McCain Wants to Cut License Terms

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Tied to a new study showing that claimed TV stations provide only cursory coverage of local political campaigns, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would require the FCC to more closely examine how stations have served their local communities at license renewal time.

“Eight times more news coverage went to stories about accidental injuries than local elections,” during the 2004 campaign, McCain said, citing the study. “If a local candidate wants to be on television, and cannot afford to advertise, his only hope may be to have a freak accident.”

McCain’s “Localism in Broadcasting Reform Act of 2005” would:

  • Reduce the length of station license terms from eight years to three, which would require individual broadcasters to more frequently justify why they should keep their licenses.
  • Require the full Commission to review five percent of all license and renewal applications, rather than entrusting agency staff to conduct all the reviews.
  • Allow viewers not residing in a station's market to complain about the station.
  • Require broadcasters to list their local public affairs programming on their web sites.
  • Order the FCC to complete its proceeding to determine what public interest obligations should apply after broadcasters go all-digital.

“I believe this legislation is a step in the right direction,” McCain said. “It will have a small impact on those stations that are currently meeting their public interest obligations, but it should have a large impact on those citizens whose local broadcaster is not meeting its obligation to serve the local community.”

NAB disputed the study, pointing out that it excluded midday, late night, late afternoon and morning news, the last which is one of local TV's biggest news growth areas. --John Eggerton contributed to this report.

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