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Straight talk

There were a number of bases we wanted to touch on this week. In the interests of reader-friendliness, we've combined them into a series of memos we'd like to send. So, take a letter to.

Clear Channel: With the closing of your purchase of AM/FM, you represent the highest-profile example of media concentration as owner of the better part of a thousand radio stations. That sounds like a lot, even to a page dedicated to ownership deregulation. Localism has long been the sword and shield of broadcasters, offered up as their competitive advantage over national services and invoked as the chief justification for their preservation in a world of proliferating pay services. Localism cannot appear to be, nor should it in reality be, a casualty of deregulation.

Al and Joe: Thanks for cutting back on the rhetoric about the big bad media. (Cutting it out altogether would be even better, but we'll work toward universal First Amendment care one step at a time.) There are plenty of real issues to address along the campaign trail without having to manufacture one.

The DNC: The last balloon has fallen, and the last open bar at the last bash has closed.and the Fairness Doctrine is still a plank in the party platform. Shame on you. The doctrine holds that broadcasters must follow some government formula for balance in their news coverage, rather than their own judgment. The best analogy for enforced fairness we can think of would be pressuring broadcasters to give exactly as much airtime to one party's convention as it did to the other, even if their own news instincts dictated otherwise. Sound familiar?

The GOP: Lighten up. That counting of convention minutes smacks of Queeg and the strawberries.

UPN affiliates: Take heart. It looks as though you will have a network, one way or another. You could read News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch one of two ways last week as he talked of bringing Chris-Craft stations into the FOX fold. Either he was pledging support for UPN while raising the possibility of a FOX II network to supplant it should Viacom pull the plug, or he was breaking the news that a FOX II was on the way while giving a nod to a departing UPN. You've got an "A list" programming partner either way.

TV journalists at the Democratic convention: Stop gassing; start reporting. After Al Gore bounded to the podium to embrace his daughter after her nominating speech, FOX News Channel switched to its anchor booth. There, among his fellow pundits, Brit Hume observed that Gore had reinforced his stuffed-suit image by failing to unbutton the jacket of his suit. But we're not picking on Brit. All the networks were filled with such drivel. And with correspondents obliged to double as commentators, they scarcely had time to find real news.

Big Brother: You're on your own. After this week, there'll be no more Survivor to serve as lead-in on Wednesday nights and prop up your ratings. Perhaps you can persuade CBS to put some promotional muscle behind you while Survivor takes its five-month holiday. Or, perhaps you can persuade Survivor villains Richard and Susan to join the Brother house in Studio City. That should guarantee some intrigue.

Thomson: We know you're only acting in your own self interest, but your sponsorship of the Super Bowl in HDTV on CBS keeps hope alive for the beleaguered service and will help ward off other claims on broadcasters' digital spectrum.

John McCain: We're confident that the same strength with which you have met past personal battles will support you through this one. Our hopes and prayers are for clear margins and a speedy recovery.