URL 14: Letter from Bob Ordonez to FCC Dated August 2, 1971 (In Chapter 20, page 103) (1,804 words) (8,310 cum words)
|This letter responds to the Commission’s letter inquiry dated July 15, 1971 (FCC ref. No. 8310-A, C7-157), quoting a letter from Dr. Donald W. Hendon. The Commission’s letter does not state to whom Dr. Hendon’s letter was directed, nor is a copy enclosed.
Dr. Hendon is quoted by the Commission as stated that he watched KORK-TV during the week of June 27 and saw three instances in which commercial announcements broadcast on the station affected program content, one each on June 28, June 29, and June 30. The Commission asks for comments.
KORK-TV was not involved in the commercial matter transmitted during the portion of the game referred to. A department head of the station saw the game and the incident referred to by Dr. Hendon. The switching error was that of the Network. The engineers on duty during the game confirm that the loss of part of a remark by Mr. Kubek was not caused by KORK-TV.
The ten-second Cashman Cadillac spot to which Dr. Hendon refers had originally been pre-logged at 8:59 pm. It was then moved by the traffic department to 8:24:45 pm. Then, realizing the error, it was moved back to 8:59 pm, but traffic neglected to cross it out at 8:24:45 pm.
As explained in my June 1, 1971, letter to the Commission, the engineer in charge at the time had explicit instructions to and should have killed the ten-second spot at 8:24:45 pm, even though it appeared on the log. He did not.
The particular engineer in question had caused problems for the station in the past because of his failure to handle such switching problems efficiently and properly. In fact, at the very moment we were notified by our Washington counsel that a new complaint had been made by Dr. Hendon, I was in a meeting with other station management discussing whether or not the engineer involved should be fired for this very reason. He has been fired.
This was a traffic error. The Sparkletts spot was a make-good. The traffic person who inserted it at this point in the log believed that there was no problem with overloading during non-prime time. She was wrong. Many other morning periods were available where the spot could have been inserted without causing commercial overloading. She has been carefully instructed not to repeat this oversight.
The Commission asks if our operating practices are in accord with quoted statements made by me and by our counsel. The answer is that they accord exactly. As I made clear in my letter to the Commission of June 1, 1971, the problems referred to by Dr. Hendon have been the subject of serious concern. As I stated then, we have taken strong measures to insure against commercial matter interfering with program content.
On May 5, 1971, a special staff meeting was held by the former general manager of the station, myself, and staff members at which this problem was discussed. Then on May 18, 19, and 20, all prime-time station breaks and commercials were meticulously screened and reviewed by the staff to eliminate any potential for commercial overage. On May 20, 1971, while I was in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Donrey Media, owner of KORK, is headquartered in Fort Smith.) I discussed this matter by telephone in detail with responsible KORK-TV staff personnel, having first discussed it with the operating head of Donrey. In my telephone conversation, I reviewed individual particular potential problems. On May 21, 1971, spot placement changes and revisions were instituted during prime time in an effort to eliminate any potential for commercial interference with program matter.
During this period, special meetings were held with key station personnel in order to attempt to insure that there would be no commercial switching errors in violation of our policy against commercial announcements interfering with program matter. On May 21, a meeting of all department heads was held at which the problem was discussed and plans developed for making sure that here would be no slip-ups by staff personnel. Special meetings were held with all traffic, accounting, and availability personnel on the morning of May 21, 1971, and with all technical directors on the afternoon of that date. In the announcements which were posted on the bulletin board of the station concerning these meetings, they were characterized as vitally important and urgent. Indeed they were, as was made clear to the staff members attending. The clear and inflexible nature of the station’s policy was reiterated at both meetings.
Efforts to insure the utmost alertness in this matter by all station personnel have continued. For example, on July 1, 1971, the NBC Station Break Schedule for the summer of 1971 was posted on the bulletin board at the station with a note that there is no excuse for “up-cutting” the network and a reminder that it is the station’s policy never to delete network program matter for local cut-ins. The notice stated “extra care should be taken by all engineers to insure that it doesn’t happen.” All technical directors were required to read and initial the notice. Emphasis in all of the station’s efforts was placed on prime time where potential switching errors were most likely to occur.
As I stated in my June 1 letter, all local commercial spot makers were advised that the station will not accept commercial announcements which run over the prescribed length.
In short, KORK-TV has done everything it can to eliminate commercial announcements interfering with program matter. All concerned personnel have been instructed that if network programming returns to the air while a commercial announcement is still in progress, the person on duty is to kill the spot and rejoin the network. That instruction is flat and unequivocal and, I believe, clearly understood by all personnel. The serious consequences of failing to meet this policy have also been spelled out clearly, as evidenced by the fact that an engineer has been fired.
Dr. Hendon has pointed to three apparent violations of this policy. The first did not involve KORK-TV. The second involved an engineer who was about to be fired and who was in fact fired. The third was a simple error in traffic which occurred during morning hours and for which there was no excuse.
As I stated in my June 1 letter, errors of switching will occur. For example, last Wednesday morning a new engineer was in charge during the Today Show. While running a local Public Service Announcement produced by KORK-TV for the NAACP, the tape machine stopped for a few seconds. The PSA was not finished when network programming resumed and the engineer, even though instructed that our policy of not interfering with program matter applies to all announcements, failed to switch until the PSA was completed. I have cautioned him not to permit a reoccurrence of this policy violation.
As manager of this station, I can only ask station employees for care and attention, not perfection. We have, I believe, done everything humanly possible to minimize switching errors. I believe we have been successful, Dr. Hendon’s letters notwithstanding. The policy I have set forth in my June 1 letter is our policy and will continue to be our policy.
Finally, I would like to say a word about Dr. Hendon. The communication from Dr. Hendon referred to in the Commission’s July 15, 1971, letter has not been furnished to us by the Commission, nor was a copy sent to us by Dr. Hendon. The communication from him to which I responded on June 1, 1971, was addressed to the Chairman of the FCC. Since the Commission furnished a copy of that letter to us, we know that Dr. Hendon explicitly asked the Chairman to conceal his communication from us.
Since Dr. Hendon came to Las Vegas last year, he has apparently engaged his students in monitoring the local stations. The alleged results of that monitoring have been sent to advertisers, not to local stations. Dr. Hendon has sent form letters to local and national advertisers which reads as follows, in full:
“47 percent of Clark County residents have expressed a feeling of ill will against you and all other TV advertisers in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, according to a study that I have completed on April 26th. The ill will is a direct result of your advertising. I strongly urge you to read the attached summary of the study so that you can take appropriate action to overcome this resentment toward you. I will be in touch with you by telephone in the next few days to talk about this situation in more detail; however, you can telephone me at UNLV, 736-6111, extensions 365 or 363 immediately if you wish, and I will tell you how I think this study affects you.”
Dr. Hendon has chosen, for reasons we do not know, to communicate these concerns to advertisers, not to stations. Indeed, it may well be that the most recent letter from him quoted by the Commission in its July 15, 1971, letter reflects student monitoring, not Dr. Hendon’s own viewing.
Certainly KORK-TV has no objection to and welcomes critical viewing of its station and fair criticism by its viewers. It would appear, however, that Dr. Hendon’s purpose is to harass local stations, not to improve them. This appearance is suggested by his efforts to conceal from the stations his communications to the FCC concerning the stations and by his efforts to undercut station-advertiser relationships, rather than deal directly with involved station personnel.
I believe that the policy of KORK-TV with respect to commercial matter interfering with program matter has been set forth to the Commission as clearly as I know how, as has our efforts to insure an unwavering application of that policy. As I have tried to make clear before, errors will unquestionably occur, but we will do everything possible to eliminate them. I do not believe that Dr. Hendon’s clandestine efforts, which have been quite time-consuming for the station, will further or efforts in this regard.