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Sander: Broadcasters Shone at 9/11, Katrina

Broadcast journalists ran toward the World Trade Center on 9/11 and kept the information flowing during Hurricane Katrina.

And that’s why, in part, broadcasters need to fight to preserve their First Amendment freedoms, said NAB Joint Board Chair Jack Sander, senior advisor to Belo, in a luncheon speech hosted the Media Institute in Washington on the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

“With their cameras, notebooks and microphones in hand, radio, TV and print journalists put their lives in jeopardy to capture the events for the rest of the nation to witness,” said Sander.

During Hurricane Katrina, only one New Orleans television station—Belo’s WWL—remained on the air uninterrupted, commercial-free, for 11 days, even as 93 WWL employees themselves lacked information about their own devastated homes, Sander said.

Sander followed his praise of broadcasters with a dossier of issues facing broadcasters, many of which he described as threats to their First Amendment rights.

“Issues like the Fairness Doctrine and the changing definitions of indecency and violence are keeping broadcasters alert over potential threats to the First Amendment,” he said to the group of about 65 Washington lawyers, lobbyists, industry officials and FCC staff. “Contrary to what the name of the policy may suggest, we believe that the [Fairness Doctrine] is unfair, unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

What’s more, regulators and policy makers are weighing in on issues ranging from the advertising of food to children to violence and indecency.

Broadcasters are also battling to educate the public about the DTV transition in 2009, fighting the “performance tax” sought by record labels on radio stations, and preventing DTV interference from devices operating in the so-called DTV “white space”—or, as Sander called it, “interference zones.”

“Broadcasting is the cultural glue that connects our entire nation,” he said. “Therefore, I believe that it’s worth fighting the good fight to protect the invaluable role that local television and radio play in our lives.”