Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not." -- Millard Fillmore
I passed by the Laquedemitasse while he was watching television. A promotional spot came on for a sitcom described as "the new hit series." He and I had the same reaction: if the series hasn't started running yet, how can it be a hit already?
For some years my morning routine has included about 40 minutes of listening to the news on KXL, which provided a good mix of local and national news reports. KXL played the CBS national news for four minutes on the hour and one minute on the half-hour, not counting commercial announcements. Then maybe two or three years ago, KXL dropped the last minute of the on-the-hour news, but it was still a good balance.
In the last month or two KXL has switched from the CBS news reports to the Fox reports: it still runs one minute on the half-hour, but runs only one minute of the Fox national report on the hour. (And that one minute may be all that Fox provides its affiliates.) It's not enough airtime for me to call it national "news" any more. I was not pleased, and I'm looking for another news station to start my day with. (Any suggestions?)
Then it occurred to me: just because "news" started life as a partitive noun doesn't mean it has to remain one. While I search for another station to listen to, I think of the Fox report in the singular -- "fair and balanced new" -- as more aptly describing its small portions, and I smile.
Staff at the Federal Communications Commission has proposed to require every television and radio station to record its programming 16 hours a day, to make a record that the FCC could listen to if a listener should complain of indecency on the airwaves. Stations oppose the proposal because they would have to install equipment to record their broadcasts and then store the tapes or data for 80+ days.
Underlying this issue is the question of whether stations should be free to broadcast whatever they want to, or whether they should have to comply with standards of decency in the communities that they serve.
I support keeping our airwaves clean and decent, but cleanliness and decency goes far beyond prohibiting "four-letter words" and sanitizing Howard Stern. If we're going to require broadcasters to clean up their act, then we need to require far more than eliminating George Carlin's seven words. For example:
1. Ban all "get rich quick seminar" advertisements from promoters who have gone bankrupt.
2. Prohibit news shows from mentioning Britney Spears, or any part of Ms. Spears, in the first 10 minutes.
3. Keep the Sacramento Kings off of television.
4. Fine stations $10 for each improper use of "like" in place of "as."
5. Eliminate camera shots of men wearing baseball caps backward who are not wearing a catcher's mask.
6. Don't show Sandra Bullock films when children and critics might see them.
7. Do something about Robin Leach.
Tonight PBS shows the first episode of Colonial House, a documentary about people who agree to live for several months on the coast of Maine in the manner of 1628, but with cameras present. (Bob's Red Mill, of Milwaukie, was the lead corporate sponsor and provided the flour and grains.) The colonists follow an adaptation of 17th century colonial rules, including mandatory Sunday church attendance.
Saturday I previewed the first four episodes. In one of them, one family skips church on Sunday to go skinny-dipping. The next week other colonists skip church. The minister says that the Sunday church meeting is an important part of holding the community together, not so much for the religious purpose but because the community physically gets together only for church.
Tomorrow is Election Day. It's certainly more efficient for us to vote by mail, and voting by mail means that candidates can't effectively use Election Eve smear tactics. But I miss going to the polls because it was an act of community, and nothing's come along to replace it.