Broadcasters Balk at Report CardsTime, money, First Amendment concerns in FCC info request 2/06/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
TV broadcasters are on the same page in reaction
to a recent FCC request for additional reporting information.
They say the agency’s desire for more detailed
reports would be a paperwork and financial burden.
In comments to the FCC, the National Association
of Broadcasters provided a laundry
list of reasons why TV stations should not
have to provide detailed programming notes.
And with this report card focused on local
news and public affairs programming, Radio
Television Digital News Association officials
say they will be spending too much time filing
paper rather than stories.
Noncommercial broadcasters say they
should be given a pass because of the reports
they already file with the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting, and because they are
already so obviously serving the community
that it should go without reporting, as it were.
The FCC has tried before to create a new
standardized form, but abandoned the effort. This time around,
the idea is to create a centralized, searchable online database,
which the FCC says could include sponsorship ID, political
files or information on joint service and sales agreements.
The NAB is also concerned that coming up with a form full
of programming categories broadcasters have to fill out will
be akin to a social science exercise in content coding. “Thousands
of untrained coders working at separate stations across
the nation will not be able to make uniform or consistent categorization
choices over time, and therefore, the effort could
not generate valid and reliable data on which the Commission
officially could rely,” the NAB said last week.
The NAB also has a First Amendment bone to pick with the proposal—namely, that even under the intermediate scrutiny
that applies to broadcasters, content-based reporting using
government-labeled categories would not pass muster.
The RTDNA, which represents TV news personnel, says the
reporting burden would work against the
FCC’s goal of meeting communities’ information
needs. The RTNDA told the FCC that
taking resources away from newsgathering
and putting them toward bookkeeping would
“divert precious time and attention away from
those undertakings the Commission purports
to hold dear—the production of local news
and public affairs programming.”
In a joint filing, the Association of Public
Television Stations, CPB and PBS told the
FCC it would be “unduly burdensome and
redundant” to make them adhere to any new
requirements put on commercial stations,
pointing out that the FCC cut them some
slack on kids TV reporting requirements in
1996 “in view of the commitment demonstrated by noncommercial
stations in general to serving children.”
The Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition, which has
been pushing for standardized forms and more reporting requirements,
argues that the forms will actually make it easier
for broadcasters to report what it considers key information.
The PIPAC also says that more specific reporting will prevent
examples of issue-responsive programs some stations produced
for the current, more broad, issues/programs list—including, in
one instance, a contest to win a Dairy Queen cake.
The FCC is still in the inquiry phase of its proposal, but has
signaled it is serious about creating a database of station information
for easier access by the public.