In one of those "from the depths of history" moments, the FCC on Friday released a Public Notice asking that the record be refreshed as to whether television stations that program a substantial amount of home shopping programming operate in the public interest, and whether they are entitled to must-carry status on cable systems.  In 1993, the FCC found that these stations did operate in the public interest – providing shopping opportunities to the homebound and alternative programming not available on other stations.  Soon thereafter, a petition for reconsideration of that action was filed, arguing that these stations did not serve the public interest for reasons including the fact that they preempted the use of spectrum by others who could provide better service.  That petition sat at the Commission for the next 14 years.

Now, when home shopping stations have largely disappeared from the television universe, the FCC has resurrected the petition, and is asking for public comment on the issues that it raises, and is even expanding the inquiry.  The Commission asks how many television stations still program substantial amounts of shop at home programming, whether the programming is in the public interest, whether these stations preclude other more worthy uses of the television spectrum, and whether these stations meet their public interest obligations including their obligations under the FCC’s Children’s Television rules.

Comments are due 30 days after the Notice is published in the Federal Register, and Reply Comments are due 15 days later.