Editor: Your recent [column] regarding broadcast editorials ("Excuses, excuses") summed up the current industry's lack of interest.
As a broadcaster for 30 years, my father and I had been doing editorials on wghq(am), Kingston, N.Y., for 40 years until the station was sold last year. We prided ourselves in community involvement, and the station was accepted by its listeners for its concern.
When the new owners took over in 1999, their only interest was making money. Community service and involvement took second place. The new owners were "out-of-towners" with no involvement in the community. The new GM did not get involved in service clubs, the Chamber or other community efforts. Editorials? What were they?
After a year, the new owners sold out to another broadcast chain. So now wghq has had three owners within two years. Will the new group take a more active role in the community? Are editorials on the way? Time will tell.
Unlike years ago, with the three-year rule on station trading and almost enforced community involvement with archaic license-renewal forms, community involvement was a way of life. Now, with broadcast properties selling at unheard of multiples to commodity brokers rather than broadcasters, the emphasis has to be on sales and not on community involvement. In most cases, the only community involvement that takes place today is if it is underwritten by a sponsor. Otherwise, forget it.
The old fairness rules never dissuaded us from editorializing. We felt it was our responsibility as a broadcaster to inform the community.
Will we see more editorials by broadcasters? I doubt it. Unless they can be sold to a sponsor, most broadcast operations do not want to spend the money to editorialize, because it is one less dollar that goes to the bottom line of a balance sheet.-
Walter C. Maxwell, former chairman of the New York State Broadcasters Association