A number of members of the Class A television community made it to Nashville for yesterday’s historic FCC vote which would have possibly put them on the road to must-carry status, only to find the item scrubbed from the agenda. The culprit? The commissioners seem to be fingering one another.
Deborah Taylor Tate apologized to those who showed up at the meeting for a specific vote only to find the event dumped from the agenda. Jonathan Adelstein and Robert McDowell voiced stronger concerns, with Adelstein saying it was no way to run the Commission and McDowell calling the situation “shameful.”
However, in a conference call with reporters, Chairman Kevin Martin said he was very upset that the item had to be pulled. He noted that despite the fact that the item had been circulating for quite some time, the other four commissioners waited until Monday night. Among the edits was to strip the carriage requirement from the proceeding and downgrade it from a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to a Notice of Inquiry. He considered it meaningless without the carriage plank. It remains on circulation, where Martin indicated it would stay until more commissioners come around to his position. He said the measure was opposed by both cable and full-power broadcast interests.
For their part, the Coalition for Local Television and the Community Broadcasters Association Express were angry. "We are extremely disappointed by the cancellation of the meeting tomorrow in Nashville. In addition to the petition we circulated on Friday in support of the proposal from over 150 stations with diverse programming from across the country, many of those same owners and station employees were driving or flying from around the country on their own time and expense to be heard," said Mayela C. Rosales – EVP, Azteca America SWFL, D’Latinos and a member of the Coalition for Local Television. "How can we understand this cancellation to be anything but a confirmation that women’s and minority voices do not matter?"
RBR/TVBR observation: We are as surprised as anybody. We thought that at the very least, given the diversity issue underpinning this item, that it would be a slam-dunk Martin plus two Democrats vote. Instead, the item appears dead in the water.