URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

AND SO THE STORY GOES

After I ran the story of the history of the FCC and the Fairness Doctrine, I received an e-mail from Robert Manewith, a friend and former co-worker, who had a 37 year career at WGN radio and TV.  Manewith was also press secretary to former Illinois Congressman Michael Patrick Flanagan   Below, written in the first person tense, is his fascinating e-mail of how  Tribune  Broadcasting was effected by a particular FCC ruling.



You should have gone back one step to the Mayflower decision of 1941. At least one broadcaster, the owner of the Mayflower Broadcasting Company, “used” his airwaves to broadcast editorial opinion without airing contrasting viewpoints or offering others an opportunity to do so. The Mayflower decision prohibited the broadcasting of editorials.

Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission, (1969)  changed that. Specifically, it said, editorial presentations provided one way of meeting a broadcaster’s obligation to air programming dealing with controversial issues, so long as opportunities to reply were provided. Here’s where I come into the picture on a personal level.

The management of the Chicago Tribune — for the most part at that time concurrent with the management of Tribune Company — didn’t not want anyone “in the family” competing with it on editorial positions. The exception was the former Hearst paper, the Chicago American, which the company purchased around the time of Col. McCormick’s passing.

Ward Quaal, running the WGN stations at the time and who was very active on the national broadcast scene, wanted to do editorials. And Red Lion provided him the weapon, which I cited above. Here comes the personal part and the “however…”

Because the decision said, [paraphrase] one of the ways a broadcaster can fulfill its obligations is be broadcasting editorials and contrasting viewpoints, Quaal was able to convince the rĂ©gime at Tribune Company to allow the stations to editorialize. However, there was another issue, a “monopoly of voice.”

The FCC had adopted cross-ownership rules. Initially, an entity could own one AM, one FM and  one TV station in the market, but not a major newspaper and newspapers were barred from owning broadcast entities in their own market. Quaal lobbied successfully for a waiver, one that still exists today. 

Then there was the complication. Tribune Company had long ago forsaken FM, turning in the license for WGNB. But, in either a will or dying declaration, Bernard Jacobs, who with his wife (Rita Jacobs Willens) owned WFMT, wanted the station to go to WGN because he felt Quaal would maintain the standards he had established. 

So here we have two scenarios on stage. “Friends of WFMT” organized and went into US District Court to block the sale and WGN was going to start editorializing. One of the issues that might be raised, the Tribune lawyers surmised, was another editorial voice echoing Mother Tribune.

You may have heard of Don Reuben. He was a brilliant attorney, a major partner at Kirkland & Ellis (Kirkland and Ellis originally was known as Kirkland, Ellis, Hodson, Chafetz, Masters and McCormick, the colonel of the same name being a founding partner. ) and the Tribune Company attorney. He had a plan. Select an editorial director who could be instructed to be independent of the Chicago Tribune and to never read the editorial page. In theory, if the editorial director were called to testify in the WFMT case, he/she could say, in all honesty, that he/she didn’t know what the Tribune’s editorial policies were because he/she didn’t read the Tribune editorial page. The capper was to pick a liberal Jewish Democrat to do the job.

 In a practical sense, the Fairness Doctrine ceased to exist in 1986. We were at a convention of broadcast editorialists and the Reagan administration’s decision was announced at a luncheon. As an anticipated result, almost two-thirds of the stations that were broadcasting editorials at the time stopped doing so within a year. Some others carried on a little longer. WGN-TV stopped when the radio station, me included, moved back to Tribune Tower in 1986 and WGN Radio stopped around 1990 after I had been away from my desk for several weeks following surgery. By that time, to compensate for the loss of production on the TV side, I had been given a few other portfolios over the years, including editing and publishing a fan magazine, maintaining the “topics of public discussion” files for the FCC and reporting on music usage for ASCAP and BMI.

And that’s how, when we finally got everything in order to do editorials, I shifted from Manger of News (AM & TV) to Editorial Director of both stations. I once computed that over the years, I had written 4,000+ editorials. We had product seven days a week and usually one of those days was a rebuttal.

As to WFMT, we were not allowed to keep the license and donated it (maybe for $1) to WTTW, which owns it today and which has kept it the station Bernie Jacobs wanted it to be.

As John Nesbitt used to say when he concluded his movie short subjects, “And so the story goes…”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RED-HAIRED PEOPLE BAN TO BE IGNORED BY U.S. GOVERNMENT!




Because people born with red hair and green eyes are more attractive than others, which gives them a distinct advantage in life because all of the benefits they reap and don’t have to pay for, 200 years ago, the founding fathers decided that they would not be allowed to live in this country.  For years, proponents of red heads have been trying to get the ban overturned with no success in Congress.  Because of this outrageous discrimination, President Barack Obama, through an administrative ukase, announced that the government will no longer enforce the ban against red-haired, green-eyed people.  

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress she has authority to halt deportation of red-haired people as long as they meet certain criteria, such as dying their hair another color, shaving their heads or wearing a wig. They would also have to wear tinted contact lenses to change their eye color. The new rules would cover up to 300,000 red heads. In 2010, the government deported 20,000 who did not change their hair color. Under the new rules, most now would likely be allowed to stay, because they would not be distinguishable from other people.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said in a statement, "These red heads are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and maybe senators who will make America stronger and more attractive.  Maybe one of them will even win the Miss World or Miss Universe pageant and give America the recognition it deserves as the most beautiful country in the world.”

"This plan amounts to backdoor amnesty for hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of red haired, green-eyed people who have been hiding their true identity with dye and contact lenses," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement.”  We are a nation of laws, not men — or even strawberry blondes with emerald eyes.”

Brewer concluded her statement with, "Obama should focus on the American citizens who elected him, those struggling to keep their homes, their heads above water and those looking for jobs instead of telling agents of Homeland Security to ignore the law."

The Salon Owners of America Association was thrilled by the announcement. Horace Fuddrucker, president of the Association said, “This new ruling will drive a tremendous amount of business to beauty parlors through the land as red heads can now safely hide their identity by dying their follicles.  In my salon, we are already stocking up on boxes of Clairol black dye number 7.”

The Coalition of Ophthalmologists issued a statement saying, “Since we never break the confidentiality code that our clients have come to rely on, we cannot say whether we have already sold contact lenses to anyone trying to hide their identity.”  Not realizing the cameras were still rolling, Coalition Executive Director, Jeremiah Icu was heard saying that he had converted the eye color of fifteen people in the past month -- strictly off the books.  He was immediately taken into custody by an agent of the IRS for cheating on his business taxes.

For more information on the escalating hate crimes against red heads, please watch this video.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fair vs. Equal




Once in a while, I find a topic so fascinating, I like to present the story as if I were giving a college lecture.  So here goes.

Good morning class!  It’s a pleasure to be with all of you today!  Today we will be covering The Federal Communication Commission (FCC)  and the Fairness vs. Equal Time Doctrines.  If you do not want a history lesson, you are free to leave the room and take a nap in the advanced tax class next door.  There will be a closed book test on these topics next week, so if you choose to leave now, be forewarned.  All cell phones off now.  Yes, I mean you, little Johnny!

Last week, the FCC decided to remove the Fairness Doctrine, along with eighty-three other "outdated and obsolete media-related rules" from their arsenal of enforcement tools. 

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement on the FCC website, "The elimination of the obsolete Fairness Doctrine regulations will remove an unnecessary distraction. As I have said, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead."

Today we will ask and answer the questions:

What exactly is the FCC?
What is the Fairness Doctrine?
Why get rid of the Fairness Doctrine?
What is the Equal Time Doctrine?
How does this ruling affect the Equal Time Doctrine?

The Communications Act of 1934 combined and organized federal regulation of telephone, telegraph, and radio communications.  

The Communications Act has been amended by many acts of Congress since 1934, most extensively by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.   The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and the USA Patriot Act of 2001 added amendments that dealt with national security, law enforcement, and intelligence communities.

WHAT THE FCC DOES: 

The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934, and it operates as an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress. The commission is committed to being a responsive, efficient and effective agency capable of facing the technological and economic opportunities of the new millennium. In its work, the agency seeks to capitalize on its expertise in the following areas:

•Promoting competition, innovation, and investment in broadband services and facilities;
•Supporting the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution;
•Encouraging the highest and best use of spectrum domestically and internationally;
•Revising media regulations so that new technologies flourish alongside diversity and localism;
•Providing leadership in strengthening the defense of the nation’s communications infrastructure.

The policy of the FCC that came to be known as the “Fairness Doctrine” was to ensure that all coverage of controversial subjects by broadcast media be fair and balanced.  In 1949, the FCC felt that station licensees were “public trustees” and had to present both sides of issues of public importance.  The FCC did not want broadcasters to use their stations as advocates for just one perspective. (Professor’s note-That really has changed!)

The doctrine had two basic elements: broadcasters were required to devote air time to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters.  The stations could provide these contrasting views with news segments, shows related to public affairs, or editorials on the air.  There did not have to be equal time for differing viewpoints, but both sides had to be presented.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications  tells the history of the U.S. Supreme Court case that solidified the doctrine.  “The FCC fairness policy was given great credence by the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case of Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. FCC. In that case, a station in Pennsylvania, licensed by Red Lion Co., had aired a "Christian Crusade" program wherein an author, Fred J. Cook, was attacked. When Cook requested time to reply in keeping with the fairness doctrine, the station refused. Upon appeal to the FCC, the Commission declared that there was personal attack and the station had failed to meet its obligation. The station appealed and the case wended its way through the courts and eventually to the Supreme Court. The court ruled for the FCC, giving sanction to the fairness doctrine.”

By the 1980’s, the FCC’s stance on limited broadcast outlets became outdated with the advent of cable.  It has not been enforced for more than 20 years even though it remains on the books.  Journalists, of course, hated the doctrine.  They saw it as a violation of their First Amendment rights of free speech and free press.

No longer requiring fairness in the media won’t become official until the commission releases the full text of its order in the near future.

For homework, write a twenty-five page essay on whether you think the doctrine should have been enforced through the years and what effect, if any, its demise will have.  Back up your analysis with facts.  Due no later than tomorrow, at the start of our regularly scheduled class time.  If you need help, don’t bother me, just google it.

The FCC decision will have no bearing on the Equal-Time rule (originating in section 18 of the Radio Act of 1927 )  because that deals exclusively with broadcast stations giving opposing political candidates “equal time” during the prime time hours.  This rule does not apply to documentaries, legitimate news interviews, scheduled newscast or spot news coverage.

To me, the most interesting provision of this rule (which was codified in the Communications Act of 1934 as section 315(a)) is the section that requires broadcast stations to sell ad time to candidates at the same rate as their “most favored advertiser” and it prohibits a station from censoring an ad.

The reason I find this rule so interesting is because it means that politicians can buy media time very, very cheaply.  A candidate who might advertise only once or twice gets to pay the lowest available rate a station offers.  I have often wondered why some business owners don’t simply register as  candidates.  That way, they can advertise their company at the cheapest price possible.  But that idea should be something discussed by your marketing professor, not me!

I will now start the Powerpoint presentation.  Lights off.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

THESE STREETS AREN'T MADE FOR WALKING



The City of Chicago recently released the 2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis report covering crash dates from 2005-2009. . This analysis builds off of the previous effort with data from the five-year period of 2005 through 2009. The report is 106 pages long.  It’s full of beautiful charts, graphs and statistics. I would guess that besides the people who prepared the report, maybe ten others read it. 

The report was prepared by the Chicago Department of Transportation, T.Y. Lin International (TYLI) and The Center for Education and Research in Safety.  TYLI has a staff of more than 1,000 structural engineers with offices in the United States and Asia.  The Center for Education and Research in Safety was established to “develop, carry out research and implement sustainable and socially acceptable programs designed to reduce crashes and injuries, and improve safety related behaviors for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”

One can only imagine the monetary size of the consulting contracts these two companies have with Chicago, because the amount of research detailed in this report is staggering.  I can only imagine these contracts, because I entered both vendors’ names in the city database and received “no records” found as an answer to my query.

The report has 99 different types of technical analyses of statistics with data as minuscule as “Pedestrian Crashes (2005-2009) by Pedestrian Conspicuity in Dark Conditions”, and broken down to the very category from time of day, to highway time, to gender, age group, weekend, weekday, type of car, even the type of driver! 

The report contains nineteen different maps of wards, streets and even the distance of a particular crash from where a business holds a liquor license!   Kernel Density of Nighttime Crashes (9:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m.) Near Businesses with Liquor Licenses in Central Business District,  “Notable are two corridors along Ontario Street between Clark Street and Rush Street and along Columbus Drive/Fairbanks Court between Ontario Street and Illinois Street. In addition, there are several hot spots at intersections scattered throughout this area.”

Nationally, Chicago does well when it comes to the number of deaths of pedestrians by vehicles.  It is 40% lower than what Phoenix experiences.

Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 Population (2005-2009) of Top Ten Cities by Population

Phoenix  3.04
Dallas  2.69
Los Angeles 2.35
Philadelphia 2.21
Houston 2.17
San Antonio 2.07
New York 1.82
Chicago 1.77
San Diego  1.65
San Jose 1.64

There is no minute statistic that this report does not cover, except perhaps the color of the hair and eyes of a particular pedestrian who was in an accident, and perhaps the driver.

It might be nice to have all these charts and graphs record what happened in the past, but they are useless without a conclusion. With all of that said about the report, there is one section that is missing.  There is no conclusion on what the city can do to help prevent pedestrian/vehicle accidents in the future!

I could have saved the city millions of dollars in time and research if they had just come to me and asked what to do to prevent accidents between vehicles and pedestrians.  For $5, I would have sung the song to them that I was taught in Kindergarten.

“Don’t cross in the middle, in the middle of the block.
Teach your eyes to look up.
Teach your ears to hear.
Walk up to the corner where the coast is clear.
And wait, and wait, and wait until the light turns green!”

Okay.  Maybe I would have charged them $10.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chicago Stories August



Here are a few random thoughts that have been swirling around my head that I had to filter out to make room for new random thoughts.  My brain can only hold some many bytes of information before the hard drive crashes!


FRIENDS



I don’t understand the frantic means people go to accumulate excessive amounts of friends on Facebook.  I don’t know 90% of the people who ask me to be their friend, so why would I care about their pictures on vacation and their families? (which is the main reason people post)  I am lucky to have many true friends, but on Facebook people want to “stuff” their list with random people just so other random people who don’t know them will think they have a lot of friends. The practice of having random friends is analogous to an episode of Seinfeld, when George Costanza stuffed his wallet full of receipts (just in case he ever needed them).  Inevitably, his wallet finally exploded and he lost all the little pieces of paper in the wind.  If we have too many friends we cannot give them the individual love and attention they need.  I have less respect for someone with 10,000 friends on Facebook than someone who has 50.  After all, those 50 are really friends!


ETHICS STATEMENTS

 
Last week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the ethics statements of all of the city’s 36,500 employees are available online.

That statement is not entirely true for two reasons.  The first is because the ethics statements are from 2010.  There is no ethics statement for the current Mayor. (Your search for Emanuel, Rahm and 2010 yielded 0 Record(s). Please refine your search criteria and try again.)

Second, I searched a number of Aldermen’s names and got the answer of “0 Records.”  So I thought that maybe because Aldermen are elected officials, they don’t count as city employees.  But when I searched for Stephanie Neely, the city treasurer, who is an elected official, her ethics statement was posted and there is also one posted for Mayor Daley.

So why aren’t there ethics statements posted for Aldermen?  Not very ethical of Mayor Emanuel to say all the ethic statements are posted when they’re not!

I don’t believe in ethics statements anyway.  If I were doing something illegal, would I make note of it on my ethics statement? If I am unethical in my business dealings why would I list it?  The idea of it is absurd.


NO BID CONTRACT



Mayor Emanuel also announced last week that the city has hired Accenture, a private consulting firm, which his press release said will “conduct a complete evaluation of citywide procurement services, which will save the City up to $25 million by 2013.”

The press release also said, “The City’s contract with Accenture is one of many recent contracting changes implemented by the Emanuel Administration, including reverse auctions and stricter no-bid contract regulations.”

But when you read the terms of the contract, it IS a NO BID contract!  How did the city get around that little stumbling block?

But when one reads the terms of the contract the city made with Accenture it is a NO BID contract! How did the city get around that little stumbling block?

The exact wording on the contract is:


“Whereas, the City, pursuant to Chapter 2-92-649 (the “Reference Contract Ordinance”) of the Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC), may procure goods or services that otherwise would be subject to the Municipal Purchasing Act of Illinois (65 ILCS 5/8-10-3-4, as amended) by using an existing contract (9) a reference contract) of another unit of government:”


So what Emanuel did was connect the Accenture contrast to an already existing on the company has signed with Cook County this past April. Very tricky! I don’t find that maneuver especially ethical. But since the City is friends with Cook County, we will all look the other way.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WHY SOME PAY MORE THAN OTHERS


I started writing a blog about how, for the second time in two years, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) is giving away thousands of dollars ($1 million total) to induce homebuyers to purchase homes and condos in its mixed-income community developments.  Unfortunately, I became distracted by two “shiny objects” that stood in the way of the original story.

My first distraction happened when I went to the CHA web site to try to learn more about mixed-income housing.  I was not sure I agreed with the CHA’S “Plan for Transformation.”  The housing developments are structured so that one third of the structures are reserved for CHA leaseholders, another third is affordably priced, and the final third is sold at market rate.  Why would I want to live in a community where other people paid LESS money for the same home I had?  I know I would feel resentful.  I pulled up a description of the background of the program on one of the housing choices web pages  and that is where the first “shiny object” reared its ugly head and I just had to stop.

“Background

Cabrini Extension North includes approximately 18 acres of land on the city’s Near North Side. In 1994, CHA was awarded a $50 million HOPE VI Grant to facilitate the redevelopment of the Cabrini Extension North site. In 1996, the City of Chicago created the Near North Redevelopment Initiative (“NNRI”) that served as a general guide for the redevelopment activities. The Near North redevelopment area is bounded by Halsted Street to the west, North Avenue to the north, Orleans Street to the east, and Chicago Avenue to the south. The 1997 HOPE VI Revitalization Plan and the NNRI called for the construction of 2,000 to 3,000 new housing units, a new police station, two new schools, expansion/improvements of existing parks, a new public library, a new shopping center, and improvements to infrastructure. Of the total number of housing units, 700 units will be built for CHA leaseholders in good-stnading on land throughout the Near North area. CHA began acquiring units in 2002 at off-site properties and began the construction of Parkside of Old Town in 2006 on CHA land, which will be completed over several phases. “

I highlighted the spelling mistake in the paragraph so you would not miss it.  I went to other pages on the website, and they all had the exact same background paragraph.  It enraged me that nobody had seen that mistake and it had been on the site for years!

I then decided to check to see who the press secretary for the CA was so I could ask them about the typo. That is when I found the second shiny object that distracted me from the original story.

That is when I discovered that the CHA has a PR firm, Marilyn Katz Communications which had been getting paid $500,000 a year to promote mixed income housing.  The contract was downsized to $250,000/year for 2011.

Mary Mitchell, columnist at the Sun-Times wrote a story on June 10th
of this year about mixed income housing, and how she had visited some sites last year.  She wrote that she did not understand why Marilyn Katz was at the meeting.

Mitchell wrote, “I didn’t know at the time that Katz was on the CHA’s payroll. In 2010, she had a $500,000 contract with the CHA for communications consulting work. That contract was renewed in 2011 but was renegotiated downward to $250,000, according to a CHA spokeswoman. She was mainly working with O’Connell-Miller on the ‘Find Your Place Campaign’ to help sell units in mixed-income developments, O’Connell-Miller told me on Friday.

Katz is a high-powered professional and I mean no disrespect to her or to her firm. But again, how can CHA officials justify spending that kind of money on a PR campaign to attract high-end buyers when the agency exists to provide housing for poor people?”

I could not say it better than Mitchell did.  How could the CHA justifying spending that kind of money on public relations for a campaign that involved housing for poor people?

These two “shiny objects” sapped all my strength.  So maybe one of readers of this blog can answer the question, “Why would a home buyer want to pay more for their home than others in the same development?”  I just don’t get it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

BIRTHERS TAKE NOTE





No. 10-699
 In the Supreme Court of the United States
M.B.Z., BY HIS PARENTS AND GUARDIANS ARI Z. ZIVOTOFSKY, PETITIONER
v.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE 
In May 2, 2011 a petition was granted by The United States Supreme Court for petitioners to brief and argue the following question: “Whether Section 214 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003, impermissibly infringes the President’s power to recognize foreign sovereigns.  The case, Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, By His Parents and Guardians, Ari Z. and Naomi Siegman Zivotofsky, Petitioner v. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, will be heard by the Judges on November 7, 2011.

The case hinges on section 214 of The Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2002, subsection (d) which reads: d) RECORD OF PLACE OF BIRTH AS ISRAEL FOR PASSPORT PURPOSES.For purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.

Menachem Zivotofsky, was born in Jerusalem in 2002, three weeks after the passage of the Foreign Relations Act of 2002.  His parents, Ari and Naomi, filed a lawsuit after State Department officials refused to list Israel as his birthplace. 

At the time, the Bush administration said that Congress may not tell the president what to do regarding this aspect of foreign relations. The Obama administration agrees, so at issue is whether the congressional directive steps on presidential power.

When President George W. Bush signed the bill, he said he would not obey it. He said section (d), “impermissibly interferes with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs and to supervise the unitary executive branch.”

A New York Times story in July said, “The case weaves together generations of conflict in the Middle East, the dueling roles of Congress and the president in the conduct of foreign affairs and the combustible topic of presidential signing statements.”

Washington D.C. federal appeals court ruled against Zivotofsky  because they felt the conflict between the two branches of government was political and not appropriate for judicial resolution.  The Obama administration did not want the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the lower court’s ruling and filed a brief asking a writ of certiorari be denied by the court.

 “QUESTION PRESENTED: Whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the dismissal of petitioner’s suit seeking to compel the Secretary of State to record “Israel” as his place of birth in his United States passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad, instead of “Jerusalem,” when the panel unanimously agreed that the decision how to record the place of birth for a citizen born in Jerusalem in official United States government documents is committed exclusively to the Executive Branch by the Constitution.”

The Justices disagreed with the administration’s brief and granted the writ of certiorari.  They instructed both parties to address the question of whether the law, “impermissibly infringes the president’s power to recognize foreign sovereigns.”

All the fighting of power between branches of government aside, how can a person be issued a passport that only lists a city (Jerusalem) and not a country (Israel)?  Obama has already enraged the American Jewish population by calling for Israel to return to the 1967 borders.  This would be his chance for redemption.

Simply explained, the controversial question should be, “If an American citizen was born in Jerusalem, should the United States government  include “Israel” as the country of birth on the individual’s passport?”, instead of asking who has the power to decide, the President or Congress.