Public Television

Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Launches SuperPAC Ad Rocket at PBS

Aside the news of North Korea's fireworks show failed rocket launch, a recent ruling in political advertising is threatening regime change in sovereign American. The New York Times reported that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed an old ruling "that public television and radio stations could not be prohibited from broadcasting paid political advertisements."

The ruling would allow organizations like SuperPACs, to begin advertising on public TV and radio stations. On the three-judge panel,  the justices were split, reported David Lieberman of Deadline New York. "Judge Richard Paez said, in a dissent, that 'for almost 60 years, noncommercial broadcasters have been effectively insulated from the lure of paid advertising.'”

In Reuters' report, American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, is quoted saying, the decision could "fundamentally change the character of public television and radio." The FreePress has already begun an effort urging supporters to sign a petition to stop "polluting public programming with these misleading and negative ads" by SuperPACs.

Community Media Maps Highlight Gap of Public File Info from Hawaii TV Stations

At left, are two maps of Hawaii television stations. The first shows all stations in the state, while the second has only stations where public file information has been collected and scanned. These maps are part of the Community Media Database pilot project designed to collect and present information about community media providers in the United States. To aid

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in the FCC's effort of getting television public file information online, the Community Media Database has created the map of U.S. community media providers by management type, using the National Center for Media Engagement's mapping tool. The map contains over 2,000 community access television providers and over 800 Low Power FM radio stations. More specifically, the site offers a state-by-state breakdown of Access TV, Broadcast TV, & Noncommercial FM Radio with Congressional Districts. At right, Hawaii is in focus, with pins color-coded and marking station ownership. Yellow indicates ownership by a non-profit group, of which there many stations represented. However, blue markers are commercial stations, which have the ability to broadcast throughout the state. (Click the map for more details.) We've just begun digging into the data, but will keep you posted on other findings as roll out our media and money tracking project for the 2012 election cycle soon.  

Author of FCC Info Needs Report Questions Broadcasters & Campaign Transparency

Last week, the Columbia Journalism Review published Steven Waldman's piece, "Local TV News, Meet the Internet." Waldman, the lead author in the FCC's Information Needs of Communities Report last year, specifically addresses how the broadcaster's public file is utilized during the election cycle. As the article sub-head and main question, Waldman asks, "Why are broadcasters trying to block political campaign transparency?" If you're at all concerned about campaign spending on media outlets, give the article a read. Otherwise, at least watch Waldman discuss the FCC's Future of Media Workshop and the Knight Commission from a conference last March.

Public Accessibility to the Legislative Process

In a February 9th article, Civil Beat reporters Lynne Nakagawa and Sara Lin, a good question was raised;

On opening day of the Hawaii Legislature last month, a long power struggle meant that the House of Representatives still hadn't picked it's leader. But when it came time for a voice vote, the cameras that had been on all day were inexplicably turned off. The Hawaii public, unless they were in the room, couldn't witness the events on the floor, but staffers and legislators who were in the Capitol could see it on a closed-circuit TV network. The incident raised questions about why there's one standard of access for lawmakers and other standard for the public.

Why indeed? According to Civil Beat, in a brief interview with House Clerk

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Pat Mau-Shimazu, the Olelo feed was cut as a cost saving measure. The House pays for coverage from Olelo, according to the House Clerk, by the hour. It's one thing to suspend the feed while the House is in recess, or in Caucus, as a cost saving measure, it's another entirely to cut the feed during a critical House vote for the Speaker of the House. While it also important to note, as Civil Beat did, that Pat Mau-Shimazu didn't have the authority to make the decision; only the Speaker of the House, according to House Rules, can make that call. Though the battle for an elected Speaker was ongoing, upon the opening of the Legislature, Representative Mark Nakashima, per the Hawaii State Constitution, was the acting Speaker. So not only is the decision to shut off the public feed a poor one, but it seems the decision wasn't even the House Clerk's to make.

Los Angeles PBS Station Fined by FCC

The website Television Broadcast reported on February 8th that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has fined the local Los Angeles Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) station $100,000 for violating a rule requiring the station to make available their public file. From the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture:

TV Station KCET, Los Angeles, California ("Community Television"), apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Section 73.3527(c) of the Commission's rules ("Rules") by failing to make available the State KCET public inspection file. We conclude that Community Television is apparently liable for a forfeiture in the amount of ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

The fine came after an FCC agent, on two separate occasions, visited KCET's studio, without identifying himself as such, and requested to view the station's public file. On the first visit, the station's security guard denied the agent access and suggested he call and make an appointment. On the second visit, the agent identified himself and was eventually given access to the public files, which were found to be in order.

While the FCC has levied such a large fine against a public station, members of the community here have attempted, with limited success, to view the public files of KHNL/KFVE (these two stations shared an office before the merger) and KGMB in advance of the media merger two years ago.

According to Larry Geller, who visited the offices with a couple of other residents, the General Manager at KHNL said he didn't know where the public file was. The GM located the file, but then said it was locked and the person with the key was at a meeting and not answering his phone. Larry left his number, but never heard back.

At the KGMB offices, Larry and others were able to review the file, which was in serious disarray, with missing documents, unsorted folders. Ultimately, they were unable to locate the material they were looking for and could not confirm whether or not the public file had been maintained properly.

After this experience, Larry filed a complaint with the FCC, but has not, as of yet, received any response. Media Council Hawaii finds it curious and a bit distressing that the FCC would respond as strongly as it did against a public station, while at least appearing to have no interest in investigating a complaint against private stations.