Just prior to the filing of comments in the FCC’s Localism proceeding on April 28, one FCC Commissioner has spoken out, condemning these proposals as being unnecessary in a world of vast media competition, and likely unconstitutional. According to press reports, Commissioner Robert McDowell last week argued that the rules were unnecessary and counterproductive in a world of media plenty. The Commissioner pointed to all of the competition from digital and traditional media and asked why the Commission should impose on broadcasters rules abolished 20 years ago – rules which will put them at a competitive disadvantage in the new media world. These are sentiments that we have repeatedly echoed here.
Today, as comments were being submitted to the Commission, a letter from 23 Senators was sent to the Commission making many of the same arguments. The letter suggests that the Commission was imposing unreasonable costs on broadcasters when these broadcasters have an economic incentive to serve the public or risk the loss of their audience and the resulting loss of advertising and income. In other words, they are arguing that the Commission had it right 20 years ago when it decided that marketplace competition would insure that broadcasters served the public interest. This letter is a companion to the letter sent to the FCC the week before last by members of the House of Representatives, about which we wrote here.
The proceeding will no doubt attract many comments filed. We filed comments on behalf of several broadcast groups, and comments were filed by most of the major trade associations and broadcast groups. No doubt, those supporting increased regulation will have filed comments as well. It is not too late for any broadcaster to have his or her voice heard. Comments can still be filed through the Commission’s on-line electronic comment filing system, ECFS. Fill in MB Docket No. 04-233 to make sure that your comments are associated with the proper proceeding. Reply comments are due June 11, and "informal" comments can be filed until the FCC announces that it is in its Sunshine period, just before a decision is to be made. So make your views known now on the FCC’s localism proceeding.