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Volume 3, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Clinton cashes in; FCC is dealt a silencing blow

Brandon Moeller

Eight million dollars for a book deal? Oh, what secrets could she spill? Anything tasty about President Bill? Eight million dollars is not her first steal.

Not only did Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton meet with future first lady Laura Bush this week in a traditional transitional fashion -- she also hit the jackpot. Simon & Schuster has agreed to advance the current first lady nearly $8 million for a memoir that will probably be published by early 2003.

The deal falls short of the record $8.5 million advance granted to Pope John Paul II for his 1994 memoir Crossing the Threshold of Hope, which was a huge commercial disaster. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what can be juicy enough for $8 million.

Elsewhere in Washington ...
Meanwhile, President Clinton will sign Congress' budget legislation, which has been altered from the authors' original intentions in order to suit the president’s lame-duck goals while courting the lawmakers' interests in getting something signed.

But part of the legislation stabs the Federal Communications Commission in the back by stripping it of one of its controls, disrupting the committee’s dream of issuing licenses for low-power radio frequencies on the FM dial. 

The FCC's chairman, William E. Kennard, had hoped to license low-power noncommercial stations that would have very limited broadcast ranges ? less than 10 miles. But that will probably change now that their fate is dependent on a well-lobbied Congress that prefers to cater to business interests than provide communities with alternative community voices.

Of course, the reason the big radio conglomerates, even National Public Radio, attacked the notion of low-power radio was that it would provide competition for their valued listening audience. But in a public radio world where it's hard to distinguish a public service announcement from a straightforward plug, I can understand the corporations’ fear of advertisers going elsewhere in search of lower ad rates.

What needs to happen is tighter, stricter control of public radio by committed watch groups who will complain when they hear advertisements broadcast over partially publicly financed airwaves.
The corporations got their way because of the heavily Republican Congress. The funny thing about the majority of the organizations that had pre-registered for the low-power radio signals is that they were mainly Christian religious organizations. Ironic, isn't it? The headline should scream: "Republicans turn back on grass-roots Christians."

Low-power radio is needed in a world where radio voices are generic and too worried about offending advertisers. Such stations could possibly even bring back student radio at UH, if interested students formed an organization and applied for a license.

These stations could also pave the way for every neighborhood and civic club ima'inable to have airtime -- a real movement to put the public airwaves back in the public’s hands. It’s too bad Congress has demanded the right to decide low-power radio's fate.

A perfect gift for the pundit on your list
Before I go, I have a gift idea for the political junkie on your list, the one who stayed home from work and nearly forgot everything else except CNN's constant coverage of, as all three major newsmagazines put it last week on their covers, our "constitutional crisis."

In order to raise money for the proper technology to ensure Florida never again has an election disaster, the state should auction off its many counted and uncounted votes. What diehard Republican or Democrat wouldn’t like an authentic, framed (and possibly butterfly) ballot from the state that gave us the 36-day election? Just in time for Christmas!

No, wait -- wait until the media deep within the Sunshine State finish counting the millions of ballots and return months from now with a "completely accurate" count.
That’ll be the day.

Moeller, a junior communication major, can be reached at

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