Here’s a link to an interview by 60 Minutes with New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, who faces the threat of going to prison for refusing to reveal his confidential sources of information. The interview provides great background on the case. Even the former head of the NSA has misgivings about the possibility that Risen should be sent to prison for standing up for what he believes. This is an important First Amendment issue which anyone concerned about a free press and the state of freedom in America should be concerned.
Here’s a link to Ian Lind’s rumination on having a former member of the Honolulu City Council on KHON’s news staff and the conflict of interest it poses. Lind raises some interesting questions of media ethics about which we should all be concerned.
As the Oahu Publications purchase shows, there’s still a market for newspapers. Take a look at this column on who else is buying.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.
Oahu Publications to buy 2 Hawaii Island daily papers
By Star-Advertiser staff
Oahu Publications Inc. announced today that it has agreed to acquire the Hawaii Tribune- Herald (Hilo) and West Hawaii Today (Kona) on Hawaii Island from Las Vegas-based Stephens Media LLC.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Dennis Francis, Oahu Publication’s president, said both newspapers will continue to be published daily and will be editorially independent from the company’s daily newspaper on Oahu, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The transaction will close Dec. 1.
“We are pleased to bring local management and ownership to these two quality newspapers,” said Francis, who is also publisher of the Star-Advertiser, “and our first priority will be to ensure that the two newspapers continue to serve the needs of their communities.”
“We purchased The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai last year under similar circumstances, and that turned out to be a good experience,” Francis said. “It was good for the newspaper, good for employees and good for the residents of Kauai. We were able to bring back the Saturday edition, improve technology for the digital edition, and ensure the needs of the community would be served by a strong daily newspaper on Kauai for decades to come.”
As for the Hawaii Island papers, “We’re publishers and we are always interested in taking a look at an opportunity,” Francis said. “We are committed to ensuring that each island community retains a strong, local newspaper.”
Francis said that the two newspapers’ editorial and advertising sales functions will continue under existing staff, and that the papers will continue to be printed at the West Hawaii Today printing facility in Kona.
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a circulation of 16,000 Monday-Friday and 18,000 on Sunday. West Hawaii Today’s circulation is 10,000 Monday-Friday and 12,000 on Sunday. Subscribers to the two papers will have free access to premium content at staradvertiser.com and washingtonpost.com.
As part of the deal, Oahu Publications is also buying Stephen’s interest in Hawaii.com.
“We want Hawaii Island residents and readers of both newspapers to know that Oahu Publications is committed to quality journalism and maintaining the excellent relationship that both papers have with their communities,” Francis said.
In a related transaction, Sound Publishing, a subsidiary of Black Press, purchased the Aberdeen, Wash., Daily World and three weekly newspapers from Stephens in Washington state. That transaction closed today.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is raising detailed questions about the financing, structure and relationship involving Raycom Media of Alabama and other entities involved in the transfer of the ownership and broadcast license of Honolulu station KFVE TV .
The FCC Media Bureau’s actions are in response to Media Council Hawaii’s (MCH) objections to a proposed sale and transfer of the KFVE broadcast license (made November 2013) to a company known as American Spirit. MCH objected, saying that the deal was a sham, that American Spirit is a shell company wholly controlled by Raycom. There are 7 American Spirit stations; all of them run by Raycom. MCH believes that this transfer and sale of the license is a thinly disguised effort by Raycom to further its control of three television stations—KGMB, KHNL, and KFVE—through a so-called Shared Services Agreement (SSA).
In 2009, Raycom engineered a deal in which it effectively took control of Honolulu stations KGMB, KHNL, and KFVE. Using the SSA, assets and call letters were swapped in a way that gives Raycom outright ownership of KGMB (CBS)and KHNL(NBC)—two of the top four stations in Honolulu—and de facto ownership and control of KFVE. When the deal was first announced, Raycom CEO Paul McTear stated that this was not a sale and “at the end of the day no money is changing hands.”
Raycom claims that station KFVE is a separate and independent entity, operated by HITV Inc., even though the company has only 2 employees, and no: studio, equipment, transmitter, or means of independent operation.
Documents made public pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Raycom executed a note, promising to pay HITV 22 million dollars plus quarterly interest payments of $275,000, plus annual principal payments. Also signed was an option agreement permitting the sale of KFVE to another company variously identified as Otumwa Media Holdings, American Spirit Media, and Southeastern Media Holdings.
Is American Spirit a real broadcasting company in that it can run a broadcast station independent of Raycom Media? What are the financial details involved in the transaction? The Media Bureau’s letter investigates these and other questions about the license transfer.
MCH filed a complaint with the FCC aimed at stopping the original merger on the grounds that it violated FCC ownership limits prohibiting one entity from owning two stations in the top 4 (KGMB –CBS and KHNL-NBC) and ownership/control of three stations. The FCC’s Media Bureau ruled in November 2011, that the merged operation violated public policy aimed at promoting diversity, competition and localism, but since the transaction did not involve application for a broadcast license, the FCC had no basis for action.
The Media Bureau said that it would include the question of SSAs in their Quadrennial Review and that MCH might properly raise this question when the station licenses were up for, renewal (2015). MCH filed an appeal of this decision that is pending before the full Commission.
With their letter of September 9, the FCC is finally asking the right questions, says MCH president, Chris Conybeare.
We are pleased that the FCC is trying to follow the money, blow away the smoke and look behind the mirrors of these sham transactions. This fight for media diversity is far from over. We look forward to the mandatory license renewal, process and will be filing objections to the continued misuse of the public airwaves by Raycom media.
MCH will be posting detailed information about these issues on its blog (www.mediacouncil.org) , including information about its objection to broadcast license renewals by Raycom and its shell companies.
A hilarious, and, at the same time, sad commentary on the state of the news media.
In March, Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii released their study, “Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections.” The study shows that Hawaii voters saw more ads than information when watching televised news broadcasts just prior to the primary and general elections in 2012. Not surprisingly–the news media does not like to talk about how its business intersects with news coverage–the study got little attention in mainstream print and television news. But, we’re in the middle of another election cycle, and it seems the study is as relevant as ever. So, if you’re interested you can find the study here along with a companion news release from Chris Conybeare, president of Media Council Hawaii, about the study.