How well is your TV station doing?
FEDERAL LICENSES for more than 18 Hawaii television stations and repeaters are up for renewal. Local media watchdog Chris Conybeare says that makes this an important time to ruminate whether the public is getting a fair return for local broadcasters' use of television airwaves.
Conybeare says he doesn't think the public is getting enough.
HOW TO COMMENT
>> Mailing address for public comments:
Attn: Video Division, License Renewal Processing Team, Room 2-A665
Office of the Secretary
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Call the FCC toll-free: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
Explanations of public participation in the license renewal process:
>> FCC Renewal Processs Handout (PDF)
>> The Public and Broadcasting (FCC Web document)
"Stations are supposed to operate in the public interest. We give them a license that allows them to make a great deal of money," said Conybeare, an attorney specializing in media and entertainment issues. He also is chairman of the Honolulu Community Media Council, but said he was speaking individually and not expressing a council position.
If a station is found not to be operating in the public interest, it can lose its license, but that happens rarely.
Hawaii's TV licenses will expire Feb. 1, and under the rules, any member of the public wishing to weigh in on any station's license renewal must do so by Jan. 2. The licenses are good for eight years.
Naturally the stations believe they are doing a great job of serving the community.
Conybeare did not say he wants any local station to lose its license, but he feels there is not enough local programming and coverage of politics, "and that affects our well-being," he said.
The recent four-station simulcast of the gubernatorial debate, Conybeare said, covered only one race. "How many political races are there? Have we seen (coverage of) the Board of Education candidates? Do who know who's running for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs? ... I don't think we see much coverage of those things."
Also, staffing cutbacks in television news departments mean "very few people are covering general assignment news," he said.
In response, KITV President Mike Rosenberg noted his station's "Commitment 2006" program to cover political races, adding, "I take great umbrage at anyone who says we don't cover news in this state."
FCC rules also allow anyone to inspect a station's public file during regular business hours and, in accordance with the rules, stations have been broadcasting that fact.
Public inspection files must contain several elements including the station's license, ownership information, materials relating to the station's dealings with the FCC, equal opportunity employment records and a political file pertaining to candidates' requests for air time and how the requests were addressed.
"We do everything the FCC tells us to for license renewal," Rosenberg said. An "awful lot" of paperwork is involved.
KHNL and KFVE Vice President and General Manager John Fink said he has been going through the same drill, "making sure the paperwork is done correctly and awaiting final FCC approval early in 2007."
Conybeare holds out little hope that the FCC will hold local stations' feet to the fire, at least, not without input from viewers.
"I really encourage people to take an interest in this. Those are our airwaves and those guys are making a good bit of money on our resources. Let's get something in return."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org