NAB Tells Stations to Push Public Service

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National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts warned broadcasters that they’d better blow their own horn on public service a little louder to help drown out the criticism from Washington.

"Last year’s widely publicized fight over new FCC media-ownership rules activated a revolt against ‘Big Media’ that could have spillover into the current session of Congress," according to the minutes of the NAB’s joint board meeting in Key Biscayne, Fla.

His ears must have been burning. At about the same time back in Washington, Sen. John McCain was criticizing an appropriations bill and its 39% compromise on broadcast-ownership caps by saying it deflected attention from other broadcast issues like localism and centralcasting, and was all about "advancing the interests of the NAB."

Among the regulatory hot spots identified by the NAB: the FCC’s inquiry into broadcast localism; the FCC’s ramped-up interest in broadcast indecency; the pressure to reclaim spectrum for other uses; and public broadcasters push to get digital must-carry "most favored nation" status during the digital transition.

On the legislative side, areas of interest include reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVA), which requires satellite carriers to deliver all broadcast signals in all markets where they deliver any signals; copyright reform; free airtime; the DTV transition; regulation of advertising; and indecency.

NAB says that "barring a terrorist incident or outbreak of the SARS virus," the NAB show in Las Vegas should be a success. But hedging their bets, NAB also encouraged the board members to bring more station staffers to the show. NAB says it is planning to add a TV group executive fly-in in May, patterned after its Radio Board fly-in.

The radio board resolved to push for an answer on whether XM and Sirius satellite radio service plans for local weather and traffic reports violate their FCC licenses, but there was no fire and brimstone language as some had expected. The board simply directed staffers to "continue to seek an explanation."

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