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Posts published in “Day: November 9, 2007”

Suggested by the Allen testimony . . .

televisionWe've been listening for the last few hours to the audio stream of testimony and comments at the Federal Communications Commission hearing at Seattle, and the testimony overwhelmingly has been predictable: Against media consolidation. Which we agree with, strongly, but not a lot of news there.

The single most interesting point we've heard came from Seattle talk show host John Carlson, who offered a wonderful rebuttal to pro-FCC arguments that there are a lot more media - Internet, cable, satellite radio - these days, as an argument for loosening regulation of the publicly-owned air waves. When questions of indecency or other content come up, Carlson noted, the FCC majority abruptly becomes concerned about abuse of the publicly-held airwaves. The disparity is striking.

Media company witnesses talked about how much they do and how tough the competition is; they drew mostly hoots and howls from the jammed crowd of 800 or so, which didn't seem to think the broadcasters were doing so hot a job. Predictable again, but Mark Allen of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters made a point we found intriguing, albeit probably not as intended - and almost an extension of Carlson's point. He talked at some length about changing audience expectations, how people want more specialized things, want what they want here and now - and how the terrifically expanded universe of media is changing in efforts to provide that. It was an argument for the niche-ing of media, and from a market standpoint certainly it cohered.

Which logically prompted this thought in a territory he doubtless would rather we not go: Why not split up the niches along more logical lines?

You want to talk Internet, sat radio, cable and so on? Great. Let them be where they are now - broadly open to expanding marketplaces, a great place for private enterprise to compete at will because the playing field is so immense and so openly competitive, and so difficult to monopolize. It is easily entered, by players large and small, and easily exited. It is a good place for a lightly-regulated marketplace to operate.

And then, in this vastly expanded environment of so many massive arenas (of whose existence Mr. Allen was so careful to remind us) available for private interests to enter, return and reserve the limited publicly-owned airwaves purely to the public interest. Yank every license to broadcast on the public airwaves - every single one of them, radio and television - and redistribute them one by one to local nonprofit organizations, none of which could hold more than a single license, and all of which would be strictly required to operate with the public interest foremost in mind.

There. Now doesn't that sound like a more logical realignment of the massively expanded media world?

Thanks for the idea prompt, Mr. Allen.

Minnick apparently in

Looks like the Idaho 1st district Democratic contest will in fact be a three-way: Walt Minnick, the Boise businessman who ran for the Senate in 1996, evidently is about to announce his entry.

An emailer advises us of an alert about a campaign announcement next Wednesday at Coeur d'Alene (we assume this would be one of several) for the Minnick campaign kickoff, "to attend and hear why Walt Minnick wants to be your next congressman!"

We note also that a number of web domains with word variations on "Walt," "Minnick" and "Congress" have been swept up by a Boise administrator; appears that the web name will be "waltforcongress.com."

Larry Grant
, who ran for the seat last year and lost to Republican Bill Sali, also is in, seeking a rematch. (Notable: According to the mail we received, Minnick's announcement will be attended by - and presumably supported by - former Governor Cecil Andrus, who was a key Grant supporter last year.) And Rand Lewis of Moscow also has been in for several months.

No immediate thoughts on how this will play out . . .

Go with Hobson

Tacoma courthouse

Tacoma courthouse

In his ruling Thursday saying that Washington pharmacists have a right to choose whether and how to fill prescriptions based on their religious beliefs, Federal District Judge Ronald Leighton summed his point this way: current state pharmacy rules "impose a Hobson's choice for the majority of pharmacists who object to Plan B: dispense a drug that ends a life as defined by their religious teachings, or leave their present positions in the state of Washington."

That would be true. And exactly as it should be.

The situation has to do, of course, with the refusal of some pharmacists (specifically in Washington, though the issue is national) to dispense some prescribed contraceptive and other drugs, on grounds that their religion is offended by their use.

If a pharmacist believes that filling a prescription which has been approved by a physician - and therefore determined to be medically proper and possibly necessary - is contrary to his or her deeply held beliefs, then that's a conflict, all right. But the pharmacist is not the only person in this equation: The person seeking the medication has rights no less. And a pharmacist licensed by the state is presumed to provide service consistent with other pharmacists in the state (at least until we start licensing different types or grades of pharmacists).

Put another way: If you beliefs get in the way of doing, to societal standards, a job on which people's lives, health and safety depends, then you'd better find another job to do.

If Leighton's decision stands, we probably don't have to wait long for the lawsuit from a person who was damaged by a pharmacist's refusal to provide ordinarily expected services. And they'd have a hell of a case.

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