Everybody on all sides agrees that the 2010 Quadrennial Review should be data driven. However, Media General’s George Mahoney pointed out that there are limits to how much data broadcasters will comfortably be able to provide.
Mahoney said that in the pre-Telecom world, filling out government forms was a two-person job. Two people were on staff and paid a salary, and that is all that they did.
He said if the quest for data to inform regulators as they pursue the Review gets out of hand, it will force broadcasters to come up with those two staffers once again. In today’s economy, with staffing already cut to the bone, broadcasters will be forced to pull two people from other positions – perhaps two reporters will be called in from the field, plopped down at a desk and given the forms to fill out.
Regardless of where the station finds the employees, it would decrease the station’s competitiveness and damage its ability to provide quality local service, both antithetical to the entire point of the Review itself.
RBR-TVBR observation: When deciding what data it collects, the FCC must be able to discriminate between the desirable and the possible.
And definitions are important. If a station brings a nationally-syndicated talent – or even a crass hard-sell shopping channel — into a market, because the local audience wants to hear that talent, or likes to buy things from that crass hard-sell shopping channel, should should not be called to task because it is in fact serving a local audience desire.
That makes collecting such information pointless – and unless the FCC wants to pay the stations to collect it, as Mr. Mahoney points out – it’s too expensive to produce anyway.