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Steven G. Leibfried, Fargo, Published June 11 2012

Out-of-state media company sticks it to local consumers

Once again, Hoak Media of Dallas, Texas, has proved that out-of-state ownership or management of local media and information sources undermines community and consumers’ interests. How many times does this chicken outfit have to stick it to area television broadcasters and its customers before a public rebellion sends it back to Bush country?

The little-known collector of small and medium-sized broadcast stations (Hoak’s website displays 25) began its assault on eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota television viewers by grabbing ownership or control of not one but two local TV stations in 2006 – KVLY (NBC) and KXJB (CBS, with Parker Broadcasting of Fargo). The takeover was abrupt, disrupting staffing and programming at both stations and leaving area viewers with one fewer news and information option as facilities and schedules were merged. Hoak then continued its cloaked grip on other affiliated stations throughout the region.

Worse than that, Hoak then directed or caused the resignation of many popular on-air personalities who are well-liked and established members of our local communities.

In 2008, Hoak refused to allow the area’s major cable provider to carry its usually “free” transmissions, demanding unreasonable carriage rates, and leaving thousands of area cable customers without access to CBS and NBC programming for more than 10 months.

On June 6, Hoak has again denied retransmission of its local stations, this time on Dish Network’s satellite systems, attempting to extort higher fees for “free” signals and demanding that Dish “Hopper” customers stop using the commercial-skipping feature when viewing or recording programs. Perhaps the money-grubbing jerks at Hoak would like to come into customers’ living rooms and monitor the use of “their” signals! What the hell happened to the “public airwaves” in this country? Don’t answer, we already know.

What is really laughable about Hoak’s attempts to fatten its wallet and keep a dying media format (over-the-air) alive, is that it is only shooting itself in the foot by trying to limit and overprice any distribution of its stations’ signals. After all, we darned sure won’t see those excessive ads and infomercials if nothing’s there when we attempt to tune into those stations!

On behalf of everyone who watches television in the north Red River Valley, I have one thing to say to Jim Hoak and associates: We are a smart and resilient people up here, and we have many ways of replacing the program reception you refuse to make convenient and affordable for us.