Friday, April 01, 2005

Peggy Koenig resigned her position on the Nexstar Broadcasting Inc. Board of Directors, according to information filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Nexstar officials said her resignation did not stem from any disagreement with the company or company policy. She is a partner at ABRY Partners, the company that owns Nexstar Broadcasting.
Her replacement, according to the filing, will be Brent Stone, 28, a senior associate at ABRY. He was a member of the Investment Banking Department of Credit Suisse First Boston from 2000 to 2002.
 The connection between ABRY and Nexstar Broadcasting would seem to create a problem for Nexstar's attempts to get paid for having its programming carried on cable.
The connection between Nexstar and Abry was explored in The Turner Report in February. This is what I wrote at that time:
After the 30-minute special extolling the virtues of local television and of satellite dishes, in the interest of equal time, The Turner Report will present the advantages of cable over satellite:
-Cable services can be bundled with high-speed internet services at a discount.
-No extra charge for local channels
-Reception that is not affected by bad weather like satellite
-Additional outlets free of charge
-Strong local technical support located in your community.
Those are not actually my selling points for cable. They do not come from Cable One, nor do they come from Cox Communications.
Those reasons why cable is preferable to satellite come from Atlantic Broadband, the 16th biggest cable company in the United States. Atlantic Broadband is a relatively new entrant into cable television, but has quickly established itself. It was started by a Boston private equity firm ABRY Partners...the same ABRY Partners that owns controlling interest in Nexstar Broadcasting.
During the half-hour Nexstar infomercial COO Duane Lammers lambasted Cable One, because it is owned by corporate giant The Washington Post, which also owns Newsweek Magazine and other properties.
He made it sound as if the big, bad Washington Post was bringing all of its power down on tiny, courageous Nexstar. What Duane Lammers failed to mention was the large media portfolio owned by his bosses from ABRY Partners.
Among the other companies owned by ABRY are:
-Consolidated Theatres- a regional megaplex movie theater circuit
-Charleston Newspapers- publishers of both the Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia.
-Muzak- a subscription music service
-Country Road Communications- a rural wireline telecom provider
-Network Communications- a leading North American publisher
-Citadel Communications- Owner and operator of leading radio station clusters in mid-sized markets.
-Sullivan Broadcasting Company- a leading operator of Fox-affiliated broadcast television stations in mid-sized cities.
-Hispanic Yellow Pages Network- Targets Hispanic areas across the U. S.
-Monitronics- A leading provider of security monitoring devices for residential and business customers.
-Connoisseur Communications- owner and operator of leading radio station clusters in small and mid-sized cities.
-Dolan Media Company- provides business information services to law, credit, finance, construction and commercial real estate industries.
At the same time that one ABRY company is telling customers in the Joplin area, plus customers in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, that cable companies are out to milk the public, cheat broadcast stations, and are inferior to satellite, another ABRY company is telling customers in the upper Midwest, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the Miami, Fla., areas that cable is far superior to satellite.
Atlantic Broadband is not the only cable company owned by ABRY. According to the ABRY website, the investment firm also owns WideOpenWest, or WOW, which is even larger than Atlantic Broadband, ranking as the number 13 cable operator in the U. S., providing services in the suburbs of Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, and southeast Michigan.
Lammers did not tell the audience about Atlantic Broadband or WideOpenWest, and he certainly did not mention anything about either of those companies actually paying that penny per day price to local broadcasters for retransmission of their signals.
One last bit of irony...It wasn't long ago that the newscasts on the Nexstar stations in Joplin covered a staged protest by the local Echostar/DISH Network provider, targeting Cable One.
ABRY's website carries the following news release, issued Dec. 3, 2004, with a Johnstown, Pa., deadline: "Atlantic Broadband, the digital video and internet provider that began operating here in March, has issued a protest to Echostar, the $5.7 billion distributor of DISH Network satellite programming, saying it is misleading Pennsylvania consumers in a negative ad campaign aimed at cable TV operators."
Lawmakers seem to have closed minds when it comes to lobbyists.
A report came over the AP wire Thursday that State Representative Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and eight other Republican legislators vacationed in Hot Springs during the General Assembly's spring break, with much of the tab being picked up by lobbbyists, including Andrew Blunt, son of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, and brother of Governor Matt Blunt.
Ms. Ruestman told The Joplin Globe that she stayed only night in Hot Springs and paid for her own hotel room. The only thing she did not pay for was her meal, she added.
The Globe article reads, "Ruestman said she did not see the meal as being any different from one a lobbyist would purchase for a legislator in Jefferson City."
She's right and that's what is scary about this story. How many of Ms. Ruestman's constituents (or the constituents of any other Missouri legislator) have their meals paid for by other people on a regular basis?
Legislators have told me for years that their vote is not for sale for a meal and I believe them. I also believe that the problem is that these people, representing special interest groups, are getting something extremely valuable from the legislators...access.
They have the opportunity to get their viewpoints across and believe me, these people know how to get their viewpoints across.
You and I do not have lobbyists with that kind of access and that kind of money.
This is not a Republican problem. This is not a Democrat problem. It is simply a problem. The three lobbyists, including Blunt, who paid for the Hot Springs vacation, have clients who include the hospital associations, the tobacco companies, the big-time poultry producers, and other big business interests. To see their influence on our legislators, all we have to do is look at what their priorities have been during the 2005 session.
I have been told by a Neosho reader that I left one thing out of my article on the banquet being held to raise funds for technology for the high school and the alternative school.
I pointed out that the high school speech and debate team was being honored, but their parents will have to fork over $40 apiece just to see it. I said that would be $80, which is much more than some of these families can afford. Apparently, it could cost even more. If a student qualified for state in speech or debate, that student's cost for the meal is covered. Otherwise, the parent will have to spend an additional $40 to pay for the meal for the student who is being recognized.
As I noted earlier, the foundation fund raiser, which will have Missouri Governor Matt Blunt as the speaker, is a worthwhile cause and the foundation members generously donate their time to make it a success. However, for most of them $40 a person is not a big deal. For some of the parents, who naturally want to be there at a big moment in their children's young lives...$40, $80, $120 is a very big deal.
The Terri Schaivo controversy has directed considerable traffic to The Turner Report, according to CQ Counter. Many of those who have reached the site via search engine have been looking for information on Nancy Cruzan or her family. That has been a more popular search than even Nexstar lately, but don't fear we still are getting one or two people a day trying to find information on former KODE anchor Malorie Maddox.

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