Toronto Globe and Mail: The ferocious U.S.-led air assault on Afghanistan has already claimed the lives of innocent civilians, probably scores of them, and such deaths will not be the last. Further "collateral damage" (that woefully inadequate euphemism) is certain, and Afghanistan's Taliban rulers will milk it vigorously.
Yet, hugely regrettable as those deaths are, they should not deflect attention from the crucial long-term goals of the military campaign. In fact, they underscore the importance of its success.
What first needs saying is that, despite claims from the Taliban and others, the civilian deaths were clearly accidental. Along with the air attacks, and the ground war soon to follow, Washington is fighting a far more complicated battle for the hearts and minds of the world in general, and Muslims in particular. Nothing could undercut pro-U.S. sentiment more than the perception that non-combatant Afghans are being targeted.
Nor is there any strategic reason to kill civilians. Quite the reverse; such deaths undoubtedly bolster Taliban support within Afghanistan. That is why, along with bombs, the U.S. military is dropping food parcels and propaganda leaflets.
Responsibility: Second, it bears repeating that all the civilians killed in recent days would still be alive had the horror of Sept. 11 never occurred. The vague but potent notion that perhaps terrorist Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida group spoke the truth when they denied responsibility for the terror attacks should be firmly laid to rest with the newest al-Qaida videotape, released last week.
"The storms will not calm, especially the aircraft storm," said spokesman Abu Ghaith. "We also say and advise the Muslims in the United States and Britain, the children, and those who reject the unjust U.S. policy not to travel by plane. We also advise them not to live in high-rise buildings and towers." If those words do not acknowledge guilt for the mass murders, by warning of more, nothing does.
The lesson, presumably already digested, is evident. Judicious as the U.S. military claims to be in its selection of targets, it needs to be a great deal more so. But the peace camp errs in arguing that the civilian deaths show the U.S. campaign to be innately wrong. There can be no stability anywhere until Osama bin Laden and his Taliban friends have been crushed. Negotiations with this outlaw regime are not an option.
However, avoidable death and injury among Afghanistan's hard-pressed people is not an acceptable option, either. All the more reason, in the months ahead, for the U.S. military to strive to keep the people's suffering to an absolute minimum.
Los Angeles Times: Public TV stations want to get deeper into high-definition digital broadcasting and not be left behind by commercial stations. It is expensive to make the switch, what with costly new cameras, transmitting equipment and studio space.
Funding from Washington, listeners, corporate underwriters and foundations won't be enough. So the Federal Communications Commission last week said public stations may go beyond current moneymaking, which includes "enhanced underwriting" messages, sales of merchandise such as Barney dolls and selling wireless data services. Now they may also sell advertising on "ancillary or supplementary services" that will be invented for the broader digital spectrum, though not on their traditional free broadcasting.
Critics say this will end badly, with an all-"Sesame Street" pay channel with ads too. Broadcasters say they're not that stupid, and that their underwriting agreements on something like "Sesame Street" preclude it anyway.
Limited bandwidth: Actually, the nut of the argument lies elsewhere. Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the nonprofit Media Access Project, a leading PBS critic, says financing digital conversion with commercial ventures is like "eating the seed corn." It harms the essential public television mission because it uses up space on the limited broadcast bandwidth that could be providing services to people who are already underserved. "We need a place that is not driven by market forces," he says.
That place is already gone. In part because of shrinking federal funding, public television has suffered creeping commercialization for years, and expanding its data services or offering pay-per-use educational services on the digital spectrum, with or without advertising, won't change that. It isn't a great idea to expand commercial uses of the public television spectrum. But the real issue is what public television should be, and who should pay for it. If the FCC ruling reinvigorates that debate, some good may well come of it.