- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Federal Communications Commission will meet tomorrow to review Hurricane Katrina’s impact on telecommunications in the Gulf Coast states, where broadcasters and other media face an uncertain future.

Two FCC commissioners — Chairman Kevin J. Martin, a Republican, and Michael J. Copps, a Democrat — visited the devastated region Thursday.

“In the days ahead, the challenge will be facilitating service restoration. But in the long term, we need to learn from this event and work together to improve the reliability, survivability and security of our nation’s telecommunications networks,” said Mr. Martin and Mr. Copps in a joint statement released after their visit.

The hurricane ravaged the region’s technology and media infrastructure.

Last week, Kenneth Moran, director of the FCC’s Office of Homeland Security, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the storm knocked out more than 3 million telephone connections, with about 1 million still out of service.

Katrina also knocked off the air between 50 and 100 television and radio stations, Mr. Moran said.

Most of the broadcasters in the New Orleans area have resumed programming since the Aug. 29 hurricane, although their employees are working out of temporary studios scattered throughout the region.

The storm damaged stations in other parts of the Gulf Coast, too. It blew the roof off the ABC affiliate in Biloxi, Miss., for example.

Commercial broadcasters across the region have lots of obstacles to overcome. Katrina killed scores of viewers and listeners, and it displaced many businesses, robbing the broadcasters of their advertising base.

Broadcasting executives say they have no plans to abandon New Orleans, although they concede it could be years before normal business resumes.

New Orleans is the nation’s 43rd-largest television market and the 46th-largest radio market, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. and Arbitron Inc.

Hizzoner, media critic

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has started a blog on the city’s Web site, and he used his Monday entry to chastise the news media.

“The press … enjoys great freedom in our country, both constitutionally and traditionally in its role as the ‘fourth estate.’ What responsibilities come with this? Has anyone seen any checks and balances around here?” writes Mr. Williams, a Democrat.

He also takes a swipe at Mark Plotkin, political commentator at all-news station WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM).

Writes the mayor: “There is a merciful God. I sat in for my monthly ‘Ask the Mayor’ with WTOP and my friend Mark Plotkin was on vacation. Think of the kind of serene bliss they project on the Corona commercials and you know the feeling.”

Ouch. What say you, Mr. Plotkin?

‘DeLay insurance’

Time Warner Inc. has hired Tim Berry, chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, as vice president for global public policy. Mr. DeLay praised Mr. Berry, but media consolidation critic Jeff Chester had a different take.

“Time Warner wants DeLay insurance so it won’t have to face cable ownership safeguards, a la carte rules and broadband nondiscrimination policies,” Mr. Chester said.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139.

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