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StarBulletin.com

Shared TV services strengthen stations


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POSTED: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coverage of the shared services agreement between KHNL, K5 and KGMB has included a variety of opinions, and it would be easy for the layperson following this complex story to become confused. In fact, I have been impressed with the excellent job local reporters and editors have done in explaining this story, filled, as it is, with legal and communications industry technicalities.

Some quotes have expressed concerns about the silencing of a news voice, the loss of production and reporting jobs, and a mainland company controlling the news programming broadcast by three stations in the local market. We believe these concerns are understandable, but fail to consider the most critical question: What was the alternative?

Many observers may not realize that the loss of any of these three stations, including KGMB, Hawaii's first and longest running television station, was a distinct possibility. Losing any one of these stations would have meant losing not only great local news programs, but also the points of view expressed on CBS and NBC network news programming, not to mention the entertainment, educational and cultural programming brought to Hawaii viewers by these affiliates.

Moreover, a greater number of jobs would have been lost had KGMB or KHNL/K5 been allowed to fail.

As for the diversity of voices covering the news, many longtime residents can recall when there was only one news station, KGMB. Later, other networks entered the market. And it was only 14 years ago that Hawaii reached its current arrangement, with five major local stations with news broadcasts.

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Many other markets of Hawaii's size have never had more than three stations with local newscasts, and there have been few complaints from viewers that they have been shortchanged on the news. Aside from whether more and more newscasts make for a better-informed public, the economics of the market place have changed to make this arrangement unsustainable.

Hawaii is an unusually small market to be supporting five major television stations, plus four independent stations, all competing for broadcast TV advertising revenue. Changes to the economy and the distribution of advertising dollars have forced many communications companies around the nation to make difficult decisions and adapt or perish. In 2009, Hawaii broadcast television market advertising is down by 30 percent, or about $20 million less, from what it was in 2006.

This decrease is partly due to economic forces and also because of the emergence of greater competition from cable television and businesses on the Internet, fighting for their share of the advertising dollars.

Some have questioned the wisdom of one company operating three of Hawaii's TV stations. The important point here is that the same local stations will continue to serve the community in which they operate. Although Raycom is based in another state, our model is not one of top-down control of operations and programming. We are made up of many stations, each of which is part of the community it serves. KGMB, KHNL and K5 will all continue to be locally managed and staffed by local residents. All will continue to be local stations.

Those who have been following this story may have questions about whether this agreement violates any Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations regarding ownership of multiple stations in a market. Based on everything we know, the examples we are aware of in other markets around the country, and our discussions with regulatory agencies and legal counsel, we do not anticipate any problems in moving forward with the agreement now in place. We believe our energies will be focused elsewhere, on maintaining the strong relationships all of the three stations have with their customers, suppliers and viewers.

This agreement will allow for KGMB, KHNL and K5 to continue to grow and strengthen these relationships and provide the highest quality of service to the people of Hawaii. We, at Raycom, are proud of our long relationship with Hawaii and we are excited that this agreement will allow us to continue to serve Hawaii and its residents in more and even better ways.