[ OUR OPINION ]
New rules will tempt
MEDIA conglomerates are expected on Monday to expand their grip on the nation's radio, television and newspaper markets. Further consolidation will inevitably erode diversity and competition. Future action may be needed to undo the damage that the Federal Communications Commission is intent on causing.
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to relax rules restricting media conglomerates from controlling markets.
The FCC's agenda includes ending bans on ownership by one company of more than one of the four major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, or a full-service TV or radio station and a daily newspaper in a single market. Deregulation of the radio industry in 1996 resulted in four companies purchasing control of 21 Honolulu radio stations. Similar consolidation can be expected in the television and newspaper industries.
Allowing two big-four TV stations under single ownership would allow Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp. to keep both KHON and KGMB, which it obtained a waiver to purchase five years ago. A 1999 FCC rule allowing a company to own two TV stations, at least one of which is not in the top four, in the same market resulted in the less bothersome "duopoly" of KHNL and KFVE by Alabama-based Raycom Media Inc.
FCC waivers previously granted have allowed some media companies to own newspapers and television stations in the same market, such as the Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times and KTLA and Media General's Tampa Tribune and WFLA in Florida.
Gannett Co. Inc., which owns the Honolulu Advertiser, bought the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, where it also owns NBC affiliate KPNX, three years ago. Gannett expects the FCC will lift its ban on cross-ownership before the station's license is up for renewal in 2006, making a waiver unnecessary.
Gannett owns 22 television stations and 100 daily newspapers in the United States. It favors ending the cross-ownership ban but is understandably expressing caution about aggressively pursuing such arrangements.
"Advertisers who tend to use newspapers seem to be pretty exclusive from the TV list of advertisers or the radio list of advertisers," says Jon Mandel of MediaCom, a media services company. The possibility that conglomerates will find a way to make cross-ownership lucrative, to the detriment of the public good, creates a temptation that should be avoided.
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should be isles’ goal
IT MAKES good business sense for two companies that provide electricity in Hawaii to consider future production as demand for power will certainly increase. Even so, a pending deal between AES Hawaii Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Co. appears to point away from cleaner energy generation methods that may also move the state away from dependence on fossil-fuel imports.
Hawaiian Electric Co. is offered an option for another coal-fired plant to generate power.
AES Hawaii Inc., which uses coal to generate about 19 percent of Hawaiian Electric's power on Oahu, is offering the utility company an exclusive option to build a second 180-megawatt coal-fired plant at Campbell Industrial Park. HECO, which has contemplated building a plant by 2016, has no firm plans to do so at present, but maintains that having that choice is reasonable.
It is. However, with HECO and AES having the dubious distinctions of being among the top 10 facilities in Hawaii for toxic pollutant releases, more environmentally sensitive systems for energy production may be in order.
A Hawaiian Electric subsidiary is looking to invest $10 million in renewable energy projects. HECO also supports research into hydrogen fuel cells and photovoltaic, wind, biomass and ocean thermal energy technology with various partners.
However, the utility's perspective for expansion leans primarily toward traditional means requiring infrastructure that has generated conflict -- for example, the rejected Waahila power line proposal that cost the company millions to defend. Moreover, its initiatives for renewable and alternate energy production seem to be accessories in its agenda when they should be an aggressive effort to wean Hawaii from dependence on outside sources, such as the coal from foreign countries that AES uses.
Coal, despite anti-pollution devices, remains a major contributor to air pollution. In 2000, AES along with HECO's Kahe Point and Waiau generation plants were among the top 10 facilities in the state for toxic chemical releases, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Although alternate and renewable energy sources may not completely supplant fossil fuels, their abundance here should not be ignored. Planning for Hawaii's energy future must encompass them. Building another coal-firing plant should not be the dominating preference in Hawaiian Electric's blueprints.