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Wednesday, February 6 2002

Scruples

Webster's online defines ethics as "a set of moral principles or values" and scruples as "mental reservations." Neither of them quite put their finger on what I've alsways considered to be scruples, based on the common usage of the term "unscrupulous," though as a single-word synonym "values" as generally used these days probably gets close to my idea of scruples. Scruples are, yes, mental reservations about doing or supporting things, though the reservations are not rooted in timidity or indecisiveness, as "reservations" suggests to me, but on the feeling that a thing is either not right or would have negative effects on others.

I have scruples about littering and I cringe when I see a cigarette butt or gum wrapper being thrown on the highway or sidewalk. My scruples are sometimes extreme, I think, even to myself. For example, the NBC division of General Electric recently bought San Jose's only major television station. At first, the news was that the local station was just going to switch from the ABC network to NBC and that was itself big news for anyone interested in the media. ABC was the only network to have two major channels in the San Francisco Bay Area, one in San Francisco and a smaller operation in San Jose. But not only was the San Jose channel changing networks, NBC was going to withdraw its franchise to its San Francisco affiliate, meaning that in one fell swope this move would mean ABC would go from two channels in the area to one, a major San Francisco channel would be reduced from a network affiliate to independent, and San Jose would for the first time ever be the home of the only channel serving the whole metropolitan area for one of the three major networks.

Following me thus far? It's going to get more complicated. Though San Jose had only one major network affiliate, a Monterey-based NBC affiliate can also be received quite clearly by anyone in greater San Jose with an antenna, though almost everyone uses cable rather than antennas these days (in fact, throughout the whole Bay Area the "new" San Jose NBC affiliate is being advertised as NBC3, even though it actually broadcasts on channel 11...because all the cable operators carry it on cable channel 3). (San Francisco is about 50 miles north of San Jose; Monterey is about 60 to 70 miles south and somewhat west.)

Back to scruples. I was glad that channel 11 was switching from ABC to NBC because NBC is better than ABC both in its programming and because I think the Southern Baptists have some good arguments supporting their boycott of Disney, owners of ABC, even though I won't go so far in joining the boycott as doing anything that would inconvenience me. Still, I'm glad to learn ABC is in some economic trouble this season. My scruples supported that change. But—big but—I was disappointed down to my scruples when I heard that NBC was actually buying channel 11 from the relatively small previous owners. That means a major media conglomerate has bought out another precious bit of the Bay Area, and big media are, by definition by my scruples, bad in many senses and to be discouraged—checked—whenever possible.

There is a redeeming factor that fits well all my extreme scruples, however. Under rules of the Federal Communications Commission, the former San Francisco NBC franchise owner had the right, and chose to exercise its right, to block cablecasting of the Monterey NBC affiliate in San Jose and all points north. But when NBC moved to a new channel, the Monterey channel became the senior player in that competition and it is now carried live via cable in direct competition with the new kid on the NBC block.

No need to guess twice about which of the NBC affiliates I choose to watch rather "scrupulously." (Not the network-owned one.) If all this strikes you as a little screwball, I agree. It's not intended to persuade anyone, and is offered in the hope of being mainly mildly amusing.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Just ask a kid

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"

"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied.

"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered.

The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

Sent by Sallie Covolo

Thought for the Day

Centuries ago, the poet Richard Lovelace wisely observed, "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." He went on to say, "If I have freedom in my love and am free in my soul, angels alone, that soar above enjoy such liberty."

Your soul can be free, no matter how imprisoned the rest of you may be.

—Ron Hutchcraft
Sent by Jim Martin

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