Media Activists Defend Localism Proposals

Common Cause, Media Access Project, Center for Creative Voices in Media Say FCC Must Adopt New Programming Guidelines, Additional Community Outreach

A coalition of media activists, including church groups and one backed by TV executives, filed comments at the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday defending its proposals to boost broadcasters' localism obligations.

The groups -- which include Common Cause, Media Access Project and the Center for Creative Voices in Media -- said the FCC needed to adopt new programming guidelines and additional community outreach. They argued that the FCC jettisoned more stringent localism rules in the 1980s with the understanding that TV stations would continue to air shows responsive to local issues and ascertain what those issues are, but that has not been the case.

"The record compiled in this and related proceedings is more than adequate to show that leaving local-issue programming to market forces has not in many cases resulted in sufficient local coverage to meet community needs," they wrote.

They said new "viewpoint-neutral" TV-station license-processing guidelines could be crafted that would not violate stations' First Amendment rights, but would instead advance the "paramount" First Amendment right of the public to receive "suitable" access to public-affairs programming.

The creative voices in the Center for Creative Voices include Steven Bochco and Tom Fontana.