Open Mike


Pax wants in

Editor: Thank you for maintaining an interest in Pax TV. We appreciate the amount of coverage you have provided the network since its launch in 1998. But we would like you to consider the addition of Pax to your weekly ratings grid.

To briefly fill you in on our rapid growth as a broadcast network: We enter our third broadcast season having come a long way from our initial household coverage of 70% of U.S. households. Pax has grown to more than 81% coverage with 67 owned-and-operated stations and 53 affiliates via the company's nationwide broadcast television, cable and satellite-distribution system. We're proud to offer our family programming, a component missing from much of today's network television. And, with the full support of our partner NBC, Pax is growing faster in programming, ratings and demos.

On any given day, Pax beats 80% of the cable networks (some that have been developing their brand of programming for decades), and on numerous occasions our national ratings, especially of late, are higher and outperform WB and UPN.

In the world of media research, there is no difference [among] any of the seven broadcast networks. Pax is included in all Nielsen national reports along with the other six broadcast networks, and now, with our news, Olympics coverage and more original series programming, Pax has achieved the next level of success.

The advertisers and investment community are asking about our listing in B & C. We are asking you to please list Pax TV in your weekly grid.
-Jeff Sagansky
president and CEO, Pax

Crossing the lines?

Editor: Crafty Broadcasting System?

What were they thinking? ("Virtual ad, real suit," Oct. 9) Last New Year's Eve, when CBS, using PVI technology, electronically removed an NBC Times Square billboard and then replaced it with its own logo, appears to cross both legal and ethical lines.

NBC likely bought that outdoor advertisement based on measurements of exposures, or opportunities-to-see. Did CBS, in fact, take that opportunity away from consumers and NBC? That's a tough call. After all, it is an outdoor ad meant to be seen by drivers and pedestrians. TV viewers in this case would merely be icing on the cake. If I were CBS, though, I'd admit no guilt but not do it again. This sort of thing has the potential to throw the entire advertising universe into chaos!

P.S. By the way, PVI, it's not "CBS' air"; it's the public's air the affiliates are using. Try learning a little bit more about your customers before you go selling them your product.
-Scott R. Hamula, assistant

professor, Park School of Communications, Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y.

Fear of interference

Editor: In the early '80s, as program director for a suburban Washington, D.C., radio station, I was ordered by the station owner not to let the station's news department broadcast a news story about demonstrations at a local abortion clinic. If we did, he said, we would have listeners asking for equal time, and that would require the consultation of expensive FCC lawyers.

Today, as a Washington, D.C., attorney practicing communications law, I represent hundreds of large, medium and small broadcast stations across the United States.

A broadcaster recently screened a frequent caller from further participation in a talk show, determining the caller had already been on the air sufficiently. The caller threatened to complain to the FCC. The broadcaster called me and wanted to know if she should be worried, and would an FCC complaint carry any consequences.

Even today, with the Fairness Doctrine 13 years deceased, broadcasters still worry about unwelcome governmental intervention in programming decisions.

Therefore, I respectfully disagree with your assessment that "these rules didn't inhibit much" ("Excuses, excuses," P.J. Bednarski column, Oct. 16). Perhaps not for the major broadcasters who have multiple lawyers on their payroll. But, for most broadcasters, the sword of the FCC still hangs. It is not about timidity to express an opinion. Rather, it is the fear of invoking unwelcome governmental processes that compels broadcast stations to avoid controversy.

The abolition of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 had the significant consequence of allowing for highly opinionated talk shows, both local and syndicated. Once station owners and management realized that no longer would unhappy listeners be able to threaten a complaint to the FCC, a free rein was given by stations to programmers and talk-show hosts for a wide-ranging expression of opinion that did not previously exist.

Hopefully, the abolition of the political-editorial and personal-attack rules will have equally beneficial effects upon the free expression of ideas by broadcast stations.

You are fortunate. The opinions expressed in your magazine may result in reader criticism, advertiser disapproval and even the prospect of circulation reductions. The opinions expressed, however, will not subject your magazine's owners to governmental intervention resulting in your magazine's having to forgo ad space to run government-mandated responses, possible fines and possible governmental revocation of your magazine's right to print.

If it would, I suspect that your magazine's owners would be more timid about what opinions were expressed in Broadcasting & Cable, if the owners allowed many opinions to be expressed at all.
-John Garziglia, Communications Law, Pepper & Corazzini, LLP, Washington, D.C.