Public Interest Obligations for Broadcast Licenses
Revisiting Video Franchise Reform
Community Broadband Network
Dear Friends of NHMC,
Third Quarter of 2008 started with some disturbing news about the murder of a young, undocumented Mexican immigrant, Luis Ramirez, beaten to death on July 12th by up to six teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The 25-year old was walking home when these malicious young men brutally beat him while simultaneously shouting racial slurs. Local officials have suggested that this was just a “street fight gone wrong,” but this heinous act of violence is another example of how inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric in the media, hate speech, is manifesting into increased hate crimes against Latinos. The “immigration hysteria” fueled by irresponsible TV and Radio talk show hosts has surely played a role in the rise of hate crimes against Latinos, documented by the FBI. As such, Hate Speech in the Media continues to be the number one priority of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC).
The NHMC is dedicated to abolishing hate speech from U.S. TV and Radio and will continue to monitor these situations with the goal of raising awareness about this growing problem and pursuing the appropriate research to document our hypothesis that telecommunications have a role in fostering hate crimes. We are also working closely with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) who continue to apply pressure at the municipal, state and federal level. As a result of their efforts, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is now monitoring this murder case. Hate Speech in the media against Latinos and the Latino immigrant community in particular, will continue to rise if we do not get involved; therefore I am calling on our membership network to get involved. Write a letter to an offending radio or TV station, or to your local Congressperson. Click on to our “Latinos Against Hate Speech” website, www.latinosagainsthatespeech.org, and learn what you can do to combat hate speech in your respective communities. The issue of Hate Speech in the media is not going to go away over night, it will be a slow and laborious process but we must prevail because lives are literally at stake.
On a much brighter note, we are preparing to celebrate our 6th Annual Local Impact Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 to be held once again at the beautiful Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Our tradition of honoring those individuals or entities from Southern California continues as we prepare to honor Senator Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles, District 22), entrepreneur, Ruben Martinez, writer and arts educator, Josefina Lopez, and local news anchors Rick Garcia (UPN 13-News) and Ana Garcia (KNBC News). Please be sure to note your calendars to join us on September 24th for what promises to be another outstanding fundraising event for NHMC. For more information on the Local Impact Awards Luncheon please visit our website, www.nhmc.org, or contact Acasia Flores at (626) 792-6462.
The NHMC continues to lead the Digital TV (DTV) transition education campaign and on June 16th we hosted a press conference on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall to announce a city-wide effort to educate Los Angeles-area residents about the upcoming DTV transition from analog to digital television broadcast. Representatives Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Diane Watson (D-CA), along with Councilwoman Jan Perry (District 9) were on hand to stress the importance of educating our communities about this upcoming mandate from the FCC in February, 2009. The switch from analog to digital broadcast will predominantly affect seniors, low income and minority communities, so it’s very important that we work together to make sure everyone in our family, or neighborhood and our churches knows what to do to be ready for the transition. For more information on the DTV transition, please visit our website, www.nhmc.org, or contact Inez Gonzalez at (213) 718-0740.
In July, NHMC kicked off its “Latino Leadership Media Training” program here in Los Angeles by successfully media training Senator Gilbert Cedillo (D-CA, District 22) and Castulo De La Rocha, President & CEO of AltaMed Health Services. This media training program, underwritten by BP America and Verizon, will help ensure that our voices and POV will be heard in both local and national TV broadcasts, by training Latino experts across the country and across disciplines on how to effectively deliver their messages on local and national television. NHMC is currently identifying men and women who are experts in their respective fields with the goal of training these qualified Latinos to be “camera ready” for on-air television interviews. Once trained, it will be much easier to persuade local and national news Presidents and General Managers to use these qualified spokespeople on their newscasts and public affairs programming. For more information on this training program, please contact Cori Lopez at (626) 792-6462.
Finally, the scripts are pouring in as the September 2nd deadline approaches for this Fall’s Latino Television Writers Program. This year’s program will take place from November 8th to December 13th and each selected participant will be expected to complete at least once script by the end of the five-week session. Sponsored by NBC, ABC and Southwest Airlines, this extensive writing program is not for beginners. Rather, it is for talented writers who already have writing experience but lack the exposure that a program like this can provide. Like previous sessions, we anticipate great talent, great work and great opportunities for those writers selected to participate in this unique writing program. For more information on the Fall Latino Television Writers Program, please visit our website, www.nhmc.org, or contact Acasia Flores at (626) 792-6462.
Thank you for your continued interest and support of the NHMC mission of American Latino employment and programming equity and those telecommunications policies that benefit the Latino community. We will continue our efforts to affect positive changes for our community in the media for the remainder of 2008 and beyond.
President & CEO
National Hispanic Media Coalition
6th Annual Local Impact Awards Luncheon
NHMC is preparing to celebrate its 6th Annual Local Impact Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, September 24th at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Our tradition of honoring those individuals or entities whose achievements, generosity of spirit, or courage-under-fire have greatly benefited the Latino community in Southern California continues, and we are pleased to announce that both Laura Diaz, the lovely and talented news anchor from CBS 2 News, and charismatic radio D.J., “Big Boy,” from KPWR-FM Radio will be joining us once again as Masters of Ceremonies. This year’s honorees include entrepreneur and community leader, Ruben Martinez. Martinez owns “Libreria Martinez” bookstores and has been an advocate for Latino literacy his entire adult life. We will also honor veteran news anchor, Ana Garcia (CBS News), for her long-time commitment to covering those stories that impact the Latino community throughout Southern California. A Local Impact Award will also be presented to another “Garcia,” Rick Garcia (KCOP My13 News). Rick has an extensive background in News and Sports and continues to do an excellent job in serving the Latino community in his role as news anchor. We are also going to honor the prolific playwright, Josefina Lopez, for her life-long commitment to the theatre. Josefina is best known for writing the play, “Real Women Have Curves,” but has had more than 80 productions of her plays throughout the United States. NHMC will also recognize the Honorable Gilbert Cedillo on September 24th. California State Senator Cedillo (D-Los Angeles, District 22) has become a statewide leader for increasing and expanding access to health care, protecting the rights of working men and women and for assimilating immigrants into the California social and economic fabric. We hope to see you at this important fundraising event on September 24th. For more information, please contact Acasia Flores at (626) 792-6462 or email her at email@example.com.
Hate Speech in the Media: NHMC Update
As you know, Hate Speech in the media continues to be the #1 priority for the NHMC. We receive information almost on a daily basis about anti-immigrant rhetoric broadcasted on U.S. TV and Radio, adding to the “immigration hysteria” that is sweeping the country. NHMC is dedicated to abolishing hate speech from our broadcast airwaves and will continue to monitor these situations with the goal of raising awareness about this growing problem and mitigating hate crimes against the Latino community that, according to the FBI, continue to rise year after year.
Recently, we have witnessed two distinct cases of murderous violence that confirm a direct link between Hate Speech and Hate Crime. One incident took place in Knoxville, when a gunman walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church during a children’s musical and fired three rounds from a shotgun killing two people and wounding six others. Jim David Adkisson, an unemployed truck driver and former member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne, left a 4-page letter expressing his hatred of the “liberal movement” and stated that since “he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement, that he would then target those that had voted them into office.” Inside Adkisson’s house, officers found books by well-known media personalities associated with Hate Speech, that enjoy huge ratings and bring major revenue to their respective networks, including “Let Freedom Ring” by TV talk show host Sean Hannity, “Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder” by radio talk show host Michael Savage, and “The O’Reilly Factor,” by Bill O’Reilly. Adkisson is of course the criminal in this despicable crime, and there is no denying he was influenced by hate speakers.
The second incident took place in Shenandoah, PA where Luis Ramirez, a 25-year old, father-of-two and an undocumented immigrant was beaten to death by up to six teenagers. The teenagers hurled racial slurs as they pounded and kicked Ramirez until he was foaming from the mouth. In fact, Ramirez was stomped so hard, the medallion he was wearing around his neck was imbedded on his chest. Ramírez died two days later, leaving behind his kids and his American-born, non-Latina fiancée. In the beginning town officials called it a street fight that went too far. No official, we imagine, wants the scandal of a hate crime in their community. But thanks to the immediate action and pressure by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the facts soon came out. The teens were heard telling Ramírez to “go back to Mexico,” calling him a “dirty Mexican” and warning other Mexican residents to do likewise or wind up like Ramírez. Three of the teenagers have now been charged with ethnic intimidation. They have all pleaded not guilty.
In our last NHMC newsletter, we mentioned our new alliance with a grassroots coalition of concerned Latinos in the Bay Area, led by Dr. Marcos Gutierrez, that have taken on hate speaker Michael Savage and his ugly rhetoric. Gutierrez and his group Hispanic/Latinos Anti-Defamation Coalition, SF successfully brought over 500 people together last summer to protest the hate speech rhetoric against Latinos on “The Savage Nation” radio show. The protest was levied specifically against Clear Channel as well as the show’s host, Michael Savage. Due to the increase in hateful rhetoric and increase in hate crimes committed against Latinos and Latino immigrants, the San Francisco Coalition is planning another large protest; to be held around their first protest’s one-year anniversary. We will report to you the events of the protest in the following edition of our newsletter. Please note: Dr. Gutierrez broadcasts on Radio 1010 in San Francisco and 990 in Sacramento, or you can listen to his shows through his web page MarcosGutierrez.com from 9-11 a.m. and 12-1pm Monday through Friday, California time.
NHMC is a strong supporter of the First Amendment values of free speech, but it is now time for all of us to hold those officials and business entities accountable for supporting hate speakers while completely ignoring fairness, accuracy and balanced programming. At the top of this list, we encourage you to target network executives and advertisers who need to hear from their customers every time that we are offended by a message full of hatred and reporting inaccuracies. In short, we must let them know that “We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore!” In the two years that NHMC has been monitoring hate speech we have found that the most effective manner to deal with the hate speakers is to contact their advertisers and share with them our grave concerns at their sponsoring of hate speech in media. In that regard we have joined forces with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), who is ahead of the curve in this strategy. We will keep you posted on this alliance as we move forward.
For now, please go to www.latinosagainsthatespeech.org/ and voice your concerns to the supporters of hate speakers. We owe it to the recent victims of hate crimes.
Latino Television Writers Program
Time is running out for writing sample submissions for the 6th annual Latino Television Writers program. A writing sample of a half-hour comedy or one-hour drama along with the program application and release forms are due to the NHMC on September 2nd. Therefore, interested writers have less than 3 weeks to submit their works for consideration. The Fall 2008 program will take place in Los Angeles from November 8th through December 13th and we anticipate the participation from some of the best Latino writing talent from across the country. This program is not for beginners; it is a rigorous, 5-week course that provides the 10 selected writers with the unique opportunity to work with television network executives and showcase their respective talents and perspectives. The placement rate of the participating writers that emerge from this program increases every year, and the NHMC has a growing list of alumni that currently write for NBC, ABC, CBS and Disney. This level of talent placement demonstrates the important bridge that NHMC provides to secure writers access to key network executives and therefore an important means of securing more Latino creative talent in the medium of television. And equally important as “access” is “networking.” As such, the NHMC hosts bi-monthly meetings for the Latino Television Writers program alumni. These meetings are important to the success of the program and ensure that the program alumni are kept in the loop about industry issues and/or opportunities and the exchange of information is priceless. For more information on the Latino Television Writers program, please go to www.nhmc.org or contact Acasia Flores at (626) 792-6462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital Television (DTV) Transition Update
DTV is coming! DTV is coming! NHMC has been at the forefront of educating the Latino community about the upcoming DTV transition for months, and now we need your help in making sure that everyone that you know is prepared for this government mandate taking place in February, 2009. As you probably know, the country’s full-power television stations will transition from analog broadcast television service to digital broadcast television service on February 17, 2009. After February, 2009 all “analog” television sets will no longer receive television signals, so it’s important that everyone, including senior citizens, low-income and minority communities are prepared for the transition. Perhaps you are one of many that have newer digital television sets, or have cable or satellite service – then you are prepared for the transition and are already enjoying the benefits of better quality picture and sound and additional channels. Nevertheless, your work as a community leader is not over yet. We are calling upon our network to take action to ensure that no one in our community is kept in the dark!
You may be thinking that it may not be a bad idea for some television sets to go dark when the DTV transition takes place; perhaps it will inspire people to pick up a book or go out and exercise. The fact is television plays a key role in entertainment and passing/wasting time, but it is also a critical means to get emergency information to the viewer. Even with the increased popularity of the Internet, television remains the primary source for local news and the most efficient way to stay informed in the event of a disaster. This is why it’s imperative that no televisions go dark and this is why we are asking you to help us spread the word about this important issue.
It has been well reported that disenfranchised communities, senior citizens, low-income and minority populations will be most affected by the DTV transition. Latino viewers make up about one-third of the 21 million American households that rely on antennas to received over-the-air broadcasts and according to a report released by Nielsen in May Latino households are among the least prepared for the transition. You can help make the DTV transition a success by making sure everyone in your family, in your neighborhood and in your church knows what to do to be prepared for the transition. Elderly people in particular, may need assistance to install the converter box to their television set. The DTV transition is another opportunity for you to make a difference in your community.
How to prepare for the DTV Transition:
If you have an older television and depend on rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna you need to take one of the following steps in order to not be left in the dark on February 17, 2009. The following are your options to prepare for the DTV transition.
1. Purchase a DTV converter box NOW:
Each household in the United States and Puerto Rico is eligible to apply for a maximum of two (2) converter box coupons, each worth $40. It is estimated that converter boxes will run around $50 – $60. However, by the end of this month Dish Network will start selling TR-40 converter boxes at $39.99; this means that the converter box will essentially be free for consumers using the government coupon. Call Dish Network at 1-888-638-9912.
To get your coupons:
Apply by Phone: (888) 388-2009
Apply by Fax: (877) 388-4632
Apply by Mail: Post Office Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208
Apply On-Line: www.DTV2009.gov
(Do not hang on to these coupons as they will expire 90 days after issuance.)
2. Subscribe to a video service provider:
You can also subscribe to a cable, satellite or telephone company video service provider to continue using your analog TV set. In other words, if you already have cable, satellite or a telephone company video service provider you do not need to do anything regarding the DTV transition even if you have an analog television set. But remember, if you disconnect this service in the future you will need a converter box for your analog television to receive the transmission signals.
3. Purchase a Digital TV set:
Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner. All televisions with a digital tuner are able to receive digital signals broadcast by television stations.
For more information about the DTV Transition and the Coupon Program please go to: http://www.nhmc.org/dtv/ or contact Inez Gonzalez, NHMC Vice President, Media Policy at email@example.com.
NHMC Kicks Off Latino Leadership Media Training Program
In order to ensure that American Latinos are represented well on television and seen as experts within their respective disciplines, instead of the negative stereotypes that we so often see, NHMC developed the “Latino Leadership Media Training” program that kicked off in Los Angeles in July. Among those media trained are Senator Gilbert Cedillo (D-CA, District 22) and Castulo De La Rocha, President & CEO of AltaMed Health Services. This media training program, underwritten by BP America and Verizon, ensures that our voices and POV will be heard in both local and national TV broadcasts, by training Latino experts across the country and across disciplines on how to effectively deliver their messages on local and national television. NHMC is currently identifying men and women across the country who are experts in their respective fields with the goal of training these qualified Latinos to be “camera ready” for on-air television interviews. Once trained, it will be much easier to persuade local and national news Presidents and General Managers to use these qualified spokespeople on their newscasts and public affairs programming.
This is an important undertaking because the perception of who Latinos are and our value as a community, by non-Latinos is due in large part by what they read, hear and see in newspapers and magazines, or on radio, film or television. Therefore, if American Latinos are essentially absent from all mediums, none of our concerns or points of view in any area of endeavor, including education, health, employment and communications, will ever get the full local and national attention and understanding they deserve. NHMC has had measurable success in bringing about Latino inclusion in the entertainment side of television; it is now time to work on the very important news and information area.
For more information on this training program, please contact Cori Lopez at (626) 792-6462.
NHMC in Washington, D.C.
It’s been seven months since NHMC opened its virtual office in Washington, D.C., headed by Inez Gonzalez, Vice President of Media Policy. NHMC presence in our nation’s capital was strongly welcomed by Congressional leaders and our allies in the Latino and media reform movements. Having a presence in Washington D.C. allows us to work closer with our media allies and visit Congressional leaders and federal regulators on a more regular basis. Since arriving to Washington, we have joined the Internet for Everyone (IFE) Campaign, a massive, bipartisan alliance of private- and public-sector groups that works to build popular support, economic clout and political momentum behind a comprehensive national broadband plan. The goal of the IFE is to see that every American gets connected to a fast, affordable, and open Internet – and that our leaders in Washington take a more assertive role in making this happen. NHMC has also joined the Smart Television Alliance (STA), a new coalition of national non-profit organizations united by a shared commitment to improving what our nation’s children watch on television. The STA mission is to help parents and caregivers use technology, online tools, and program recommendations from trusted children’s media experts to make smart television viewing choices. By promoting the viewing of educational and informational programming, STA will build a market for more high quality children’s TV shows.
NHMC also participated in the development of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s (NHLA) platform to be presented to the presidential candidates. A nonpartisan association composed of 26 of the leading national and regional Latino civil rights and public policy organizations, NHLA establishes policy priorities that address and raise public awareness of the major issues affecting the Latino community. The NHLA platform includes six policy issues: education, immigration, civil rights, economic empowerment, health, and government accountability. Additionally, NHMC was invited by the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force (e.g. Senators Menendez and Salazar) to participate in a forum to discuss the issues facing minority broadcasters, including the dearth of minorities who own media outlets, and the importance of diverse voices in the media. As you can see, the National Hispanic Media Coalition presence in Washington, D.C. was way overdue.
Finally, we encourage you to look at the recently released Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) Road Map for Telecommunications Policy by linking to http://www.mmtconline.org/filemanager/fileview/165/. Under Executive Director, David Honig’s leadership, the document was developed after six months of research and deliberations by MMTC’s “Best Minds” Policy Committee and the Committee’s Telecom Policy Working Group. It is a solid document seeking nothing less then the complete eradication of racial discrimination and its present effects from the nation’s most influential and important industries – mass media and telecommunications.
Get Informed and Take Action
It is the goal of the NHMC to keep you informed and engaged on important media legislation that impacts the American Latino community. Please become active in these issues! Make sure your voice is heard by contacting your elected Representatives and letting them know where you stand on these important media issues. Elected officials do pay attention to those issues their constituents take the time to write or call them about. Once you take action, we would love to hear from you – please write a short e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your experience in regards to your activism in media reform. Thank you!
The following is a list of those current media issues that the NHMC, with your support, continues to advance for the benefit of the American Latino community.
Minority Media Ownership
Low Power FM (LPFM)
DTV Border Fix Act
A la Carte
Public Interest Obligations for Broadcast Licensees
Revisiting Video Franchise Reform
Community Broadband Network
Minority Media Ownership
On May 16th, the media reform movement celebrated a huge and unique victory in Congress that we don’t witness very often. The Senate nearly-unanimously voted to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) December cross-ownership rule. NHMC media ally, Free Press, specifically our dear friend Joe Torres, took the lead in making this happen with their tireless visits to most, if not all, of the Senate offices asking for a yes vote on the Resolution of Disapproval (S.J. RES. 28). Many others, including NHMC, took part in this campaign as well. As Josh Silver at Free Press stated, “The idea that we could build that kind of political will and capital demonstrates just how far this movement has progressed. And it showed media executives and the FCC that the Congress and the American people will not stand for further consolidation.”
Now the second part to this important project is within our grasp. NHMC will continue working with Frees Press and other allies to focus our efforts in the House. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) introduced a companion measure H.J.RES.79 aimed at nullifying the controversial FCC rule. This measure has bipartisan support and has forty-six co-sponsors, our target is 100 co-sponsors in 100 days – so we are halfway there. Why is this Resolution of Disapproval so important? It’s important because the decades-old ban on “newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership” protects a minimal level of viewpoint diversity. If a newspaper publisher owns the broadcast station you rely on for local news then you will be reading and watching the same news and exposed to a duplication of editorials and opinion pieces. At a time when inflammatory rhetoric and inaccurate reporting regarding illegal immigration is rampant, we need diversity in viewpoints and must demand more balance.
In the meantime, NHMC continues to work with its media allies to promote other ways to increase minority and women ownership in media such as:
Promote the redefinition of “Eligible Entity” at the FCC. The current small business definition is too broad, and will likely help non-monopoly-owned stations at the expense of female and minority owners. We advocate for a “small and economically disadvantaged business” definition to be used.
Reinstate Minority Media Tax Certificates. Promote legislation to reinstate the minority media tax certificate. Senator Menendez will soon be introducing legislation. Tax certificates were widely used in the ‘80s as a tool for increasing minority ownership. These certificates allow companies to defer capital gains taxes when they sell a station to a minority owner.
Advocate for a Congressional Task Force on Minority and Women Media Ownership. We support FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein’s call for an independent, nonpartisan task force to address the disgracefully low levels of media ownership by people of color.
It’s an exciting time for Low Power FM (LPFM) radio. The Local Community Radio Act of 2007 (H.R. 2802) has 96 co-sponsors – our target is 100 – and then we will uncork the bottles of champagne (ok, we are exaggerating just a little). Over the summer, Prometheus Radio Project organized in-district meetings with members of Congress that hopefully, upon their return to the Capitol, will be ready to sign-on to this legislation. This bill expands access to community radio all across the country. The passage of the bill means that Congress recognizes that there is no possible interference from LPFM radio stations in the nation’s big cities, and allows the FCC to grant station licenses there. This is a critical issue to NHMC because although minorities make up almost a third of the country’s population, they own only 7 percent of all local television and radio stations. Women, who make up more than half the population, own only about 6 percent. Low-power FM won’t entirely solve this problem but it could alter the homogenous radio environment by adding diversity to our radio station selections.
Low power FM stations are one-hundred watt, non-commercial stations, licensed only to local groups in smaller towns in the U.S. When the nation’s big broadcasters convinced Congress to limit Low Power FM radio to rural areas, they also asked the FCC to prove there was plenty of room for LPFM. We have that proof now and are fighting in the FCC and Congress to expand the service to your neck of the woods.
Senator Maria Cantwell introduced the companion legislation — Senate Bill 1675. S. 1675. Last fall this legislation received unanimous approval from the Senate Commerce Committee and we are now waiting for Senate leadership to bring this important legislation to a floor vote. We need your help to make sure your Senator(s) support this bill.
NHMC has been working closely and following the lead of our friends at Prometheus Radio Project and other allies that care about protecting and expanding LPFM radio across the country. Most media advocates support this legislation but we are fighting the powerful National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) who opposes this bill. It appears that the NAB is much more powerful in Congress than the public interest. As such, we ask that you call your Representative and make sure they are representing your interest by supporting this bill. There is really no reason not to support this bill other than to please the NAB.
Suggested Action Plan: Go to this link to check on: Has your Congress Representative signed on to co- sponsor Low Power FM? And Take Action to Expand Local Community Radio!�
If your Representative is not on the list call their office and tell them:
If your Representative is not on the list call their office and tell them:
Greetings (staffer’s name)
My name is (insert name) and I’m asking for the Congressman’s support of HR 2802, the Local Community Radio Act. Sponsored by Mike Doyle and Lee Terry, this bill would create more opportunities for non-profit groups – like schools, churches, and cultural organizations, to build their own radio stations and provide their communities with diverse and locally-oriented programming.
(Then explain why a Low Power FM station could benefit your community, and what you or other folks might do with one.)
Thank you for your time, and I hope to see my Representative’s name added to the co-sponsor list soon.
DTV Border Fix Act
Our champion in Congress, Congresswoman Hilda Solis, introduced the DTV Border Fix Act (H.R. 5435) earlier this year. This bill allows U.S. full-power TV stations on the border with Mexico to continue to broadcast in analog television service for five years after the February, 17 2009 cut-off date. According to Broadcasting & Cable, the Congresswoman stated that this bill was necessary so that residents along the border who may be slow to make the change, will still receive analog channels from Mexico enabling them to get local emergency alerts, news and weather from U.S. stations. Solis said that these households on the border are not generally cable or satellite subscribers and many use English as a second language. “Because of these challenges, these households are already difficult to educate about the DTV transition. With the added complication of ample analog Spanish-language programming originating in Mexico available in the border region after 2009, thousands of households in these border communities could be left behind in the DTV transition,” the Congresswoman’s office explained in announcing the bill.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed the companion bill (S.2507). The act, introduced last year by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The Senate approved the bill to give broadcasters along the border the ability to effectively postpone the completion of their DTV transition “so border residents’ access to important public safety information is not threatened,” Hutchinson said in a press statement announcing the measure’s passage. The bill would allow stations within 50 miles of the border to seek FCC permission for continued simulcast of analog and digital transmissions for up to four years after the DTV deadline.
The bills have numerous caveats, including: stations cannot interfere with DTV stations; cannot interfere with public-safety communications; and cannot prevent the auction of public spectrum. They also have to be between channels 2-51, since channels 52-59 are in the band that was already auctioned for advanced wireless services.
Suggested Action Plan: Contact your Representative and ask them to support the DTV Border Fix Act (H.R. 5435)
We are in the midst of a solution to the digital divide that has separated poor neighborhoods and rural communities from the rest of the nation in high-speed internet access. The answer: utilizing unused parts of the TV broadcast spectrum, also known as white spaces, to create wireless networks around the country that can bring broadband into every home in the United States of America.
Too many American Latinos and other minorities are on the wrong side of the digital divide today. While broadband internet adoption among American Latino households has increased over the past three years, still less than a third of American Latino internet users have broadband access. White space technology is the best chance of ensuring that low-income, minority and rural households are able to catch up to the 21st century.
The television signal that your grandmother once captured with her rabbit-ear antenna on top of her old TV set could bring the internet into your living room, your classroom, and even into the palm of your hand. So why would anyone stand in the way of capitalizing on this tremendous resource? The same reason poor, rural and minority America has always been an afterthought for broadband deployment: money.
So why is this available technology not coming to a Best Buy or Circuit City near you any time soon? To date, the chief obstacle has been opposition from companies using the adjacent broadcast spectrums. These opponents, most specifically the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), have publicly and inaccurately raised concerns about the potential of white space devices interfering with TV signals.
The truth is that white space devices (WSD) are new and innovative, but not ready for the consumer markets. That is why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently examining prototype devices. The FCC is conducting experiments on these prototypes to conclusively demonstrate they can transmit broadband wireless signals without causing harmful interference. These thorough tests will determine the rules of the road for future products and applications ready for mass consumption. After the rules are written, these devices will still need to go through an extensive certification process by the FCC to ensure their compliance. The FCC has the longstanding experience and expertise to ensure that the next generation of broadband technology won’t harm broadcasters.
Nearly one in three American Latino households still rely on over-the-air-only (analog) television. The NHMC, perhaps more than any other organization, strongly believes that the FCC must proceed cautiously to ensure that this new technology does not disrupt television broadcasts. At the same time, we need and deserve both uninterrupted broadcast television and to bridge the digital divide.
This new white space technology will spur innovation and create new applications for consumers, students, and emergency personnel. If white space devices become a reality, communities that have historically faced greater barriers in adopting broadband internet, due to its cost and availability, will now have another option. Opening up white spaces is about using a public resource for a greater public good.
NHMC is part of the Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA), a coalition of companies, organizations, and advocates working to unlock the potential that lies inside the “White Spaces” of our Television spectrum. WIA is united by the goal of realizing the potential of this unused national resource. From TV on the go, to internet access for rural communities, to interoperable communications for emergency first responders, the technologies of tomorrow will be built inside today’s unused white spaces. You can learn more about the alliance and White Space at www.wirelessinnovationalliance.org.
WIA is urging the FCC to continue pursuing its current course and conduct further testing before a final rule is adopted under the current white spaces proceedings. Opponents of WSDs, specifically the NAB, have lobbied to prevent the widespread deployment of WSDs and have launched a massive public relations effort to spread uncertainty about the viability of WSD technology. NAB has aired TV spots depicting “doomsday” — an increasingly irritated woman banging on her TV because, “if Microsoft and other high-tech companies have their way, your TV could freeze up and become unwatchable.”
While there is certainly a risk that white space internet devices could interfere with some television signals, the potential for cheap, accessible wireless broadband is too great to pass up and the testing of white space devices must be allowed to go forward.
Suggested Plan of Action: Currently, there is no recommended action for you to take on this issue right now. However, please continue to be aware of the opportunity that White Spaces can provide to create wireless networks around the country to bring broadband into every home in America.
A La Carte
We are pleased to report that there hasn’t been much movement to promote a la carte in Congress. As you will recall, a la carte is being promoted by some media advocates as a way to reduce consumer costs and to restrict adult programming from coming into the home. FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin, has told Congress that the FCC may want to mandate a la carte as a way to help television viewers control indecent and/or violent content. For now, this particular issue appears to be stalled and we are grateful, because the NHMC can now focus on other media policy issues for the moment.
A number of studies, including a 2004 Federal Communications Commission report, show that a la carte will have a negative impact on programming diversity in this country. If a la carte is implemented without any provisions for protecting diversity, the few Latino networks currently on the air, including Sítv and LA-TV, will most likely disappear because they do not yet command the viewership that more established networks have. If this happens, the American Latino community will be significantly stifled and the progress Latinos have made to own and/or operate English-language networks, whose target audience is English-speaking Latino youth, will be lost. Sítv and LA-TV reflect the unique Latino culture, traditions and point of view, thereby instilling pride and a grounded sense of identity that is important to our youth. Additionally, these emerging networks also employ hundreds of American Latinos, both in front and in back of the camera, providing the necessary experience and the ability to compete for mainstream network jobs.
NHMC continues to strongly oppose a la carte and considers this media policy issue the biggest threat to our community and to television diversity. We do not agree that a la carte will lower consumer costs and we strongly believe it will have a negative impact on the independent networks that cannot compete with the networks owned by the media conglomerates. Equipment already exists that parents can purchase to monitor their children’s television programming. The NHMC will align its supporters against the a la carte policy threat and continue to fight this well-meaning, but erroneous legislation.
Suggested Action Plan: Since there is currently no movement on the Hill on this particular issue, no action on your part is necessary at this time.
Public Interest Obligations for Broadcast Licenses
Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo introduced legislation that will revive the Public Interest Obligations for Broadcast Licensees. Below are excerpts from the Congresswoman’s “Dear Colleague” letter asking her colleagues to co-sponsor the legislation.
“I’ve become increasingly concerned about the effect of media ownership on our democracy. The corporatization of our media and the massive consolidation of media outlets are the root cause of the eroded public discourse in this country.
Two major conglomerates control two-thirds of the national radio market. Increasingly, “local broadcasts” are voice tracked or recorded remotely and passed off as live local broadcasts. Clear Channel radio stations voice track up to 70% of their broadcasts. Television stations devote less than one half of one percent of total programming time to local public affairs. Four out of ten commercial TV stations surveyed in 2003 aired no local public affairs programs. 92% of the election coverage aired by the national networks in the two weeks before Election Day 2004 was devoted to the presidential contest leaving only 8% for local elections and referendums.
The consolidation we’ve witnessed has coincided with the erosion of the public interest standard. The idea that broadcasters are public fiduciaries has been lost. I believe relaxed ownership rules and rubber stamped postcard license renewals have contributed to this degradation. When a broadcaster receives a license they are investing in public responsibility and service. I believe we need to reinvigorate the public interest requirement on broadcasters. I’m introducing legislation entitled the Broadcast Licensing in the Public Interest Act. This legislation attempts to revive the public interest standard:
First, the bill reduces a broadcast license term from eight years to three. The three year term will bring greater oversight and scrutiny to license renewals.
Second, the bill requires broadcast licensees seeking a renewal to demonstrate that they have made a dedication to civic affairs of its community and to local news gathering. The bill also mandates that broadcasters air locally produced programming and make a commitment to provide a public presentation of the views of candidates and issues related to local, statewide or national elections.
Finally, the bill mandates that broadcasters provide quality educational programming for children.
If enacted, this legislation would strengthen the public interest standard and force greater scrutiny on license renewals.”
NHMC supports this legislation and encourages you to consider supporting it as well.
Suggested Action Plan: Call your Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the “Broadcast Licensing in the Public Interest Act” (H.R. 4882)
Revisiting Video Franchise Reform
You may recall a couple of years ago when NHMC shared with you its involvement in the California video franchise reform. The Telco companies wanted to compete with cable and urgently get into the video market. Their goal was to go directly to the state governments for a one-stop franchise agreement instead of having to negotiate a different franchise agreement with each local community. The Telco and the elected officials pushing this reform promised the consumer lower cable/video rates as a result of the added competition.
NHMC was not opposed to a statewide video franchise agreement, we saw the political writing on the wall, and it did seem burdensome for the Telco companies to go to each local community to negotiate an agreement. Therefore, we fought for better language in the California State franchise bill that would protect the public interest. We didn’t get everything that we wanted but California ended up with one of the better written laws regarding video franchise reform. A total of 18 states have passed state video franchise agreement laws.
Our colleagues at the Alliance for Community Media (ACM), who have been strongly against statewide franchise bills and work to protect public access channels, recently executed a survey on the aftermath of state franchise laws. In May, members of ACM and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) from around the country participated in this survey. The results: state video franchise laws bring no rate relief while harming public benefits. Other findings include:
About 20% of respondents report Public, Education, Government (PEG) funding decreases since the advent of statewide franchising (including communities in CA, FL, IA, IN, KS, MI, MO, NC, OH, TX and WI), while cable operators report record earnings. In many communities, PEG funding that had been available for all PEG-related costs is now restricted to capital purchases.
Respondents from 17 communities in 8 different states report loss of access to PEG facilities managed by cable operators soon after state video franchise laws removed local obligations from those companies.
About two-thirds of affected survey respondents from 13 states report that new state franchise service providers deliver PEG channels with impaired signal quality and functionality.
Since the passage of state video franchise laws, PEG centers report reductions and threats to their existing channels. Operating under recently-adopted states rules, many new entrants and incumbents quickly took steps to limit PEG channel capacity and placement.
Survey respondents confirm what has been widely reported elsewhere: relief to the consumer from skyrocketing cable rates – the major reason for adopting state video franchise laws – has not occurred.
It is time to go back to the State legislators that promised us lower cable/video rates with the passing of State video franchise laws. The laws in the eighteen states need to be re-evaluated to “fix” the problems that are negatively impacting PEG channels. The states that have not yet passed state franchise video laws need to look at the unfulfilled promises these laws bring and reconsider moving forward on any further video franchise reform laws.
Suggested Action Plan: There is nothing we are asking for you to do on this issue but realize the impact of the state video franchise reform laws.
Community Broadband Network
Community groups, cities and towns across the country are setting up low-cost, high-speed wireless broadband networks utilizing technologies like WiFi that operate on unlicensed, open spectrum. The NHMC believes that each community has the right to provide free and/or affordable high speed internet and broadband connection to its citizenry.
Thanks to increasingly affordable technologies, community broadband networks are becoming a reality throughout the U.S. In fact, according to a ComputerWorld news article, the new WiFi network in Minneapolis — only partially completed and just two months old — offered the city critical help in responding to the collapse of the I-35W bridge. The network helped the city with communications, moving large mapping files to the recovery site, and supporting wireless cameras that were installed to help with recovery operations. This is one of the reasons municipalities promote this type of network – greater efficiency during a city emergency.
Nevertheless, phone and cable companies want to make it illegal for communities to be able to launch such initiatives. There are currently 12 states that have already passed laws restricting the ability of municipalities to provide broadband services.
U.S. Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Fred Upton (R-MI), have introduced a bill in the House to keep states from putting up barriers to public broadband networks. Boucher says the internet is a public utility, such as water or electricity. This bill would preserve local government’s ability to build their own municipal broadband networks. “The Community Broadband Act of 2007” (H.R. 3281) would preserve the ability of local governments to offer community broadband infrastructure and services to their citizens by prohibiting states from barring their ability to do so. A companion bill in the Senate (S.1853) introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ) has currently eight co-sponsors.
In addition to emergencies, community broadband networks are also needed because telephone and cable prices continue to rise and these companies want to offer service only in the areas that they select. Another positive aspect is that competition from local communities will bring prices down. High speed internet and broadband should not only be accessible to high-income residents. As all Americans have the right to water and electricity, they should also have the right to fast-connectivity. If private companies won’t commit to serving all communities, then there is no alternative than to bring in local governments. This is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Without high-speed connectivity, people are disadvantaged by not being able to quickly access information that oftentimes is a vital resource in an emergency, for education, jobs and health information and resources. Community broadband networks are an alternative solution to the very serious issue on the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Suggested Action Plan: Call your Senator(s) and Representatives and let them know your position regarding “The Community Broadband Act of 2007” (H.R. 3281) and (S. 1853).]]>
National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a woman-led 501(c)(3) non-profit civil and human rights organization that was founded to eliminate hate, discrimination, and racism toward the Latino communities.