Public activists this week kick off a drive to sign up tens of thousands of citizens to demand new TV election coverage and kids' programming quotas when stations go digital.
MoveOn.org, Common Cause and others plan to hand over a mountain of petitions April 20 to FCC Chairman Michael Powell and other commissioners in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention. They are planning a press conference for 1 p.m. to try to force the topic more prominently onto the agenda of a 4 p.m. panel session on the digital transition.
"This is the next front in the media reform movement," says Tim Carr, executive director for Mediachannel.org. Their aim is to make sure public interest obligations are included if broadcasters win the right to demand cable carriage of the six-plus channels each station could offer after switching to digital.
Winning guaranteed slots on cable lineups for the full array of digital channels station can offer is NAB's top priority at the FCC, but Democratic commissioners are blocking plans to move forward until public interest obligations are added. "This multicast giveaway needs more clearly defined benefits for the public," Carr says.