The nation’s TV and radio stations use the public airways — which are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission — to make a lot of money. The stations are required to file a quarterly “Issues and Program Report,” in which they justify their free use of taxpayer-owned spectrum by listing what they regard as examples of their service to the public. Typical is the third quarter 2012 report filed late last month by KGTV, the San Diego television station owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, founded in the 19th Century by the famous newspaper mogul and onetime San Diego land baron Edward Willis Scripps. “The following is a list of problems, needs or issues of the San Diego community as determined by KGTV News management,” the report says. “Under each category are brief examples of the news stories covered by KGTV that pertain to the various issues.”
So, what are some of the stories that the station thinks exemplified its news-gathering efforts last year? Listed under “Children and Family”: “The Chargers football team handed out 1,000 pairs of shoes to underprivileged children at 4 different Payless Shoe stores around SD. It’s part of the team’s 22nd annual back to school shoe event.” Another example of KGTV’s children and family coverage: “In an effort to battle childhood cancer, Hyundai is presenting a $25,000 check to Rady Children’s Hospital for childhood cancer research.”
There was also this hot item: “Twelve children who are cancer patients at Rady Children’s Hospital will take part in a special interactive dolphin program hosted by SeaWorld. The children, ages 10 to 17, will have an opportunity to play with the dolphins.” Another example: “Office Depot’s Charitable Foundation is donating free backpacks to 4,000 San Diego children as they go back to school. This is the eleventh year Office Depot has been doing this, helping more than 3,000,000 children.” Finally, in the “Border Issues” category: “Verizon is expanding its 4G network in Otay Mesa, Eastlake, and at the Border. Verizon’s wireless 4G network already covers more than 75% of the U.S. population.” Not all of the coverage was feel-good: “Seven year old boy died from flesh eating bacteria which he contracted at a remote camp site while he and his family were visiting SD for a family reunion. He also had a rare autoimmune deficiency.” Reached by phone this week, KGTV general manager Jeff Block explained that the listings represented “a sampling of what we do,” as required by federal law.