The president of WETA-TV, one of four major public television stations that plan to launch a new monthly magazine in September, said he expects the magazine to survive legal challenges to it.
Publication of the Dial, a monthly magazine including a program guide published by the nation's four largest public television stations, has run into opposition form magazine publishers who expect the magazine to compete for their advertisers.
On July 3, Washingtonian Magazine publisher Philip Merrill asked the Federal Communications Commission to bar WETA from on-the-air promotion of the Dial. Merrill identified the Washingtonian as "the point magazine" for a group of city and general interest magazines who have raised $3 million to fight proposed publication of the Dial, claiming that the magazine would enjoy benefits from the publishing company's tax-exempt status that make it unfair competition.
"Obviously, Phil Merrill is doing everything he can to try to restrain publication of the magazine," said WETA president Ward Chamberlain. But Chamberlain said he expects those efforts to fail.
"We have a legal opinion that gives us an entirely clean bill of health," said Chamberlain. "We think we're on very solid ground and don't expect any problems."
The Dial, which will be published by WETA, WNET in New York, KCET in Los Angeles and WTTW in Chicago, is expected to run about 100 pages and reach an initial audience of approximately 650,000 public television contributors.
Chamberlain said that WETA does not plan to promote the Dial on the air.
Announcements that the magazine is available to contributors will refer to a "regular program guide" and "not make anything big out of the Dial," he said.
Chamberlain said that the Dial should ultimately cost less to publish than the current program guide and said that no government funds will be used to publish the magazine.