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Reader feedback - 9.20.06

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DEAD AIR

Has radio become irrelevant? That's a question I've pondered recently while big-media conglomerates run radio into oblivion. Like others who criticize corporate-dominated commercial radio, however, I don't hope for radio's demise. On the contrary, I believe the century-old medium has great potential, even in the age of satellite radio and iPods.

Broadcast radio is free, portable, and far-reaching, and, as originally structured in this country, it can uniquely serve local communities. In the early 20th century, US electronic-media regulators chose a market-based mechanism of control explicitly to promote viewpoint diversity and localism (service benefiting communities).

Much of the program fare served up recently by media giants, however, advances neither ---particularly following ownership consolidation unleashed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Instead, duplicate formats and voicetracking (computer automation that imitates live, local programming) induce audiences, especially younger ones, to tune out ---fostering radio'sgrowing irrelevance.

Those concerned over the effects of high media ownership concentration were heartened by a groundswell of citizen opposition following a Federal Communications Commission proposal, in 2003, to further loosen media ownership restrictions. In contrast, relative calm over recently announced merger plans involving two Rochester radio ownership groups is disheartening.

Entercom Communications Corp., which already controls four Rochester radio stations, wants to buy four local stations owned by CBS. If the deal is consummated, two conglomerates, Entercom and Clear Channel Communications Inc., will dominate the market by controlling nine of the top 10 stations, a handful of others, and a local television station.

In its coverage of the proposed merger, the Democrat and Chronicle quoted three sources, including a representative of one of the principals in the agreement. Each lauded the deal with similar pro-big business views. Meanwhile, the silence of listeners, community leaders, and politicians, and other local media has seemed like radio dead air. Had no one noticed the deal? Or, more ominous for radio, does no one care? Has radio become irrelevant?

Call to citizenship: To learn more about the effects of media ownership consolidation, visit Free Press at http://www.freepress.net.

Michael Saffran, Brighton (Saffran covers radio for Business Strategies Magazine.)


HEZBOLLAH'S MOTIVES

DaanZwick's serious if ignorant charges against Israel (The Mail, August 23) require refutation.

Under international law, the blame for the substantial civilian casualties in the Hezbollah-Israel war falls squarely on Hezbollah. With their policy of launching rocket attacks from civilian and noncombatant areas, most egregiously from right next to a UN headquarters and similarly at KfarKama, Hezbollah has shown their contempt for the lives of civilians and international observers.

This policy of perfidy is a war crime under the Hague Regulations, which "clearly disallow placement of military assets or military personnel in heavily populated civilian areas," writes Louis Rene Beres in The Jewish Press (August 11, 2006). The 1977 Protocol I addition to the Geneva Conventions contain further prohibitions of perfidy, and perfidy "is identified as a 'grave breach' in Article 147 of Geneva Convention IV," writes Beres.

Zwick holds that "this great difference in the target deaths make one question the motives of Israel in the conflict." Why doesn't he find fault with Hezbollah's explicitly genocidal motives?

Daniel Gordon, Meigs Street, Rochester


SEIZING OPPORTUNITY

The governance of the Monroe County Water Authority has been negatively evaluated by critics who apparently fail to recognize the distinction between Honest Graft and Dishonest Graf.

That distinction was defined in 1905 by Senator George Washington Plunkitt, a Democrat, of Tammany Hall. You can find his speech on the web under "Honest Graft." Honest Graft is obtained when a politician uses "foresight" gained from the job to buy advantageous parcels of land in advance of public knowledge, or by cooperating in a system of inflating government salaries in anticipation of an eventual return of favor.

Dishonest Graft is limited to acts of extortion of money from illegitimate enterprises in return for non-enforcement of laws, or acts of actually accepting cash bribes to influence legislation. The latter, of course, can be achieved "honestly" by accepting promises of future favors, or positions of lobbying, or consulting work for six-figure remuneration.

I encourage all to GooglePlunkitt's speech and read it for its eternal relevance. We are in his debt for these subtle distinctions. In the speech, he said that his epitaph could read: "He Seen His Opportunities and He Took 'Em."

Ron Johnson, Sutherland Street, Pittsford


WRITING TO CITY

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