JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Dobyns To Deliver Final Lecture May 13

Lloyd Dobyns

April 28, 2003 -- Lloyd Dobyns will close out his six-year stint as the Ayers Chair in Communication at JSU at the end of May to return to writing full time.

"I'm 67 years old," he said recently. "In three years I will be 70. I'm going back to something I did for ten years and enjoyed enormously. The nice thing about freelance writing: there's not an editor alive who cares how old you are. All he cares about is, 'can you get me the story on time?' If you can, you can be 106 and no one cares."

Dobyns is working on the script of his final public lecture, which will be held Tuesday, May 13, 2003 at 6:00 p.m. on the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library. A reception will follow on the 12th floor. He will be speaking about major policy changes that observers predict the Federal Communications Commission will impose later this summer.

"The FCC is planning major changes in ownership rules for television," he said. "It doesn't sound like much until you realize it completely changes the way television exists. Essentially what it would do is open up television ownership completely to the giant media companies that control everything now. So, they would not only control all the newspapers but all the television stations.

"To a degree, it will also change the way networks can own stations. Networks now are restricted to owning x-number of stations in x-number of localities. The money to be made in television now -- I'm talking about over-the-air television -- is made by local stations. Networks make next to nothing. It costs too much to get the programs on the air. So, the way the networks can make more money without having to change anything is to simply own more local stations. It makes economic sense. Whether it makes communication sense is another thing. Depending on how the FCC rules in June, television by the time the new school year starts in September can be completely different from what it is right now.

"Do you think they're going to worry about what you like to see on TV, or do you think they're going to sit around and count their money? When I originally went into television, the FCC said you had to operate 'in the public interest, necessity and convenience.' That's how news programs got started -- it was in the public interest. Documentaries got started because it was in the public interest. Political coverage got started because it was in the public interest. They won't have to do that any more. Now, news programs are put on air now because they are cheaper to produce than entertainment programs."

What can a person do to stay well-informed?

Says Dobyns, "Essentially you're going to wind up reading books, I guess, except that the publishing houses are owned by the same conglomerates. We have managed to take all these independent media we used to have and turn them over to literally a handful of companies."

Dobyns is concerned about the ownership trend and thinks everyone should be aware of what's happening, since the coming changes have been mostly shrouded in secret.

"It's possible someone is going to stand up and say 'how do we solve this?' The answer is, I don't know."

Dobyns said his lack of proposed solutions is typical of a journalist.

"In all those years of reporting, not once did I give you a solution. This is what's going to happen -- you do what you want."

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