Broadcasters Giving Back - Thoughts on Sandy, Public Service and Communications Charitable Contributions
For one blog entry, I'll depart from our usual discussion of legal issues. There is plenty of time to analyze the effect that last night's election will have on the broadcast industry, and to discuss other issues of importance to broadcasters. Instead, as we approach the holiday season, I thought that I'd go into another direction. I've just returned from the NJ coast, where my family has a home that was partially flooded by Hurricane Sandy. While we had some property damage, it was nothing compared to the destruction I saw in other neighborhoods on the Jersey Shore. Seeing the number of people affected by the storm, and hearing the radio reports from locations up and down the coast where the destruction was far worse, made me think that I should talk a little about the good things that the broadcast and communications industry does, and how those in the industry can help take care of their own.
It has been great to see the many TV networks broadcasting programs with the specific purpose of promoting hurricane relief. And, in a post that we'll put on the blog later today, the FCC has just made it easier for noncommercial broadcasters to contribute in these. Being on the ground at the NJ shore for a few days, without electricity other than what was provided by a small gas-powered generator, demonstrated to me the power and importance of portable media – including radio. Throughout my weekend at the shore, we could get news and entertainment from a battery-powered radio and the radio in our car. Together with tidbits of news from Facebook posts, a local list-serve and the few other sites that we could get on our mobile phones (for as long as the phones stayed charged) in an area where the mobile networks were often slow due to the high demand for wireless service as the storm had ruined many landline connections – these were our links to the outside world. Radio kept going, providing updates of all that was going on in the area. One local radio station was particularly noteworthy, as it was operating even though it did not have operating phones or email access. Yet it continued to broadcast, conveying information as to how people could help each other. That information was collected from people posting on the station's Twitter feed. The station truly showed how convergence of electronic and broadcast media can really work well together.
Watching this situation unfold reminds me of how lucky many of us in the broadcast and broader media and communications industries really are. While it may be a cliché, you don't realize what you have until it is gone. We should all be thankful for jobs, friends and good fortune, and give back where possible. In the broadcast industry itself, there are many groups doing good work. One in particular that I think bears mentioning is the Broadcasters Foundation of America, which provides relief to broadcasters and former broadcasters who have, for one reason or another, fallen on hard times – whether that be for health reasons or because of a disaster such as Sandy. They have been active in New Jersey, and they deserve your consideration. More about the Foundation and its service, and ways to contribute, can be found at their website, here.
For readers of the Blog in the Washington DC area, including the many DC lawyers who read our articles, the Federal Communications Bar Association, the association of lawyers who work with communications companies, is having its 23rd Annual Charity Auction tomorrow night. Proceeds from the Auction benefit THC - Housing Families, Transforming Lives and the FCBA Foundation. THC serves D.C.’s homeless and other at-risk children and their families by providing housing and support services. More on the Auction is available here.
Many state broadcast associations also run charitable foundations – often using the funds that they receive to provide for internships and scholarships to students interested in the broadcast industry. What could be a better investment than training the next generation of broadcasters to be prepared to provide the service from radio and TV that the public will demand tomorrow and into the future? Contact your local state broadcast association for more information about these foundations.
These are but a few of the many ways for broadcasters to contribute to their communities and their industry. So as we begin to think about the upcoming holiday season, all of us in the communications industry should consider how we can give back – whether it is monetarily, though service, or in other ways. Enjoy your success, but remember others as well.