Stop rubber-stamp license renewals for TV and Radio stations

July 31, 2007 | By | 1 Reply More

That’s what the broadcast license-renewal process has become:  a rubber stamp procedure.  The following are the words of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps:

[U]nder pressure from media conglomerates, previous commissions have eviscerated the renewal process. Now we have what big broadcasters lovingly call “postcard renewal” — the agency typically rubber-stamps an application without any substantive review. Denials on public interest grounds are extraordinarily rare.

It wasn’t always like this. Before the deregulatory mania in the 1980s — when an F.C.C. chairman described television as a “toaster with pictures” — the commission gave license renewals a hard look every three years, with specific criteria for making a public interest finding. Indeed, broadcasters’ respect for the renewal process encouraged them to pay for hard-hitting news operations. That was then.

Here are just some of the criteria for renewal the F.C.C. considered in the 1990s but never put into place:

• Did the station show programs on local civic affairs (apart from the nightly news), or set aside airtime for local community groups?

• Did it broadcast political conventions, and local as well as national candidate debates? Did it devote at least five minutes each night to covering politics in the month before an election?

• In an era when owners may live thousands of miles from their stations, have they met with local community leaders and the public to receive feedback?

• Is the station’s so-called children’s programming actually, in the view of experts, educational?

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Category: Media

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Craig says:

    This is scary crap. Just one more way for the government to control what we can say or hear. How long before we are the Peoples Republic of America.

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