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Comments Submitted to the Federal Communications Commission on Broadcast Localism

Regulatory Comments and Testimony

Title

Comments Submitted to the Federal Communications Commission on Broadcast Localism

Before theFEDERALCOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSIONWashington, DC 20554

In the Matter of:Broadcast LocalismMB Docket No. 04-233

COMMENTS OF THE COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE

CordA. BlomquistTechnology PolicyAnalystCompetitiveEnterprise Institute1001 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Suite 1250Washington, D.C. 20036(202) 331-2282

 

Introduction

In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxedrules requiring broadcasters to operate their main studio in their communitiesof license. The FCC is now considering reverting to the rules of two decadesago, forcing companies to maintain a physical presence in each city in whichthey broadcast. This, despite massive technological evolution that has made itpossible—and more efficient—for stations to locate studios in remote locationswithout sacrificing a focus on community content.

Every few years, all radio and television stations mustrenew their broadcast licenses with the FCC. Proposed rules would place broadcastersunder intense scrutiny at the time of renewal, with the FCC able revokestations’ licenses if they cannot demonstrate a commitment to localism. Thisprocedure would apply to all stations, even those which focus on entirelydifferent genres such as music or sports.

The FCC may also require stations to convene each quarterpermanent advisory boards in each community, composed of local officials whowould review content and would advise broadcasters as to which local issuesdeserve focus.

Finally, the FCC is pondering adding new disclosurerequirements which would mandate that broadcasters file quarterly reports withdetailed information explaining how programming has addressed communityconcerns. Like all disclosure rules, these forms are cumbersome andtime-consuming, and would force editorial staff to think twice before airing aprogram that might skew reporting statistics to the detriment of the station.

Rather than pursuing additional levels of bureaucraticoversight or reverting to decades-old regulatory regimes, the FCC should pursueaggressive deregulation of the terrestrial radio marketplace. By allowing more broadcasters tocompete—especially low-powered stations—the marketplace will cater to localnews and civic programming as it has shown to be a profit maker for localbroadcasters. The FCC should pursue thisderegulation as part of a wider agenda to create a true marketplace forspectrum, one in which broadcasters of all types have true property rights inthe airwaves.