As I was closing the books on 2000, I ran across some background materials saved as fodder for editorials throughout the year. As I looked through the clippings, one consistent theme was clear.
There is an obvious dislike by broadcasters and this industry for the current FCC Chairman, William Kennard. I've been in this business for more than 20 years and don't recall any of the previous chairmen being referred to continually in such strongly negative terms.
To be fair, the FCC Chair always gets criticized for its actions. Remember when the First Class license was eliminated? How about the battle over AM stereo? Remember the fits and starts about HDTV?
More recently, does anyone recall that consummate politician, Reed Hundt? That guy had his political finger up in the air so much trying to measure the Potomac winds that people thought he had a broken arm. If he'd been more of a leader than a meteorological politician, we wouldn't be in the DTV mess we are now. He juked back and forth on where DTV should go like a Heisman running back. He never did decide which way to go. He wanted to be seen as the guy who took the ball across the goal line. Unfortunately, all he did was delay the game.
Now we have William Kennard. If he's not the most disliked Chairman ever, I don't know who might have that honor. But why? I believe in giving the guy some credit. Unlike Hundt, who never met a politician he wasn't trying to impress, Kennard has adopted a more militaristic approach. Since his coronation by President Clinton, Kennard has been doing everything possible to promote his boss's political agenda.
The most oppressive of Kennard's measures has been his vendetta against broadcasters' use of DTV spectrum. His and Clinton's singular goal has been to raise money through the sale of spectrum. We're talking presidential legacy here, so get your priorities right. Of course, when you're in the food line, Clinton will be back in Arkansas and Kennard will be a highly paid lobbyist in D.C.
For this administration, it's been "damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead" on everything from idiotic spectrum sales to bestowing FM station licenses on anyone and everyone who might represent some kind of minority viewpoint. Whether it's all polka music all the time or broadcasting for left-handed kazoo players, Kennard is ready to let you create interference with the traditional broadcaster. After all, it's the right thing to do, politically.
If it weren't so expensive to broadcast video, I'll bet the guy would be handing out licenses for low-power TV stations like he does for LPFM. Fortunately, he's about to lose his job and it can't come too soon.
One of our sister publications, Telephony, recently ran a feature-length article on Kennard's stewardship of its industry. I went through two bottles of antacid trying not to throw up on the laudatory platitudes the writer bestowed on the guy. I'm serious. I stopped reading twice and looked again at the cover just to be sure he was writing about the same federal baloney bureaucrat I knew. According to the article, Kennard is the best thing since Alexander Graham Bell said, "Come here Watson, I need you."
Stewardship is not what I'd call his tenure. Let's hope that the president-elect tosses Kennard overboard before he sinks this ship.