Madison County Opinion...

JUNE 11, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
June 11, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Federal gov’t favors big
business over ‘We the People’
Well, folks, the federal government is at it again. They have just made a major ruling that favors big business at the expense of “We the People.” The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to allow even more consolidation in the media. Now one company can own TV stations that reach 45 percent of our population. Major media companies can now operate a newspaper and TV stations in the same city. This action paves the way for all media to be in the hands of a few giant companies.
Why do I say that they are at it again? Contrary to what is being taught in our school’s history classes, it was the capture of the federal government by big business interest that caused the War Between the States. At that time, the federal tax system took the major part of tax money from mostly subsistence farmers in the South and used it to benefit Northern industrialists.
This time, they are taking a priceless natural resource from us and giving that to these giant media conglomerates. The air waves are a public property. They belong to you and me. Radio and TV stations must apply for licenses to operate on these public frequencies, and they are, or were, required to operate in the best interest of the community.
To me, community interest requires that a radio station be operated by and for the community to which it is licensed. That is not the case today.
Often local radio stations are owned by distant companies that have no concern or interest in community problems. All they want is to squeeze as much money out of the station as possible. Operating a local news program is not cheap. It is much more economical to simply play a limited music program and run national advertising.
There is one company that now owns 1,500 radio stations. That is obscene. They operate these stations like a cookie cutter. They all play the same music, have the same sponsors and have the same political slant.
Current FCC rules violate community interest in another way. They allow stations licensed to smaller communities to migrate to larger metropolitan areas. Look at Northeast Georgia. Athens and Gainesville each were given two full-power FM radio stations. All four, along with a TV station, now operate as Atlanta stations. From Athens, the media giants took 95.5 FM (formerly WNGC) which currently plays obscene trash for the Atlanta Market, and 104.7 FM (The Fish) which at least plays modern Christian music, but again, with their studios and principal audience in Atlanta. Gainesville lost WFOX and “Eagle 106” to Atlanta. The former WNGM TV of Athens now broadcasts Spanish language programming to Atlanta.
When Athens was raided by the media giants, they were left with few radio options. So the company that now controls broadcast raided even smaller markets for frequencies. They took 106.1 from Toccoa to be the new WNGC, and 103.7 (WPUP) from Royston. Franklin County is left with a single 250 watt AM station. Madison County, with a population of over 25,000 souls, has none.
Congress is currently considering legislation to overturn the latest FCC disaster. I support this effort. It is my wish as well that they will look at the earlier rulings that allow major cities to steal radio stations from surrounding communities as well. The airwaves belong to We the People.
Those who hold licenses to operate radio and TV stations should be required to operate them from and for the local community to which they are licensed.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
June 11, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
Lo siento, no hablo espanol
I put the small translation guide in my back pocket and boarded the plane to Mexico.
I was not on the run.
I was on my honeymoon. And I would greet the Spanish speakers with a smile and a “Como estas?,” replying that I was “muy bien, gracias” and on my “luna de miel con mi mujer.”
I thumbed through the book as we flew over the ocean toward Cancun, where we would take a short trip down to a resort in the town of Playa del Carmen.
I quietly mouthed words in Spanish, skipping over such phrases as “my child is sick, can you please stop the autobus?” and looking for lines that might actually apply to our trip, such as, “where can I buy bottled water?” or “do you know how to get back to the Gran Porto Real?”
I tried to remember those classes in high school where my friends and I greeted each other with a “komo tay yamo” and said things like “mooey beyun” and “donday,” “grashious” and “oh la.”
It could have been Klingon for all we cared. We didn’t see Spanish as ever serving a functional purpose in our lives.
But, of course, I feel differently now. I see many benefits to knowing a second language.
Unfortunately, my pop quiz on the plane didn’t prepare me for the exam.
The first person to speak to me in Spanish tried to explain that no, I couldn’t push the luggage cart out of the airport with me. I had grabbed the cart to carry my heavy bag.
My wife — as a newlywed it still feels strange to say that — giggles when she recalls how my face collapsed into helplessness, eyes wide like an animal in the road at night.
“Huh?” I muttered to her, grunting for help.
“He said you can’t take that out of the airport with you.”
“Oh.”
Several times I collapsed into this linguistic coma while in Mexico, unable to find much more in my empty skull than “hola, hola,” or “thank you, thank you, I mean gracias.”
There is a stereotype many foreigners have of Americans, that we don’t know or care about learning other languages. This stereotype is mostly valid.
I remember traveling to the Netherlands during the 1996 Olympics. Two friends and I stayed at the home of a Bosnian girl, Samira, and her family for several days. She was three years younger than me, but she spoke three languages and was working on a fourth. I was amazed.
The feeling was not mutual. She couldn’t believe that none of us could speak anything other than English.
“But you don’t understand, we don’t need to,” I argued, trying to stand up for us mono-lingual buffoons. “It’s a matter of geography. If another language was dominant in Alabama, we’d know some Alabaman. But we all speak the same language for thousands of miles.”
This argument didn’t do much to impress her.
And I thought of Samira last week as I watched how many Americans at the posh resort on the Mexican coast didn’t even try to greet the hotel staff in Spanish. I was guilty of this too for the most part, feeling horribly uncomfortable with my inability to recall much of what I learned about the romantic language.
I thought about how most of us would feel if the tables were turned, if we were approached by foreigners in Danielsville who didn’t even try to say “hello” in English, speaking to us instead in their native tongue and assuming that we would understand. We’d find that somewhat rude.
As we sat waiting for the bus to take us back to the airport, I thumbed through the pocket-sized translation guide, quizzing my wife, who knew much more Spanish than she had let on during the trip.
“I just felt too shy to say much,” she said, noting that she was unsure of the pronunciation of some words.
“We’ll have to come back and try again,” I said. And we both smiled at the thought of this.
A couple of hours later, we were back on the plane, disappointed to leave the beautiful place of a foreign tongue, the place of our “luna de miel.”
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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