Saturday, January 28, 2006

Aloha to Local News

In a final act of defiance, the anchor at Honolulu Fox affiliate KHON-2 gives management a piece of his mind, before they pull the plug.

In Big Media's Gunsights
THE BIGGEST THREAT to the type of broadcast journalism that Edward R. Murrow championed in the 1950s comes today not from Congressmen of the Joe McCarthy mold, but by way of the industry itself. Profit-driven broadcast owners have strangled off local reporting to line their pockets with more advertising dollars.

This crisis in journalism is explicitly tied to the dangers of consolidated media ownership and speculation. We all suffer when media corporations trample public service and local journalism in their drive for larger profits.

Joe Moore, a veteran newscaster at Fox's Honolulu affiliate, KHON-2, can speak well to the issue. On Thursday, he anchored the station's newscast as sweeping newsroom layoffs were taking effect. As a small concession from management, Moore was allowed to write and read his sign off to viewers. Courtesy of NewsBlues (a newscaster gossip site), here's the transcript:

Finally tonight, this has been a difficult day for most of us here at KHON2. It was the final day on the job for our general manager Rick Blangiardi, who refused to carry out the mass firing of over one third of our station employees as ordered by our new owners, who will take over tomorrow.

The firings are not a matter of cutting excess fat to improve efficiency; they will be a butchering of an already lean workforce that will remove muscle, bone, and vital organs.

A small percentage of the people fired will be replaced by automation, the rest will severely reduce our ability to serve the community in the manner in which you, and we have become accustom.

The new owners have changed the name of their company from SJL to Montecito. It is a virtual company, with no office building, that specializes in buying and selling TV stations. Their business plan for KHON2 calls for an immediate, drastic, across the board reduction of personnel in order to slash the payroll.

At the same time, the plan calls for a huge increase in advertising revenue to be generated by a sales department that is already far exceeding industry standards. In short, it is not a plan used by a quality broadcast company to foster a long-term commitment to its employees, or to the viewers it is charged with serving.

It is the sincere hope of all of us, who have worked long and hard to make this TV station what it is today, that the departure of Rick Blangiardi, who stood up for us while he was standing tall for quality television, it is our hope that his departure will not be in vain, that our new owners will reconsider their draconian plan and pledge to the people of this state that operating KHON in the best interest of the people of Hawaii is not only their number one goal, but also their number one priority.

For all of us at KHON2, thank you for joining us this evening, we hope to see you later tonight for our KHON2 news at 10.

The message was not repeated on the 10 p.m. newscast.


Hawaii Media Action Group said...

That was not a farewell address by KHON anchor Joe Moore - according to local reports, he's not announced his intentions and may stay at the station to complete his contract.

This latest development is fallout from a controversial duopoly held by Emmis Communications which has been opposed by local media reform activists.

Here's a press release we put out two weeks ago when the layoffs were announced -

A non-profit corporation serving local public interests

Contact: Sean McLaughlin
Tel: 808-447-9610 (O’ahu)
Cel: 808-283-3174 (Maui)

For Immediate Release
January 12, 2006

HiMAG Blasts KHON Sale
Fallout Shows Need for Public Participation in Local Media

Honolulu, HI - The recently formed Hawai’i Media Action Group (HiMAG) is raising concerns about the lack of public participation in the sale of TV station KHON by Emmis Communications to an off-shore investment group. “The lack of public hearings or any meaningful local participation in this transaction to sell Hawaii’s number one (#1) rated TV station is a shameful deficiency,” said HiMAG organizer Richard Miller, former dean of the UH Richardson School of Law, “with huge profits at stake, the public interest – and local voices – are being trampled.”

Beth-Ann Kozlovich, a member of HiMAG and chair of the Honolulu Community-Media Council, which helped to launch HiMAG as an action group, added that “TV stations are licensed to use public airwaves – commercial interests must be secondary to local broadcasters’ obligations to serve the public interest first. Direct community participation in the FCC’s oversight of local TV broadcasters is necessary to ensure that local media serve local community needs.” The Media Council has proposed a public forum to explore local issues for Emmis’ stations and invited representatives of interested parties to participate.

Developments announced at KHON yesterday, slashing local employees and their benefits, provide stark proof that commercial interests and profit motives are overrunning public interest concerns. “Fallout from the very lucrative sale of KHON to private investors raises an important question as to whether the public trust has been violated,” said Gerald Kato, a HiMAG supporter and chair of the School of Communications at UH-Manoa. He added, “this development reflects a sad trend in which localism and public interests are sacrificed at the altar of private greed.”

“Hawaii’s media consumers are very concerned by commercial profiteering and the concentration of media ownership far away from Hawaii, which degrades the quality of local media and reduces public service benefits that TV broadcasters are obliged to provide,” said Sean McLaughlin, HiMAG correspondent and CEO of Hawaii Consumers, a local advocacy and consulting organization.

Local public interest groups have long objected to the controversial “duopoly” that was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a temporary measure over five years ago. At the time Emmis owned KHON and acquired a group of TV stations including KGMB. The “temporary” waiver gave Emmis permission to own two of the top four rated TV stations in Hawaii for just six months pending the required sale of one station. Society of Professional Journalists – Hawaii Chapter, Honolulu Community-Media Council, Akaku: Maui Community TV and other local groups raised concerns. McLaughlin represented the Hawaii Localism Task Force on a panel at an FCC Localism Task Force hearing in 2004 raising concerns that the quality and diversity of local news and public interest programming suffers from duopolies and other forms of concentrated ownership.

To increase community participation in media regulation, HiMAG is calling for public interest advocates in Hawai’i to join in local efforts to promote a free press, free expression, freedom of information, and access to media. Current HiMAG efforts are focusing on a PILOT project to review public files in preparation for TV station license renewals which are subject to review in the coming year.
For more information contact: Chris Conybeare at: HYPERLINK "" , or Sean McLaughlin: HYPERLINK "" ,
Tel: 808-447-9610 (Honolulu), cel: 808-283-3174 (Maui)

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