More on Fairness


The Senate Bill S-160 (The House Voting Rights Act) which is designed to add Congressional seats to the District of Columbia as well as other States, is bound to wind up with arms and legs sticking out all over the place. Strange animal. But that’s the way Congress works. The Durbin amendment (D-IL) would direct the FCC to take “action to encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership.” Republicans argue that this broad language could pave the way for aspects of the Fairness Doctrine to be implemented at some point. Democrats argue that the amendment makes no mention of the Fairness Doctrine at all and that it would simply make sure that those entities holding a broadcast license promote views that are in the “public interest.”

Let’s face it folks, this “code-speak” basically means that in terms of ownership we need more minorities, females, and in my opinion, entrepreneurs of all types. Also, in the Congressional “code-speak” there is the link between minorities and the “public interest” meaning specifically that unless you are a minority you just don’t give a hoot about the public interest. We know it’s all about “agenda.” We know it’s all about constituency representation.  So why can’t our great Congressional leaders just say it outright?

We want to see more minorities, females, and upstarts (not necessarily the same as startups and not necessarily a mutually exclusive group) take an increased ownership role in the industry. That’s good and healthy and long overdue. But to simply equate “diversity” in ownership with a greater sense of “public interest” is wrong and insulting to all the owners in the industry today who cover public issues and operate in the “public interest, necessity and convenience.” Remember the phraseology is more than just “public interest.” These are two different issues. Congress needs to take them one at a time.

When it comes to diversity in ownership, what great, new, and novel ideas might the FCC come up with? Tax Certificates? Collateralization of Licenses? Ownership limitations?  Further dissection of the spectrum with translators and LPFMs? New station allocations with pioneer preference points in lieu of auctions? (A new entrant discount doesn’t mean much when the prices are super-inflated by the bidding process). All problems come wrapped in their solutions and often the old truths are still the best. Unfortunately we’re talking politics, here.  Not diversity in ownership, not “voices,” not diversity of “views” and last but not least the “public interest.”

Brett Miller
MCH Enterprises, Inc.
Paso Robles CA