is what the bureaucrats have unilaterally decided?
I feel just like the late Peter Finch in the movie Network—shouting out my window—"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
I bet, if the broadcast trade publications couldn't take ads until the government approved and issued your revised ad-insertion forms, you'd be mad as hell, too.
Frank Boyle, Frank Boyle & Co., Stamford, Conn.