Broadcasters File Comments vs. FCC’s Localism Proposals

Federal Communications Commission's Proposed Regulations ‘Unnecessary and Burdensome’

Comments continued to be filed in advance of the Federal Communications Commission's midnight Monday deadline for weighing in on its raft of new localism proposals, which most broadcasters argued are unnecessary and burdensome.

Those proposals include requiring broadcasters to list what types of programming they air in a variety of new categories -- they must already tell the FCC about kids’ programs and programs of local community interest; consulting with community advisory boards on what shows serve their communities; locating the main study in the station’s city of license; having someone physically present at a station at all times; and adhering to FCC guidelines on minimum hours of local programming per week, or as a percentage of local programming, that would be taken into account at license-renewal time.

Not surprisingly, broadcasters were not happy with the prospects of a raft of additional government obligations, citing logistics, as well as First Amendment concerns about the government telling them what to program.

For example, in a joint filing, Post-Newsweek Stations, Raycom Media, Barrington Broadcasting, Bonten Media Group, Dispatch Broadcast Group and Paxton Media Group said the proposals, while well-intentioned, were "blunt and burdensome instruments" that would not lead to the localism goals that both the FCC and the broadcasters shared. They argued that there is little to suggest that any action is needed, but if there is, it needs to be more flexible and less intrusive.

Also filing jointly, a group of 20 small stations said the changes would create more hardships for smaller stations than for the larger, consolidated groups and would actually harm service to local communities rather than enhancing it. For example, they said, requiring stations to be staffed during all hours of operation would lead to cutbacks in overnight service to avoid the additional cost.

Advisory boards, they argued, would reduce their control over programming, saying, "Small broadcasters’ involvement with their local communities is more than sufficient to make them aware of community needs and issues without government oversight."