Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama Does Not Support Return of Fairness Doctrine

There may be some Democrats talking about reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, but one very important one does not: Presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Over at Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton reports:
The Illinois senator’s top aide said the issue continues to be used as a distraction from more pressing media business.

"Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters," press secretary Michael Ortiz said in an e-mail to B&C late Wednesday.

"He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible," Ortiz added. "That is why Sen. Obama supports media-ownership caps, network neutrality, public broadcasting, as well as increasing minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets."
The Fairness Doctrine issue flared up in recent days after reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was talking about a Democratic push to reinstate it, although it was unclear at press time whether that was a new pledge or the restating of a long-held position.

Conservative paper Human Events reported that Pelosi was not planning to bring to a vote a bill to block the reimposition of the doctrine.

The paper went on to say that Pelosi “added that ‘the interest in my caucus is the reverse’ and that New York Democratic Rep. ‘Louise Slaughter has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now.’”

But it was unclear whether Pelosi was talking about a push, or simply restating her long-held view that the doctrine should return.

President George W. Bush pledged to veto any attempt to legislatively establish the doctrine, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told B&C in an interview last fall that there were no plans to try to bring the doctrine back.

One year ago, the House passed a bill, from Indiana Republican and former radio talker Mike Pence, that put a one-year moratorium on funding any Federal Communications Commission reimposition of the doctrine. Democrats, led by David Obey (D-Wis.), suggested that the amendment was a red herring, a nonissue and that it was being debated, such as it was -- no Democrats stood to oppose it -- to provide sound bites for conservative talkers and "yap yap TV," who had ginned up the issue.

In a Shakespearian mood, Obey said the amendment was "much ado about nothing" and "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

It was a permanent version of that moratorium, also pushed by Pence, that Pelosi was reportedly saying would have no chance.

But other Democrats suggested that the sticking point was the current administration, and some big names, including Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), talked about the possibility of bringing it back. Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) went so far as to say he would make the doctrine part of his media agenda.

The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues. The FCC found the doctrine unconstitutional back in 1987, and President Reagan vetoed an attempt by congressional Democrats to reinstate it.

It is a sensitive topic with Republicans, who fear that Democrats will use it to try and rein in conservative talk radio, the rise of which followed the scrapping of the doctrine.

In the wake of press reports about Pelosi's comments, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), a longtime foe of the doctrine, said its return would be "nothing less than a sweeping takeover by Washington bureaucrats of broadcast media, and it is designed to squelch conservative speech on the airwaves."

Pelosi's office had not returned calls at press time on what she said, and meant, by her comments to the paper.
This is not good news.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm Voting Republican

The Selling Off Of America

Chrysler Building on the block.
The New York Post reports:

The latest Big Apple trophy being coveted by oil-rich sovereign wealth funds is the landmark Chrysler Building.

Sources say the super-rich Abu Dhabi Investment Council is negotiating an $800 million deal for a 75 percent stake in the Art Deco treasure that has defined the Midtown skyline since 1930.

The Chrysler assets would be purchased from TMW - the German arm of an Atlanta-based investment fund that's been eager to cash out of its Chrysler stake.

The deal follows last month's sale of the GM Building and three other Macklowe/Equity Portfolio properties for $3.95 billion to a group of investors including the wealth funds of Kuwait and Qatar and Boston Properties.

As part of the Chrysler deal, sources said the Abu Dhabi Investment Council would also get part of the skyscraper's signature Trylons retail prize next door.

Tishman Speyer Properties owns the remaining 25 percent stake in the Chrysler Building and operates the landmark at 405 Lexington Ave., along with the Trylons and the newer next door neighbor at 666 Third Ave.

The Trylons space also involves retail portion, which includes the Capital Grille steakhouse and a Citibank branch.

The buildings sit on land owned by Cooper Union, which leased it in a long-term arrangement to others and uses the payments to support tuition for its students.
Recently Tishman Speyer obtained a 150-year extension of the ground lease.

Sources say the deal would leave Tishman Speyer in charge of the building, with the Abu Dhabi fund essentially acting as a silent partner.

Abu Dhabi has also partnered with Tishman Speyer in other deals around the world, sources said. Since TMW and Tishman Speyer sold 666 Fifth Ave. to Kushner Companies for $1.8 billion last year, the Atlanta group began informing the real estate community that it was ready to cash out in the landmark Chrysler Center, as well.

None of the principals involved in the deal had any comment.

Boston Properties closed on its purchase of the GM Building on Monday with investment partners Kuwait and Qatar, and will complete the purchase of three other former Macklowe properties over the next few months.

Developer Harry Macklowe was forced to sell the assets after taking a personal loan on the GM Building and other family assets to raise nearly $7 billion to buy a city package of former Equity Office buildings.

The credit markets tanked right after completing that deal in July and Macklowe was unable to refinance the short-term debt causing him to sell the four buildings to Boston Properties and return the Equity portfolio to lender Deutsche Bank.