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Univision Debate: It's Still Sí o No

By John Eggerton

Clinton likely to participate; Richardson, others undecided

Hillary Clinton the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination told Univision last week she wouldn't appear in the Spanish-language network's debate. By last Friday it appeared she might show up after all.

Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli, director of Hispanic Communications for the Hillary Clinton campaign, first said Clinton's reluctance to participate was because she has agreed to only appear at Democratic National Committee-sponsored events. Univision's isn't.

But late on Friday, sources close to Clinton pointed to a Miami Herald blog that said Clinton changed her mind about attending the Sept. 9 debate. Univision plans a Republican candidate debate for Sept. 16.

It's not lost on any of the candidates that deciding what to do about illegal Mexican immigration is a major divisive issue in this country. The planned 90-minute debates likely would be dominated by questions about immigration.

Sen. Bill Richardson, who grew up in Mexico City and speaks like a native, eagerly agreed to attend, but then became miffed because he and other candidates won't be allow to speak Spanish. He's still undecided.

In order to give all the candidates a “level playing field,” a Univision spokesman explains, the candidates would have to give their answers in English, which would be simultaneously translated into Spanish for Univision's audience. The questions would also be in Spanish, translated to English for the candidates.

Richardson Campaign Communications Director Pahl Shipley said that Univision had made no mention of the no-Spanish rule for the Spanish-language debate when he initially agreed.

“It is a Spanish language network, and candidates who speak Spanish should not be penalized because other candidates do not,” Shipley says

Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards, and other Democratic hopefuls haven't said publicly whether they'll attend. But if Clinton does, they almost surely will. As of Friday, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who also speaks fluent Spanish, had definitely agreed to appear.

Democratic Party sources suggest the reason candidates were not jumping on the idea was that by the time Univision extended the offer in June, the six so-called debates sanctioned by the DNC had already been set, suggesting the TV net was late to the party.

Clinton's campaign did not comment on why she is confining herself to those six “debates,” but one likely reason is that all candidates would like to prevent a flood of debate requests on the local and state as well as national level.

But she and others participate in other candidate “forums,” some for specific demographic groups. For example, Clinton, Richardson, Obama and Edwards all appeared at a gay forum sponsored by the Logo network last week.

If the Univision plan does not pan out, there will still be Spanish-language debates, of a sort. CNN's debates also air on CNN En Español, and NBC/MSNBC's two fall debates will be simulcast on Telemundo. But Univision's forum—it was not calling it a debate, though that did not matter in the Clinton tent—would feature Hispanics asking questions on issues specific to the Hispanic community, including immigration and health care.

Univision said its outlets would reach 99% of Hispanic population via its 62 TV stations, Website and radio stations—if it happens.

Pence Wants to Kill Fairness Doctrine

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told C-SPAN that he is still serious about forcing a vote on his bill preventing the FCC from reimposing the so-called fairness doctrine.

Pence, a former syndicated radio host who opposes reinstating the doctrine, added that talk about reviving it was prompted, in part, by a publication from a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Interviewed for the cable net's Communicators series, Pence said that former Clinton aide John Podesta's think tank, Center for American Progress, had issued a report on the “Structural Imbalance of American Talk Radio” (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/06/talk_radio.html) that recommended new radio ownership regulations.

On the heels of that report, he said, and in the wake of the collapse of the immigration bill (which most conservative radio talk show hosts vehemently opposed), prominent Democrats started talking about reviving the fairness doctrine. Pence decided that it was time to “run to the sound of the guns.”

The doctrine, which the FCC scrapped as unconstitutional in 1987, required broadcasters to air both sides of issues of public importance. Its demise helped spur the rise of talk radio stars like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Asked why he was still concerned about FCC action after FCC Chairman Kevin Martin assured him he had no intention of bringing back the doctrine, Pence said it was not about Martin, but about the next chairman, who could bring the doctrine back without consulting Congress.

Pence successfully amended an appropriations bill to put a one-year moratorium on using FCC funds to reimpose the rule and President Bush said he would veto any congressional attempt to bring the doctrine back. As a candidate back in 1988, the president's father also threatened a similar veto after President Reagan had vetoed one fairness doctrine reimposition bill and threatened a second.

Pence will sponsored the stand-alone Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent the reimposition of the doctrine, and vows to use “every tool in the box” to bring the bill to the floor. He says every Republican member of Congress and one Democrat—he did not identify the Dem—have co-sponsored the bill.

While some Democrats, including Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have talked about reviving the doctrine, most say it is a non-issue drummed up by—what else?—talk radio.—By John Eggerton

L.A. News Legend Fishman Dies

KTLA Los Angeles anchorman Hal Fishman, a presence in the Los Angeles broadcasting world for 47 years, died of cancer August 7. He was 75.

A former professor, Fishman kicked off his broadcasting career after he taught a politics class on the air at the request of KCOP in 1960 and was invited by the station to anchor the news. He jumped to KTLA in 1965, took over the 10 p.m. news in 1975 and held that position until his death.

Fishman racked up a long list of awards in his career, including an Emmy Award, a Golden Mike, the Outstanding Broadcast Journalism prize from the Society of Professional Journalists, a Lifetime Achievement award from the Associated Press Television-Radio Association and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, KTLA named its newsroom the “Hal Fishman Newsroom.”

He covered major news events including the Robert F. Kennedy assassination, the Rodney King beating and the Northridge earthquake of 1994.—By Michael Malone

B&C Names New Editors

Broadcasting & Cable named a new editor, managing editor, and two online editors as it prepared to expand its growth into new online media.

  • Mark Robichaux has been named editor of the magazine. The 13-year veteran of the Wall Street Journal and author of “Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business” had been executive editor.
  • P.J. Bednarski becomes managing editor. He will oversee newsroom operations and conceive Special Reports. The former Chicago Sun-Times entertainment editor had been executive editor of Special Reports.
  • Joel Topcik is online news editor. Formerly deputy editor, he will manage news, commentary and contributions to broadcastingcable.com.
  • Dave Cohen has been named Web editor. Cohen comes to B&C from sister site Multichannel.com, where he was deputy digital news editor. At B&C, he will manage the posting of text, audio and video content to its site, monitor and build traffic and help develop new services.
  • Tom Steinert-Threlkeld, editor-in-chief, becomes editorial director of Multichannel News and B&C, to oversee the increasing focus of the two publications on delivering news, analysis and multimedia content online, according to Jeff DeBalko, president of the Reed Television Group.
  • George Vernadakis, an executive editor at Multichannel News, becomes executive editor of print operations for the two publications. In that capacity, he assumes responsibility for the execution of Special Reports for B&C.

J. Max Robins has left his position as editor-in-chief of B&C, after 3½ years in that role to pursue other opportunities.

The print editions of B&C and Multichannel News remain the foundation of the brands' operations; each will continue to be published weekly.

“We are committed to maintaining the quality of our traditional products while structuring our business and accelerating our investments to take advantage of high growth areas such as online, events, and custom publishing,'' said DeBalko, who also is Chief Internet Officer of Reed Business Information.

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