OHA board scuttles talk of offer for KGMB
One trustee said the purchase could have been OHA's biggest business failure
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs' board of trustees yesterday rejected a proposal to explore the purchase of KGMB-TV, Honolulu's CBS affiliate.
The matter is not dead, however, and Trustee Oswald Stender may bring it up again.
Before the board's vote on the issue yesterday, Stender had sought a 72-hour deferment, seeking more time to address concerns raised by some of the trustees, but the deferral motion was voted down.
The two chairmen of the committees that had moved the proposal forward on Wednesday, Dante Carpenter and Boyd Mossman, were not present for yesterday's discussion and vote, "and with all the questions on the table, it would have been reasonable to wait until the chairpersons returned to the table so we could discuss it ... rather than make a decision in a vacuum," Stender said following the meeting.
During the discussion yesterday, Trustee Rowena Akana cited media coverage of the issue, including critical reaction to the proposed purchase. "It really gets to me. I'm tired of people telling us ... what is good for Hawaiians." She intended to vote in favor of the proposal, she said.
Trustee Linda Dela Cruz indicated she would vote against the proposal, not because of the $40 million asking price for the station, but because buying KGMB would take money away from funding a micro-loan program for native Hawaiians. "The people come first. This kind of investment is out of style for now," she said.
Stender, defending the proposal by OHA's Assets Resource Management and Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment committees, said, "Opportunity in television is something that is sought after by investors."
"I'm really disappointed that we're not deferring, to really review it in depth and respond to the issues that were raised," he said.
Trustee Donald Cataluna questioned the 8 percent return on investment that Stender said the purchase could provide, noting that better returns exist with other types of investments. "In my experience since 2000, when OHA got involved in some kind of business, it failed." The purchase of a TV station could be its biggest failure, Cataluna said.
Trustees Cataluna, Dela Cruz, Waihee and Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona voted against the proposal.
Stender said he is seeking an answer from the OHA legal office on whether the semi-autonomous state government agency can own a commercial television station.
"If they answer, 'Yeah, we cannot,' that will stop the whole thing right there," he said.
If the answer is positive, then, "from the business side of things, I think it deserves another look."
Representatives of the Federal Communications Commission could not be reached yesterday, but it has previously issued licenses to government agencies for television and radio stations, which are mostly public broadcasting-type outlets. However, the state-funded University of Missouri-Columbia, home to a prestigious school of journalism, owns and operates KOMU-TV, an NBC affiliate in Columbia.
"In fact, the Legislature there got very involved in an issue when the news director there courageously told anchors not to wear flag lapel pins after 9/11," said Al Tompkins, broadcast and online group leader at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism school.
"There's plenty to be concerned about when anything that even smells like a government agency gets their hands on a television license.
"Government agencies have a habit of not being able to keep their hands off the throttle ... To a boy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail -- and government agencies have this need to regulate."