The FCC’s proposed disclosure rules, which would require stations to detail the kinds of programming they air and post the info on their websites, should be fought tooth and nail by broadcasters. What the regulators want are statistics that they can use to hang over stations in the form of a programming quotas at license renewal time. And a quota is nothing but a mandate. It’s the federal government telling stations what programming they must air, and that slams right into broadcasters’ First Amendment rights.
The TV trade group was the source of the FCC’s recent recommendation that the federal government divert its advertising dollars from the national media to local media. And TVB didn’t stop there. Now it’s hard after the government money. For starters, it’s trying to get a better accounting of exactly how much money there is and where exactly it is coming from. Then it’s off to Washington. TVB has to convince the bureaucrats not only of the efficacy of local media, but of the relative merits of local TV. Good job.
With the Appeals Court bouncing the ownership regulation ball back into the FCC’s court, there’s an opportunity for change to the TV duopoly rule. The commission’s own recent report says that diversity of owners may not be all it’s cracked up to be anymore in the wake of the Internet. Exactly, and it can’t continue to block local media combinations on the assumption that all or most will lead to fatter owners and shuttered newsrooms. They can lead just as readily to more and better news. So get busy: Schedule some ex parte visits with the commissioners and their staffs. It’s time to pay attention.
In remarks before the Media Institute this week, FCC adviser Steve Waldman said the agency’s Future of Media report would be released “soon.” According to Waldman, local TV news is “more important than ever,” and the source from which Americans still get most of their news.
Steve Waldman, the FCC’s point man of saving local jounalism, might actually do some good by calling for full First Amendment rights for broadcasters. He can start by condemning the fines that the FCC imposed a couple of weeks ago on New Jersey’s tiny WMGM and Fox O&O KMSP Minneapolis for running VNRs. The fines are an affront to the free speech rights of all broadcasters. Waldman should say so and call on Congress to get out of the business of regulating TV and radio content.