The fact that you're here holding a public hearing open to all of us tonight (Wednesday, October 22) hasn't made much of a splash, since the story was buried or not covered at all by some of the news media in this town. Some of us know that it is a big deal that you're venturing outside of the Washington cocoon and are actually hearing from the folks you serve as federal officials. But just like the lunkheads that vote movie stars into office, or don't show up to vote at all, most people barely know what the Federal Communications Commission does and the big issues at stake.
These are also the same citizens who use the very communications venues that you regulate: television, radio, cable, satellite, telephones, cellphones, pagers, and two-way radios. They're the same consumers who bitch about cable rates, crappy cellphone signals, Howard Stern, and bare butts on TV before 10pm. They're the ones living in the gazillion channel universe, testing out satellite radio because corporate-conglomerate radio is too generic. They also spend hours on the Internet learning, shopping, gaming and checking out porn. They're also the same saps who get bothered by those annoying telemarketers. You actually have a lot of power over how we live, in other words.
That's why the decision to let Big Media gobble up more of the Little Media around the country isn't serving the citizens (or the lunkheads). It's already bad: one study shows that in 43 different American cities, a single company owns one third of the radio stations. Your June vote to raise the limit on the number of TV stations Big Media can own helped Big Media, not the millions of Americans who keep them in business.
Funny thing is, over 2 million of said Americans flooded the FCC with calls and e-mails protesting your vote, and even Congress got into the fray for awhile to reverse what you did. But after the owners of Viacom/CBS, News Corp./Fox, and Disney/ABC testified and unleashed their lobbyists (and didn't cover it on their news programs), the movement to stop your bum decision looks to be dead.
Chairman Powell, can I call you Michael? You've defended the June decision by saying that "today's media marketplace is marked by abundance," and that "news and public affairs programming, the fuel of our democratic society, is overflowing."
The fact that almost 90 percent of the top 50 cable TV stations are owned by the same Big Media that own the TV networks and the cable systems, seems to prove you wrong. And your colleague, Commissioner Copps, is a lone voice of reason, saying simply that, "having more channels that are all owned by the same few people does not necessarily mean having more diversity of editorial opinion and definitely does not mean more competition."
So tonight, you'll sit in our Government Center and hear from regular folks, seeking our input on "broadcast localism," as local broadcast license renewals are due.
Sometimes Charlotteans don't say what they really think, in order to be polite or to please the other folks in the room. Here's hoping you hear a few voices of protest from the lunkheads and the citizens who show up.
If you spend way too much time watching HGTV and shows like Trading Spaces, the folks that produce Discovery's Surprise By Design may be looking for you if you live in the Charlotte area.The show producers at Rocket Pictures tell me they're planning to shoot quite a few episodes of SBD in Charlotte in the coming months, and are still looking for willing subjects and their needy rooms. The goal of the show is to do a one-day redecorating or landscape project that will surprise a special someone you know. You provide the manpower of a few friends and family members, and the show provides the design team of Robert Verdi and Rebecca Cole and the $2500 budget to get the surprise accomplished.
INBOX FODDER: If you watch the Country Music Association Awards November 5 on CBS, look for WSOC-FM morning guy Jeff Roper, who's won the CMA Broadcast Personality of the Year award for large market stations, quite the big deal. . .North Carolina filmmakers will strut their stuff on UNC-TV each Saturday through November 22 in the "North Carolina Visions" series, now in its ninth season. Ranging from documentaries to experimental films and videos, it's worth checking out. Stay tuned.
Shannon Reichley is an independent television producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com.