Gridiron 2002


By Garett Kamemoto

Chapter Director

Sources are beginning to leak details of the musical tour de farce that is becoming Gridiron 2002: Photo Enforced.

Gridiron Producer Keoki Kerr is refusing to answer the most asked question of the year: "Will Gordon Pang appear in a dress?" Kerr declined to comment.

The event will be Oct. 25-26 event at Diamond Head Theatre.

But sources indicate:

Sunset on the Beach-goers will be singing: (Tune of Comedy Tonight)

"Here in the city
Here in the county
We're watching movies out
With Jeremy Tonight!"

The Democratic Party will ask the question: (Tune of How do you solve a problem like Maria)

"How do you solve a problem like Cayetano?"

We'll also make fun of Linda Lingle, June Jones, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, television news, the van cam debacle, and the story that kept all Hawaii riveted while tax collections went south: Hokget the dog.

Kerr is being assisted again this year by Garett Kamemoto and stage manager Donna Bebber.


Letter to FCC on Emmis waiver request

Aug. 4, 2002

W. Kenneth Ferree
Chief, Media Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Mr. Ferree:

The Board of Directors of the Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Professional Chapter, questions Federal Communications Commission actions that have allowed the continued joint ownership of two of the top four TV stations in the Honolulu market.
As you know, Emmis Communications Corp. has since September 2000 been the licensee of both CBS-affiliate KGMB-TV and Fox-affiliate KHON-TV in Honolulu, despite a commission rule barring common ownership of TV stations that are ranked in the top four in terms of audience share within the same Nielsen Designated Market Area.
Emmis already owned KHON-TV when it acquired 15 broadcast TV stations, including KGMB-TV, from Lee Enterprises Inc. in 2000. In order to proceed with that multi-station deal, Emmis requested and received from the commission a six-month waiver of the duopoly rule, pledging to divest one of the two Honolulu stations during that period. A Sept. 25, 2000, Memorandum
Opinion and Order from the commission's Mass Media Bureau stated that the six-month waiver would “not harm diversity or hinder competition in a manner conflicting with the public interest.”
That may have been the case then. However, with Emmis now approaching the second anniversary of its acquisition of KGMB, the corporation continues to hold licenses for both KGMB and KHON, thanks to repeated extensions of the initial waiver. Recently, Emmis has taken steps toward consolidating operations of the two stations - which venture down the slick slope of violating the intent behind the commission's initial waiver, as well as both the letter and spirit of the duopoly rule even as it was revised in 1999 to allow greater opportunities for common ownership of broadcast stations within local markets.
We believe that journalism in Hawaii (those stations also serve Kauai, Maui County and the Big Island) will suffer due to co-ownership of KHON and KGMB. We believe it will limit competition among news stations and silence one of the four major independent voices in our sometimes limited marketplace of views and facts. And probably most importantly, we believe the public in Hawaii will suffer due to that loss of an independent voice.
In July of this year, Emmis appointed a single executive, Rick Blangiardi, to lead KHON-TV and KGMB-TV as senior vice president and general manager of both stations. At the end of the month, newsroom staffs were told that KHON-TV and KGMB-TV -- whose news programs are rated first and third in Honolulu, respectively -- would begin sharing a photographer for selected news stories.
Despite assurances from management that the two stations will remain editorially independent on big news stories, we find it hard to imagine how such an arrangement could be seen as advancing the FCC's still-held goal of preserving competition and diversity of voices among the broadcast media.
The commission may well decide, after a planned new review of the duopoly rule, to abandon the prohibition on common ownership of stations within the top four in a Designated Market Area. But until it does, we fail to see why the commission should not enforce existing rules when the public has not had a formal opportunity to comment on what amounts to a dramatic, if indefinite, policy shift. Our concerns were not eased by the explanation to our board president, Stirling Morita, from Clay C. Pendarvis, chief of the Television Branch of the Video Services Division of the FCC's Mass Media Bureau (please see attachment). In an Aug. 9, 2001, letter to Mr. Morita, Mr. Pendarvis wrote:
“On March 23, 2001, Emmis was granted an extension of the six-month temporary waiver. In the extension request, Emmis demonstrated that it had made good faith attempts to find a buyer willing to purchase the station at a fair and reasonable price. The Commission staff letter noted that, given the specific economic factors discouraging purchase of a television station in the Honolulu market, there was substantial risk that holding Emmis to the six-month divestiture period would result in a forced sale. A forced sale of assets could unnecessarily restrict the value of the station to be divested and could artificially limit the range of potential buyers. ... ”
Surely, Emmis was aware of economic conditions in Hawaii when it agreed to acquire KGMB-TV as part of the multi-station deal. In this case, we believe the broader public's interest in diversity and competition far outweighs the limited business interests of a single corporation. Nor do we see it as the FCC's mission to ensure risk-free transactions for large broadcast corporations.
While aspects of the duopoly rule have been portrayed as under attack by the courts as “arbitrary and capricious,” we hasten to point out that the specific portion of the rule that deals with joint ownership of two stations in the top four of a local market has not been targeted in recent rulings by
the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. We are left to wonder whether the commission's criteria for deciding when to enforce and when to waive its duopoly rules are not themselves arbitrary.
There can be no denying that this year's court rulings have sent a clear signal that regulations under the duopoly rule need more solid justification. But in our view, those rulings do not amount to a free pass to bypass regulations that have yet to be revised or better justified after rigorous public review.
We urge the commission to rethink its decision that continues to allow Emmis to own two TV stations in the top four of the Honolulu market. We also welcome assurances that Emmis' Honolulu predicament, allowed to go unresolved as long as it has, will not tie the commission's hands as it undertakes its review of the duopoly rule and, in particular, the prohibition on ownership of more than one of the top four TV broadcast stations in a market. Honolulu is not an out-of-the-way place - it is not far from the American mainstream - but a dynamic, richly diverse city of nearly 1 million at the gateway to Asia and the Pacific. If anything, Hawaii's unique and complex history and cultural landscape make it even more important that the broadcast voices that reach the greatest number of citizens are not concentrated in the hands of a few. Beyond the harm we fear to our profession, we believe our community will suffer in profound, if not always measurable, ways if the FCC does not fulfill its traditional mission of preserving competition and diversity on the public's air waves.
Should you care to contact me, my address is 3054 Ala Poha Place #806, Honolulu, HI 96818.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns.


Stirling Morita
For the board of directors,
Hawaii Professional Chapter, SPJ

Blangiardi's Reply


Rick Blangiardi, general manager of KHON-TV and KGMB-TV, says he plans to keep the newsrooms of both stations separate.
“News is an integral part of our operation,” and it is “good business” to operate two separate news shows, he said in an Aug. 29 talk with representatives of the Hawaii chapter, SPJ, and Honolulu Community-Media Council.
Blangiardi was responding to questions raised by the Hawaii chapter about Federal Communications Commission waivers to allow continued, joint ownership of the two television stations.
Blangiardi defends camera-sharing between KHON and KGMB for less newsworthy stories as practical. He says it allows both stations to do more with their cameras, freeing them up to do more important pieces.
He noted there was little difference between all TV stations sharing CNN feeds and two co-owned stations sharing the same local footage.
Besides, the camera sharing allows both stations to do pieces that wouldn't get air because there weren't enough cameras, thus adding to the diversity of news.
“I guarantee it: no sharing will result in any job loss” while the request for waiver of the duopoly rule is pending before the FCC, he said.
In fact, Blangiardi said, he is looking at hiring more staff.
He said local television news - including KHON and KGMB -- has declined dramatically because of cutbacks by previous owners for economic reasons.
Blangiardi said he wants to improve the news quality at both stations. He is also looking at doing more news at KGMB.
“I am not consolidating; I am not cutting anybody, except for performance,” Blangiardi said.
-- Stirling Morita


Dates of Interest

Sept. 12: 2002 SPJ National Convention in Fort Worth, Texas
Sept. 23: Helen Thomas gives distinguished lecture at 7:30 p.m. Campus Center Ballroom.
Sept. 29: 1 p.m. Meeting to receive nominations for next year's chapter board. Star-Bulletin conference room
Oct. 25-26: Gridiron 2002: Photo Enforced, Diamond Head Theatre

Chapter co-sponsors Helen Thomas talk

The longtime dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, will give the annual Carol Burnett Fund for Responsible Journalism lecture on "Thank You for the Memories, Mr. President," based on her latest book.
The free lecture, the first in a series of Distinguished Lectures at the University of Hawaii, will be 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, in the Campus Center Ballroom. It will be co-sponsored by Carol Burnett Fund for Responsible Journalism, the Hawaii chapter, SPJ and UH-Manoa.
SPJ members are also welcome to join journalism students and faculty in an
informal session with Thomas from 9-11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the Campus Center meeting rooms (third floor).
Thomas resigned in May 2000 after 57 years with United Press International.
Other events include:

Medical privacy spells problems for media

By Ian Marquand
SPJ Freedom of Information Committee co-chairman

Journalists who cover accidents and other incidents in which people require medical care will have a harder time determining the number and nature of injuries, or even if someone has been admitted to a hospital, because of new federal rules on the privacy of health-care information.
Specific information on patient injuries, illnesses and conditions may no longer be available. In fact, the new rules will make it harder merely to confirm that a person is in the hospital. The Bush administration recently released the latest version of medical privacy rules, which are intended to give people more control over their health and medical information. In most cases, the rules will take effect April 14, 2003.
Medical privacy rules were required by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The Clinton administration issued an initial version in 2000. The Bush administration chose to re-visit the rules in 2001 following complaints from various lobbying interests. During both rounds of rulemakings, the Society of Professional Journalists, other journalism organizations and other groups
interested in freedom of information submitted comments.
In most situations, the new rules prohibit hospitals and other health providers from releasing information on patients without prior permission. The rules also have severe penalties for unauthorized releases. The rules allow some information called “limited data sets” (patients' birth dates, admission and discharge dates, and geographic addresses larger than street addresses) to be given to research and public health entities, but specifically not to journalists.
So, journalists now may have a hard time merely confirming that
someone is in a hospital.
SPJ President Al Cross, who began his journalism career reporting hospital admissions and other news for his hometown radio station in Southern Kentucky, called the new rules outrageous.

Hawaii SPJ