Special to Kalamalama by Judy Tanouye
|The advocacy group is an offshoot of the 35-year-old Honolulu
Community Media Council, a mediation-friendly group which began
in 1970 when a dispute occurred between then Mayor Frank Fasi
and a local print reporter who was covering City Hall.
Honolulu is only one of a handful of cities that has an established
news council. The newly formed Hawai‘i Media Action Group
has kicked off a year-long pilot project entitled “Public
Interest: Local Obligations of TV Broadcasters.” It is
being conducted to coincide with the annual Federal Communications
Commission local TV license renewal process.
Television viewers might recall seeing an annual spot invitation
announcement from broadcasters for the public to visit stations
during business hours in order to inspect their public files
on such matters as correspondence on programs, political files,
children’s shows, and licensee applications to the FCC.
According to group member Christopher Conybeare, “HiMAG
was started as an action offspring of the HCMC to address a variety
of issues involving media and grew out of concern for the Emmis
violation of the duopoly rule and its implication for stifling
Conybeare added: “Phase one for volunteers will be to attend
a short training session (about two hours), followed by visits
to the major TV stations.… Depending on volunteer resources,
we may then look at the rest.
Initial station visits take two to three hours, depending on
what we find. There will then be a follow-up session to debrief
[and] write up findings for the FCC if necessary. The group will
together decide next steps, which could include meeting with
station management, monitoring content, etc.”
Regulation of the airways, and the FCC, became necessary shortly
after the sinking of the Titanic. Desperate relatives and friends
from several continents were unable to receive important and
timely information on the ship’s demise and survivors.
At that time, even President Roosevelt wasn’t able to communicate
with a member of his administration who had been traveling on
The conflict over communication control by a telegraph operator
on the ship, a national newspaper attempting to be the sole provider
of information on the big story, and a public frantic for information,
demonstrated an immediate need for federal intervention to preserve
people’s access to important information.
The public can comment adversely or positively to the FCC as
to whether it feels individual broadcast licensees have fulfilled
their obligations to the local community. HiMAG is seeking more
volunteers to visit and inspect the public files of licensees
and to provide the FCC with comments and recommendations based
on their findings and analysis. (An orientation and training
meeting is planned for the first week of December. For information,
e-mail himediaactiongroup@ yahoo.com.)
Informal objections to the practices or policies of a broadcast
licensee can be sent to the FCC secretary in Washington, D.C.
These are less stringent than a petition to deny a license or
a license renewal, which requires requires parties to have standing,
which usually includes more than being a regular viewer, even
one with a demonstrated, vital interest in the process. HiMAG
will provide standing to viewers interested in the process of
protecting the community’s unfettered access to information.
Future issues for HiMAG, depending upon local interest, could
include media ownership, Internet and broadband regulation, protection
of PBS, low power radio, and other topics listed on freepress.net.
According to the Bill of Media Rights: “The American public
has a right to: Meaningful participation in government media
policy, including disclosure of the ways broadcasters comply
with their public interest obligations, ascertain their community’s
needs, and create programming to serve those needs.”