Abercrombie, Press Club ask review of TV deal


POSTED: Thursday, November 05, 2009

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and the Big Island Press Club have added their voices to Media Council Hawaii in expressing either outright opposition to, or concern about, the combined operation of KGMB-TV and KHNL/KFVE-TV that is now under way.

Meanwhile, the stations' shared services agreement has some viewers seeing nothing and has KITV and KHON seeing red, for different reasons.

The newscasts on all three stations are prepared by a single newsroom, and one parent company, Alabama-based Raycom Media Inc., now operates two top-rated, network-affiliate TV stations in Hawaii.

The Big Island Press Club, the oldest organization of professional journalists in Hawaii, expressed “;strong opposition”; to the stations' shared services agreement in an undated letter to the Federal Communications Commission. The club also supported the media council's early October request, pending before the FCC, for a “;standstill order”; against the proposed agreement.

Abercrombie's letter was more cautiously worded, asking the FCC to “;carefully review”; the plan for joint operations as it is “;important to ensure that Hawaii's public interest does not suffer.”;

“;The merger cannot help but lead to the loss of editorial diversity and may violate FCC ownership rules,”; Abercrombie wrote. His letter, dated Oct. 16, “;implore(s)”; the commission to review the stations' plan and respond with its findings. “;The broadcast landscape in Hawaii will be dramatically changed by this plan and I would like to ensure that it does not diminish the public good.”;

Meanwhile, viewer complaints about losing the ability to watch CBS network shows and KGMB-TV's local news and other programming have been pouring in to local television stations, the media council and your columnist's e-mail inbox since the changeover Oct. 26.




        Media Council Hawaii

Hawaii News Now




On that day, KGMB's far-reaching digital, over-the-air signal began carrying KFVE-TV programming and KGMB's programming disappeared from many homes, as it was placed on the weaker transmission facilities that formerly carried KFVE's University of Hawaii and MyNetworkTV programming. Industry estimates of the percentage of Hawaii households receiving television over-the-air range from about 2 percent to as much as 6 percent, and it is those households, which are either not served by cable or satellite, or which cannot afford pay-TV services, where TVs go dark when tuned to KGMB.

Station officials were not able to get corporate clearance to comment by deadline, but the Star-Bulletin previously has reported that transmission facilities for KGMB will be moving to a higher elevation that will enable the signal to reach more homes.

When the move and any corollary fixes will be completed is unclear.

On another front, the council “;has learned that the Raycom stations have insisted on shooting HD (high-definition) video when it participates in the video pool for cameras in the courtroom”; and other pool arrangements, such as the St. Damien commemoration on Molokai. The HD-formatted video is not compatible with equipment at KITV and KHON and has a different, odd appearance as a result.

Local industry officials who did not want to be quoted said KGMB could reformat the video into a more usable form, but it has not yet done so.