It's Digital Decision Time Say Public Interest Advocates

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On the eve of a House Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on the DTV transition, the Campaign Legal Center, the Benton Foundation and the Center for American Progress, have written the committee chair to ask Congress to push the FCC to finish its inquiry into DTV public interest obligations.

At a March 14 FCC oversight hearing, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that the commission had already dealt with some of those issues stemming from a 1999 notice of inquiry. The letter-writers, longtime advocates for quantifiable public interest obligations in the digital age including minimum amounts of campaign centered speech, begged to differ, including the date.

They told Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (and Commerce Chairman John Dingell) that the FCC had been considering new DTV public interest rules since 1995 without any resolution of the issue, and suggested that broadcasters should be required to meet guidelines on "Local Civic and Electoral Affairs Programming; Independently Produced Programming; Reporting/Disclosure; and Excessive Commercialization," as a minimum for getting license approvals.

Martin has been cool to the idea of the FCC establishing content-related quotas for a DTV public interest regime.

The hearing will feature a mix of broadcast, cable and tech industry witnesses including Barrington Broadcasting CEO Jim Yager, Time Warner Cable President Glenn Britt,Alex Nogales of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and LG Electronics executive John Taylor.

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