Exponent Editorial, Friday, March 5, 1999
Consumers should not be caught in middle of TV battle

    It is one of the growing pains of a rapidly expanding television industry. For many, there is no easy way to get television service. They live out in the rural areas of the state and cannot pick up local stations and are unable to subscribe to cable service. Their only alternative is to sign up for satellite dish service.
    That's where it gets complicated. The dish companies have been providing customers with distant network affiliates so that they can watch CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox programming. For instance, if someone lived in a rural part of Lewis County, that person might be watching a CBS affiliate from, say, Chicago or Philadelphia.
    But local stations nationwide have been fighting the dish companies because providing network programming means many customers don't watch the local stations. As the result of a lawsuit, many dish companies are no longer providing CBS and Fox stations on their lineups. Still more companies are considering cutting out all the broadcast networks to avoid future lawsuits.
The only option for many is to hook up an external antenna on their home in order to pull in the local stations. But for many in this mountainous state, the signals are substandard or non-existent.
    Sen. Jay Rockefeller has been swamped with complaints from constituents. He says he is backing a bill by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., which would restore the networks to the satellite services until the year 2002.
    Rockefeller is aware of all the issues involved. First, the local television stations need to have as many viewers as possible in order to survive in a competitive market. If nobody's watching, the ratings drop and they can't charge as much for commercials.
    Second, the dish companies want to provide as complete a service as possible to their customers. They're in business to please the viewers and viewers want "ER" just as much as they want HBO.
    Third, there is the dish customer. "You can't hold the consumer hostage," said Rockefeller. "Consumers didn't do anything wrong. They deserve good television signals. They paid for good television signals."
    That is really the heart of the issue. As much as it might hurt local television, the consumers should be able to expect network service on their satellite dishes. They should not have to be penalized because of a turf battle between broadcasters and dish providers.
    We hope the McCain bill passes and that in the next few years some kind of compromise can be worked out. And whatever solution is found, the consumer should be allowed more, not fewer, choices.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.



Telegram Editorial, Friday, March 5, 1999

Death tax kills small businesses; it's time Congress killed it

    Politicians in Washington often talk about supporting and nurturing small business in this country. It makes one wonder why they won't take a simple action to repeal a law that has been more responsible for killing off small family-owned businesses than any other factor.
    The culprit is the estate tax, also known as the death tax. Someone is trying to do something about it. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, a Republican from Washington, and Rep. John Tanner, a Democrat from Tennessee, have introduced the Death Tax Elimination Act. It reduces estate taxes by 5 percent each year for the next 11 years. Complete repeal of the death tax would occur after Dec. 31, 2010.
    The so-called death tax kills small businesses by imposing a huge tax on family-owned companies that are passed on to family survivors at the death of the owner. Most families end up being forced to sell the company to pay the estate tax. Some 70 percent of family-owned businesses are not passed on to the next generation and 87 percent do not make it to a third generation.
    This onerous tax has led to thousands of family-owned companies being sold to big corporations. There are many good large corporations. But there is an element of lost control for a community when more and more of its business base is controlled outside of the community by corporations more concerned about stock prices than communities.
    There is no reason not to repeal the tax. It brings in less than 1.4 percent of total federal revenues. It is estimated that enforcement of the tax costs the federal government 65 cents for every dollar it raises.
According to the Joint Economic Committee, in this century the estate tax has reduced the stock of capital in the economy by $497 billion, a 3.9 percent reduction.
    Certainly family businesses could better use their resources to modernize equipment, expand operations and create new jobs rather than spend hundreds of dollars for lawyers, accountants and insurance agents to deal with the estate tax.
    Congress should enact the Death Tax Elimination Act this year. It is time to let the estate tax die.

Terry Horne
Telegram editorial board member



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