Missing Witnesses To History


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin talked about the historical significance of Thursday’s announcement of the Wilmington, N.C., DTV test  as posters proclaimed "First in Flight, First in Digital" taking a page from the North Carolina license plate.

But missing from that historic press conference were two of the five FCC commissioners, and the only two Republicans other than Martin. Why, you ask?

Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell were both on travel, according to their offices. McDowell was on a panel in California, while Tate was in the DTV trenches speaking to a collection of seniors in Chicago about the digital switch.

But couldn’t they have rearranged their schedules in anticipation of this historic moment?

Turns out they didn’t learn, or at least their staffers didn’t learn, about the press conference until yesterday, according to a couple of FCC sources, too late to rearrange their schedules.

The press may be partly to blame for the short notice. TV Week broke the story of the test market yesterday morning, which was followed on and expanded on by others in the communications press corp. Ted Hearn of our own Multichannel News pinned down the Sept. 8 date with some virtual shoe-leather reporting, for example.

An aide to one commissioner said that likely prompted the quick calls to commissioners that a press conference would be held to tell everybody what everybody already knew.