LA Times: Is free TV worth saving in a 500-channel world?

With all the recent hoopla over media ownership, the Los Angeles Times raises a question that makes many broadcasters cringe:

“Is broadcast television worth saving, especially when the industry arguably has abandoned the pact struck decades ago—that is, in exchange for serving the "public interest," TV stations get to use the airwaves for free?”

The newspaper asks why give broadcasters the ability to become more profitable when many of them no longer air the kind of community-oriented programming that once was their mandate?

“Might it make more sense for Uncle Sam to fatten its coffers by taking back the airwaves and selling them to the highest bidder?” asks LA Times writer Sallie Hofmeister in the June 3 article.

“Although the notion is radical—and largely confined right now to a handful of politicians and the think tank crowd—the numbers are hard to ignore: Selling off the broadcast spectrum to wireless phone companies and other high-tech interests could fetch as much as $400 billion. The proceeds could help fund schools or health care or a public TV system free from commercial influences,” she said.

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