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Open Mike

Responsibility, too

Editor: If I may be forgiven a strained metaphor, perhaps the Opie and Anthony
incident ("Mea culpa," Aug. 26) will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Surely, radio stations' proliferation and the ensuing competition have made the words indecency
and obscenity
more common in recent years.

Let's hope the resultant hemming and hawing about what is indecent and obscene will now go on hiatus—at least for a while. Let's hope, too, the Opie and Anthony
episode will be the cold shower certain station managements needed to exercise the responsibility clause in their licenses and at least moderate the permissive climate in which programs like Opie and Anthony
can thrive.

One does not have to be a communications lawyer to know the whining about First Amendment rights by some broadcasters is most often used as an umbrella for the reign of raunch.

BROADCASTING & CABLE is to be commended for its ongoing crusade to grant the "Fifth Estate" the same free-speech rights as the press. But isn't it, at last, time to form a compound noun for deliberations on the subject? Thus: rights and responsibility.

Philip K. Eberly, former broadcaster and former oral historian, Library of American Broadcasting at University of Maryland

Apology called for

Editor: The word to describe this Opie and Anthony "promotional stunt" is vulgar. I am a poor, stumbling, staggering, faltering Catholic and son of the Roman Church. But this is clearly an outrageous insult: copulating in the best-known cathedral in America. It is an insult not only to Catholics but also to any God-fearing religion-practicing citizen of the republic and to every other right-thinking broadcaster.

Melvin Karmazin and Sumner Redstone should jump in their car and go right over to the Cardinal's residence on Madison Avenue (they can fight over who gets the best seat!) with the most profound, graceful, heartfelt, sincere apology
they can summon up.

And I think they also should have a check—$250,000 is a nice, round number. Here are the words: "Your Eminence, we can't find the words
to apologize for this vulgar insult. However, we know of the good
work you and Catholic Charities do. This cannot make up for the outrageous vulgarity, Your Eminence. But we want to try!"

Having said that, I'm afraid we have to stand with the vulgarians if the FCC wants to threaten their license. This is a First Amendment matter.

I remember—and Mel will confirm this—when we defended Howard Stern from censure by NAB (our own tribe). And I remember when Larry Taishoff, then publisher of BROADCASTING & CABLE , told me, "We've always had terrible examples to defend, O'Shaughnessy!" So perhaps it was ever thus. Mel has to be assured we will all stand with him this time as well, as repugnant and obnoxious as is this episode: the defilement of a cathedral.

William O'Shaughnessy, chairman, Whitney Broadcasting Corp. New Rochelle, N.Y.

Cooperative competing?

Editor: Though compelling, Harry Jessell's proposal for creating a cooperative DTV multicasting arrangement among local broadcasters ("Sink or Swim," Aug. 5) appears to be wishful thinking. When it comes to content, local broadcasters are fiercely competitive. It is one thing for local broadcasters to share a DTV antenna because of economic and political necessity; it is quite another to extend this cooperation to content. Inevitably, issues of programming strategies and contributions among rival broadcasters will surface and jeopardize this kind of partnership. First and foremost, broadcasters compete based on content.

In addition, at a time when more than 85% of TV households subscribe to cable or satellite, what would broadcasters and consumers gain from broadcast-based multichannel operations, independent of cable or satellite service? Do broadcasters expect that consumers will step back into the antenna-mounting era?

However, subscription-based datacasting channels, such as those proposed by Dotcast and iBlast, could attract viewers and generate some revenue for local stations if the price is right and the content is distinct from other sources. And DTV broadcasters could set aside a portion of their digital spectrum for high-speed wireless Internet service. One could envision the construction of 802.11b-type wireless networks to serve local communities and even national audiences.

In a truly technologically deterministic fashion, innovation is what will keep the broadcasting industry alive and well for decades to come.

Michel Dupagne, associate professor, School of Communication, University of Miami

Boost CO-OP DTV Broadcast

Editor: You are, of course, right in regard to your article, "Sink or Swim" (Aug. 5). Never has a more powerful, ubiquitous and flexible conduit been implemented with so little fruitful result.

Clear Channel Television has several initiatives utilizing the DTV bitstream outside of the traditional single-station advertising model. We were instigators of the Broadcasters Digital Cooperative, a group of DTV broadcasters dedicated to the idea of flexibly offering ad hoc and formal aggregation in local, regional and national networks. The BDC still exists and operates. Clear Channel has developed an Internet accelerator to enhance Internet service to users underserved by DSL or digital cable. This service is currently in our Cincinnati market and about to expand into two others. There are additional service offerings contracted for what will be national in nature.

In the end, though, if we don't win in the household, we will lose it all. The set-top box, with storage, conditional access and wireless interactivity are key to our survival. Let's roll.

The opinions expressed here are my own.

Michael D. DeClue, senior vice president and director of engineering, Clear Channel Television and Clear Channel Wireless, Tulsa, Okla.