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ABC40, Fox6 sale to Meredith Broadcasting would erodes freedom of the press

June 25, 2014 | G. Michael Dobbs

If the Federal Communications Commission approves the sales of ABC40 and Fox6 to Meredith Broadcasting a real disservice to the people of western Massachusetts will take place.

Meredith operates the Hartford and Springfield incarnations of Channel 3 and if the sale goes through, the company will then operate three TV stations in one market.

That is an erosion of our freedom of the press through the centralization of broadcast licenses. I’m willing to bet there might one news operation and broadcast for all three stations.

I hope I will be proven wrong.

Remember that CBS3 in Springfield is media partners with The Republican and the number of media voices is reduced even more.

The idea behind the federal government regulating the airwaves was to prevent chaos over competing access to frequencies and to insure that broadcasters actually serve the needs of their communities.

Since the Reagan Administration much has been done to do away with those quaint notions of public service. How much local programming is on our local stations besides their news? Now, for you geezers out there, how much local programming was on 30 years ago?

Local television in all too many markets has become the media equivalent of shopping malls: they are essentially all alike.  A trip around the local non-prime time choices we have shows the same elements of syndicated shows just arranged differently.

Yes, I know local media takes money to produce. Yes, I know syndicated stuff is cheaper. In radio, the syndicated shows are often free and the stations get to run them by just supplying the commercial time.

How can you argue with these economic realities?  Color me old fashioned, but I think you can still make money in broadcasting, while serving your community with programming that reflects its people and interests?

At least John Gormally, the owner of ABC40 and Fox6, made some dough in local broadcasting.  According to www.broadcastingcable.com, he paid $21.2 million for ABC40 and sold the two affiliates for $53.8 million. 

I wish I had a contract like this one
In Holyoke the usual simmering relationship between Mayor Alex Morse and the City Council has turned into a rolling boil over the $45,000 payment to  Heather Egan, the one-time city solicitor who resigned her post over unspecified reasons.

In a town that is facing a considerable budget deficit, this amount has touched a nerve. It also speaks to what is the exact nature of the power of the mayor in making decision such as this one.

I don’t know why Egan left. Everyone has a theory, but I also don’t know why Morse did not make the practical political move to discuss this personnel matter in executive session with members of the City Council. 

As it stands, it appears that Egan had a compelling reason to quit her job and Morse believed that she deserved a $45,000 parting gift. Was such an arrangement in her contract? If so, that was a very nice contract for her and not so good for the city.

Nothing irritates people more than what appears to be an unreasonable payment to a departed city official that cannot be explained. This kind of secret has a long political half-life. Watch it pop up in the next mayoral election if Morse decides to run for a third term.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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