As the Commission held its last localism hearing in Washington on Halloween night, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s views on how the FCC should insure that stations are responsive to their communities became somewhat clearer. In his opening statement, the Chairman outlined a set of actions that could be taken by the FCC to insure more service to the public. While emphasizing the importance of efforts to encourage new entrants into broadcast ownership, the Chairman’s proposals to add new regulatory requirements, including requiring that a station be manned during all hours of operation, may well have the result of making it more difficult for any new entrant (or for existing smaller operators) to profitably operate their stations. In addition, he has offered proposals that would seemingly require cable and satellite carriage of in-state television stations not in a system’s DMA – a proposal sure to cause concern to stations in DMAs that straddle state lines.
The Chairman’s statement includes the following proposals:
- Requirements for uniform filings by broadcasters quantifying their public service – presumably their news and information programming and the public service announcements that they provide
- Requiring that stations have manned main studios during all hours of operations (not just during business hours)
- Allowing flexibility for LPFM stations to be sold, but adopting new rules to insure that such stations are used for local programming, not something provided from a network or other programming source
- Providing television viewers the ability to get an in-state television stations on cable and satellite even if the county in which they reside is "home" to a DMA with stations in another state
- Capping the number of applications accepted from the 2003 FM translator filing window – which might result in the dismissal of hundreds of applications that have effectively been frozen for 4 years