The Ward L. Quaal Leadership Awards will be presented at the Broadcasters Foundation breakfast on Wednesday, April 11, during the NAB Show in Las Vegas. The television-related winners are Marcellus Alexander, NAB; Richard Bodorff, Wiley Rein; and Patrick Maines, formerally of The Media Institute.
He’s spent 34 years as president and CEO of the nonprofit organization with three guiding principles: a strong First Amendment, a competitive communications industry and excellence in journalism. He will be succeeded by Media Institute Executive Director Richard T. Kaplar.
The Media Institute’s Patrick Maines: “PBS and NPR are again the subject of a contentious debate about their taxpayer funding. For years, Republicans and conservatives have accused NPR and PBS of ideological and political bias. Defenders of public broadcasting are on firmer ground when they extol the virtues of the cultural and educational programming found on NPR and PBS. Perhaps Congress would consider legislation that eliminates government support of public broadcasting’s news and public affairs programming, but preserves its support for cultural and educational programs.”
Media Institute President Patrick Maines: “The proposed merger between the cable systems of Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks has brought out the usual poseurs in opposition. As it happens, there exists a bridge between these armies of progressivism in the person of former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. Whatever the pros and cons of the Charter and Time Warner Cable merger — and there are many more of the former than the latter — it speaks volumes to know about the kinds of people who are in opposition to it.”
The Media Institute’s Patrick Maines: What is missing in yesterday’s denial of the NAB’s requested stay of the FCC’s new political file rules is what part of the “public,” other than broadcasters’ competitors and advertisers, would want to view the spot-by-spot ad rates. The simple fact is that the proposed aggregated data would actually be more helpful to journalists and interested citizens than the disaggregated data that the FCC rule now requires.
The question isn’t why broadcasters don’t want to provide their political files online (they are willing to do this), but why defenders of the FCC rule insist on requiring the online display of stations’ ad rates? After all, one of the main goals of the campaign finance laws is to provide, in a timely way, information about candidate and issue expenditures. It’s not the goal of these laws to compel TV stations to divulge their competitive secrets about ad rates and the like.
The bad news in the Rush Limbaugh controversy is that while some people are recommending that the FCC take him off the air or think he should be prosecuted; and after a number of his advertisers have been cowed into dropping his show, most of the media and journalism organizations one might expect to defend him have remained silent. Looking beyond the campaign against Limbaugh, one can see that this and kindred efforts aren’t going to end well for freedom of speech.
The long-awaited FCC report, “The Information Needs of Communities,” was released last week. Had the report endorsed radical (and preposterous) things, like a federal tax credit for investigative journalism, it would have attracted more ink, and been the subject of conversation far longer. But it’s a credit to its authors, and to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, that it did not do so, because it shows they possess both a realistic view of the scope of the FCC’s limited authority and a healthy respect for the First Amendment.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is now in his 10th and final year as commissioner and he still isn’t happy with the state of media and the journalism it supports. If he and the rest of the FCC couldn’t fix things during the last decade, perhaps the problem all along hasn’t been consolidation or avarice as he argues. Maybe it’s been that what ails the media, and the way forward, are more complex than to be availing of the kind of nostrums Copps has been peddling.