Where credit is due
There is evidence that broadcasters are increasingly doing both well and good.
Doing well because NBC, CBS, The WB had record upfront ad sales. Even ABC did better than it probably had any right to expect. The total figure of more than $12 billion was a big lift in a general economy still down though clearly not out. Combine that with the 3.5% boost in first-quarter sales at TV stations (compared with a double-digit drop for 1Q 2001), and the numbers justify the up arrow and exclamation point on BROADCASTING & CABLE's "Rebound!" cover story last week.
Doing good because, as NAB pointed out last week, local TV and radio stations contributed nearly $10 billion in public service last year, a billion of it in 9/11 aid alone (see page 37 for Mayor Giuliani's comments). That $10 billion doesn't include network efforts or the value of the thousands of hours volunteered by station personnel. That's a powerful lobbying tool when government types ask, What have you done for us lately? The answer continues to be, "A lot." But that takes nothing away from the stories behind the numbers.
Here are just a few examples: When a "flood of the century" hit Houston, KTRH(AM) dropped all commercials for 72 hours of continuous flood coverage, then helped fill two 18-wheelers with relief supplies. KDRV(TV) raised over a million dollars to put computers in every classroom in Medford, Ore. With its Rock & Roll Up Your Sleeves blood drive (we love that name), WKHY(FM) Lafayette, Ind., collected 500 pints of blood. The list goes on (and on and on, occupying the better part of 100 pages of an NAB report).
We think doing well and doing good go hand in hand. A fiscally strong broadcast industry is good not only for its bottom line but also for the health and well-being of the communities served. Doing good in the community pays dividends in a strong local identity and in that unquantifiable feeling of knowing you have helped to make a difference.
Last week's complaint by WBOC-TV Salisbury, Md., about interference from a noncommercial station's powered-up DTV signal could be the tip of a very large iceberg. The FCC's DTV separation scheme was based on models that are only now being tested in the real world, where only half the stations doing DTV are at full power and two-thirds of the country's stations aren't doing it at all. WBOC-TV's complaint centered on a water-related propagation issue that the FCC has conceded makes interference predictions hazy at best. What other hazy predictions will come a cropper when all those DTV stations operating at reduced power start powering up. The FCC ought to grant WBOC-TV's request that its offending neighbor power down until the issue can be resolved and, for the foreseeable future, ought to show similar deference to preserving the integrity of existing analog signals.