Powell Stands Corrected

Aug 25, 2003  •  Post A Comment

FCC Chairman Michael Powell took a swipe at Sinclair Broadcast Group, Cox Television and Post-Newsweek Stations last week while making his case for an inquiry into localism, but later his spokesman had to admit Mr. Powell did not have all of his facts straight.
The chairman alleged that the three broadcast groups were hypocrites for supporting a rollback of the cap on national TV ownership to 35 percent in the name of localism.
“The idea that [only they are] uniquely positioned to make decisions affecting the local community I think is false, simply false-at least if the argument is you have to be locally based to serve localism,” the chairman said.
But a quick check with the companies revealed there were a number of glaring factual errors in the chairman’s remarks. His biggest blunder was that Sinclair, rather than advocating a rollback, has been conspicuously absent during the cap fight-and notified the chairman of the fact in an Aug. 8 letter, after Mr. Powell suggested the contrary on two previous occasions.
“In fact, we have no issue at all with the recent action of the commission increasing the cap to 45 percent,” said the Sinclair letter. “Although we have not previously supported a change in the cap, this relates not to any concerns with such a change, but rather to our being so far below even the 35 percent cap as to not be overly concerned with this issue.”
Cox and Post-Newsweek have been proponents of a rollback, but contrary to Mr. Powell’s public assertions, neither owns anything close to 50 or 60 TV stations. Cox Television President Andrew Fisher said his company owns 14 TV stations. Added Alan Frank, president of Post-Newsweek Stations: “The last time I looked we owned six TV stations, representing coverage of 7.4 percent of the U.S.”
Said a spokesman for Chairman Powell’s office, “We stand corrected with respect to Sinclair’s position on the national cap. However, the chairman was absolutely correct in suggesting that those supporting a rollback of the national cap are hardly mom-and-pop operations.”
Said Sinclair’s Mark Hyman, “I could recommend a good optometrist if he’s having trouble reading his own correspondence.”