Powell, Broadcasters Targeted in Web Ad

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The Center for Digital Democracy has produced a Web ad targeting Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell and what it fears will be too lenient rules of the road for digital broadcasters.

The FCC is currently trying to determine what, if any, new public interest obligations should apply to broadcasters in the digital age.

In the ad, which CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester was circulating in an e-mail link sent out Oct. 23, a grumpy and unflattering picture of Powell (think of a Bush picture in a Kerry ad, or vice versa) shows up on a TV screen as a voice warns that the FCC is about to allow broadcasters to rake in "even greater" profits with the FCC's new digital rules. What will the FCC give you? Nothing [the screen turns to static], not unless the FCC tells broadcasters to start serving the public. Giving you less junk and more local news, information and election coverage."

The voice implores the listener to "call Michael Powell [an 800 number appears on the screen] or write your congressman and tell them that broadcasters must use your airwaves to serve you, not just themselves."

CDD has been lobbying for a host of digital public interest obligations, including more and better children's programming and political speech. It is also pushing for a reimposition and expansion of the fairness doctrine, which had required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues.

The doctrine was thrown out by the FCC in 1987, but the push to reinstate it gathered momentum in the past few weeks from the flap over Sinclair's planned airing of some or all of an anti-Kerry documentary within two weeks of election day.

Sinclair's final version, a news special that only used part of the documentary and interviewed Kerry supporters as well, took some of the edge off the sharp criticism of the company, but none of the fire out of those lobbying to revive a fairness rule.

The ad can be viewed at http://www.hmprojects.com/thebiggiveaway.html

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