The headline was, "Democrats seek financial rescue of minority-owned broadcasters." My first thought was: Here we go again . . . another bailout. Not surprisingly, the headline led to an article describing a move by House Democrats to force the Treasurer Department to prop up what the left sees as minority-owned businesses just needing the same kind of helping hand they've already given Wall Street. You know, free taxpayer money.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-SC, is the key man charged with getting President Obama's banker, TurboTax Tim Geithner, to take "decisive action" to extend special credit privileges to minorities who want a bigger play in the broadcast arena.
The National Black Caucus submitted its own letter to Geithner, saying that "[minority] broadcasters are looking for continued access to capital to continue their otherwise fundamentally sound operations." Hmm, I'm confused. If their operations are "fundamentally sound," why do they deserve special, free money from the U.S. taxpayer?
Oh, I forgot. These businesses deserve free money because Chrysler, GM, AIG and dozens of other companies got government (taxpayer) money. Well, we can't argue with that reasoning can we?
But, what about other broadcasters who've had to deal with tough times of their own? Some have declared bankruptcy; many if not most have reduced staffs or otherwise found ways to deal with hard times. Woops; these aren't "minority businesses."
Another issue of unfairness and diversity was burning through the FCC office phone lines last month as Commissioner Adelstein pushed for an official "investigation" into Arbitron's use of its Portable People Meter (PPM) technology.
When asked about the FCC's authority to conduct an investigation into a private company's business and technology, Commissioner Adelstein replied, "Some have questioned whether we have the authority to conduct such an inquiry. Apparently they haven't read the Communications Act."
The issue exploded onto the front page when Arbitron's technology revealed far smaller audiences for some minority-focused programming than their stations claimed. A broadcast industry pundit noted that it was common for "urban" outlets to try and game the system by having their on-air personalities drive mentions and entries into diaries. Arbitron's PPM prevents this kind of cheating through technology. Now the FCC is pursuing its investigation on the basis of that wonderful catch-all word "discrimination." In today's Washington, D.C., circle, to be accused of discrimination is to be guilty of discrimination.
The complainants say that Arbitron's methodology is flawed because the sample group largely overlooks homes that have only cell phone service. Looking at the numbers shows that may be true:
- 20 percent of households had only cell phones during the last half of 2008.
- 17 percent had landlines but no cell phones.
- About three in 10 people living in poverty are from wireless-only households, nearly double the proportion of those who are not poor.
So, maybe 3 percent of the "urban listeners" might have been missed by Arbitron's survey methods. Does anyone but me think that any difference can compensated for that with a bit of math?
Ever the left-leaning activist, and now acting chairman, Michael Copps said, "[Arbitron's PPM] has a devastating effect on their [minority broadcasters] ability to compete . . . we [FCC] must understand the ecosystem in which minority owners operate."
The FCC will now conduct a "review" as opposed to an "investigation," which was the goal of complainants Univision, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the Spanish Radio Association.
Go get 'em Mickey. Your days as acting chairman are (fortunately) numbered.
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