Anguished aggies We missed a goodly portion of the 16th annual meeting of the Na tional Council of Agricultural Employers held recently in San Antonio, but we think we got the gist: these guys are mad as hell at the U.S. Department of protecting migrant workers, they’re mightily disgusted by workers who don’t “really want to work” \(yes, some people uncommonly bilious about the growing strength of farmworker labor unions. Sympathetic sighs greeted the speech by Ashton W. Hart of the Valley Growers Cooperative at Milton, New York. In the struggle to find “good workers.” Hart said, his outfit had worked out a labor contracting scheme that netted 627 laborers, but it seems that only 286 turned out to be “ready and willing,” 33 quit the first day on the job, over a hundred showed Valley Growers their heels within a week, and only 17 stuck it out to the bitter end of the eight-week harvest. “The workers couldn’t cope, Hart said. “They just didn’t have the physical stamina to cope with the rigors of picking apples.” His voice was edged with disappointment as he recounted how the recruitment program had “sounded so good. They said they would train peoplethey would properly indoctrinate them and it all would be very thoroughly and carefully monitored.” Heads nodded in sympathy. Peter Martori of Central Arizona Citrus Harvesters at Glendale, Arizona. had had “bad experience with Navajo workers.” He didn’t say what that experience was, but the audience didn’t seem to need an explanation. Martori lightened the prevailing gloom somewhat when he told how his operation has been getting better press lately because the Mexican nationals he’s been hiring are less troublesome workers. Job turnover is down to zero, he reported happily, and there are fewer questions from outsiders about poor treatment of workers. The most frequent gripe heard from the growers is that they’re being subjected to what they call harassment suits. George F. Sorn of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association at Orlando, Florida, warned that one Lupe Sanchez, once a colleague of Cesar Chavez, recently received a $500,000 grant from,the Catholic Church to help Florida workers. A class action suit has already cost the growers of Florida $100,000 in legal fees, he saidone presumes the grant is expected to make things even worse. Sorn noted that a favorite tactic of the wily Sanchez is to use the self-help provisions of the federal Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act \(Obs., Dec. 14, the right to collect damages from contractors who deceive them about working conditions. Vicki Vaughan Deregulating radio If you’ve ever wondered what the owners of America’s 7,700 com mercial radio stations must do to get and keep their broadcasting licenses, the Federal Communication Commission’s answer may soon be, “Less than ever before.” That’s the essence of the FCC’s current proposal for the nearly complete deregulation of commercial radio. Under deregulation, the FCC would preserve a perfunctory procedure for license renewal, a requirement of lip service to its “fairness doctrine,” and a set of fair employment standards. But dropped altogether would be current limits on the advertising portion of each broadcast hour, minimum guidelines for the amount of news and public affairs programming, and requirements for keeping detailed program logs and ascertaining community needs and problems. Caught up in the deregulation mania supposedly sweeping across Congress and other federal agencies, the FCC is seizing this chance to slough off what little regulatory responsibility it has maintained. Broadcasters, too, see this as their “golden moment”while “the American people seem numbed” by all the talk of deregulation, says former FCC member Nicholas Johnson. The industry aims to get from the FCC the “reforms” it hasn’t been able to get from Congress even with the help of House communications subcommittee chairman Lionel Van Deerlin \(Obs., Oct. 20, What makes the muffled debate over these changes hard to follow is that the opposing sides talk on different wavelengths, so to speak. From the camp of the FCC and the broadcasters come scholarly-sounding pronouncements about the programming diversity the “marketplace” now offers consumers so much diversity, they argue, that federal regulations, once designed for overseeing the use of scarce licenses, are now obsolete. As FCC chairman Charles Ferris, a Carter appointee, put it to National Journal last year, “It seems, in view of the data, a case could be made for the uselessness of our rules. The marketplace is outperforming our guidelines.” But public-interest groups denounce deregulation as a misguided blow to an already feeble body of rules for holding broadcasters accountable for their use of the public airwaves. “The question is, what does the public get back” in news and public affairs programming, says Kris Glen, a Hofstra University communications law prof who spoke last month at an Austin workshop sponsored by the Telecommunications Consumer Coalition. By looking only at what emerges from an entire marketplace, says Glen, the regulators will end up unable to hold any one licensee accountable for anything. As it is now, detailed program logs and ascertainmentthe proceddre broadcasters must follow to find out about community needs from local business, labor, religion, government, and ethnic group leadersare about the only formal means many community groups have for keeping tabs on individual licensees. “The ascertainment process now is a farce. concedes Pleas McNeel, director of the nonprofit San Antonio Media Center, “but at least broadcasters are required to talk to people they ordinarily wouldn’t talk to.” Broadcasters think otherwise. “Why go through the damn paperwork until complaints are actually filed?” asks John Bonner McLane, executive vice president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters. As a broadcaster himself, trying to carry out the ascertainment procedure, “I had to fight to get people to tell me about problems,” he recalls. When, not if, deregulation takes effect, McLane assured the Observer, “as a practical matter nothing is going to happen.” Broadcasters will, he says, continue to carry public service announcements and news shows “frankly because it’s good local business” and because “you carry what the public wants to hear. To hasten the advent of deregulation, the National Association of Broadcasters is advising its members around the country to solicit comments they want to hear from the public for forwarding to the FCC before the filing deadline next month. McLane has already begun to spread the word among Texas broadcasters. They seem interested, he says, but he’s not so sure about the listeners. “They probably won’t understand the issues involved,” he believes. “What are they going to sayI like the music?” Bob Sindermann Jr. 10 FEBRUARY 15, 1980
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.