Broadcasting and Cable magazine today reported that the FCC is looking to back off some of the requirements for the "enhanced disclosure" of television broadcaster’s public interest programming (see our summary of the new requirements of FCC Form 355, here). B&C reports that the FCC may lessen or at least better explain
The FCC today adopted a Report on its Localism proceeding, accessing the evidence that it gathered in its three year long investigation of whether broadcasters were adequately serving the interests of their local communities. We wrote long ago about some of the specific issues that the FCC was reviewing in this proceeding – everything from the public interest programming of broadcasters to their music selection process to their response to local emergencies. Among the report’s conclusions were findings that not all broadcasters were adequately assessing the needs of their communities or serving the public interest through coverage of local news and other local events. Because of these perceived weaknesses in broadcaster performance, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, much as we expected in our post here, tentatively concluding that re-regulation of the broadcast industry was necessary, bringing back some form of ascertainment and some specific quantifiable requirements for public interest programming.
As in the case of the Multiple Ownership order adopted today (summarized here), the full text of the FCC Report and the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has not been released. Instead, only a short Public Notice, and the statements of the Commissioners at the meeting, are available to determine what was done. From these notices, it appears that three tentative conclusions were reached. They are, as follows:
More Low Power TV stations should be able to get Class A status, meaning that they are no longer a secondary service that can be "bumped" by a new full power television station or by changes to the facilities of a full-power station
Each licensee should be required to establish a community advisory board made up of specific groups of community leaders, with whom the station would meet on a regular basis to assess the needs of the community
The FCC’s license renewal standards should contain specific quantitative requirements for public service programming
While these may sound like noble decisions, there are many details and much history that the Commission needs to address before these proposals become final FCC rules.…
As we wrote earlier this week, the FCC is to consider at its meeting next Tuesday a Report on the results of its "Localism" proceeding, and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on the findings contained in the Report. From rumors going around Washington today, that Notice may ask for comments on tentative findings that would roll back of much of the broadcast deregulation of the last 25 years. Rumors are that the Commission will be issuing "tentative conclusions" determining that the FCC should re-impose specific ascertainment requirements of some sort (requiring that broadcasters regularly meet with specific types of community leaders to get their input on station programming). Also, the Commission will tentatively conclude that there should be quantitative programming requirements – that each station do a specific amount of local programming and perhaps specific amounts of news, public affairs other types of programs each week. If a licensee does not meet the requirements, the station’s license renewal application would not be granted routinely by the FCC’s staff, but instead would be subject to an additional level of scrutiny by the full Commission. The Commission is also apparently proposing that it return to the old rules that all stations have a manned main studio during all hours of operation. There is reportedly also a proposal that stations report to the FCC about how they decide what music they play.
Staring in the early 1980s, the FCC did away with many of the specific, detailed programming requirements that had previously bound broadcasters. These requirements were quite burdensome, especially for small stations and stations in small markets with limited staffs. Rather than spending their time on broadcast operations, station staff had to make sure that their operations met programming standards imposed from Washington, dictating the government’s ideas of what was good for the station’s audience, even if the station might feel, because of its format or the demographics of its audience that a particular type of programming did not serve the needs of its community. In the mid-1980s, the FCC concluded that these rules were no longer necessary, as it was concluded that there was enough media diversity that the marketplace would dictate that broadcasters serve their audiences with appropriate content that met the needs of that audience as, if they did not, some other broadcaster would. The economic incentive of the fear of the loss of audience to a competitor who better served the public was deemed enough to insure that the broadcaster acted responsibly.
This article is no longer available. For more information on this topic, see House Passes DTV Delay Bill – Now on the President to Sign, and the FCC to Implement
The FCC recently released a decision granting two waivers of its requirement that any communications tower which has lighting requirements and is registered with the FCC be visually inspected at least quarterly to insure that all of the required lights are working. The waivers were granted to American Tower Corporation and Global Signal, Inc., both operators of…
The FCC last week considered two requests for reconsideration of fines issued to broadcasters for violations of FCC rules relating to their broadcast towers. While the FCC reduced one fine because of the licensee’s inability to pay the amount originally specified, both broadcasters will have to make payments to the Commission because of their failures to meet the FCC’s rules regarding the ownership of broadcast towers. These cases remind broadcasters of their obligations to meet the Commission’s tower rules, and should cause all broadcasters to check their compliance.
In the first case, the FCC reduced the fine of a licensee who had failed to fence its AM station’s tower, but only because the licensee proved that it could not pay a higher fine. But a $500 fine was still imposed as the owner had no fence around a series-fed AM tower. The FCC pointed out that its rules require that any AM tower that has the potential for an RF radiation hazard at the base of the tower must be fenced. This station had violated that rule.…