Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bill would require local broadcast news

Broadcasters would have to show a "dedication to local news gathering" and cover more election news in order to renew their licenses under a bill authored by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (pictured), D-Palo Alto.

Eshoo's bill, H.R. 4882, would also require broadcasters to renew their licenses every three years instead of the current eight years.

In December, Eshoo was talking about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give free air time those who oppose the political comments of broadcasters. Republicans, led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, vowed to fight any such bill, saying it would kill AM conservative talk radio.

Eshoo's bill doesn't mention the Fairness Doctrine. She also suggested in December that the government might regulate satellite and cable broadcasting, but H.R. 4882 appears to only involve broadcasters who currently receive federal licenses.

"Drastic media consolidation over the past decade has greatly diminished the broadcast licensees' performance of public interest obligations and broadcast media's ability to foster diversity, competition, and localism," the bill says.

"A survey of evening television news broadcasts of 44 local affiliates of broadcasters in 11 markets prior to the 2004 election showed that only 8 percent of such broadcasts contained a story about local elections. By contrast, eight times more coverage went to stories about accidental injuries, and 12 times more coverage to sports and weather. In 2006, news about politics and government accounted for about 10 percent of stories on local television news while crime and traffic comprised nearly 50 percent of the coverage," H.R. 4882 said in its "findings" section.

In order to renew a license, the bill would require a station to demonstrate:
    • "a dedication to the civic affairs of its community" • "a dedication to local news gathering" • "local production of programming" • "a commitment to providing the viewing public a presentation of the issues, candidates, and ballot items that are before voters during a local, statewide or national election, including coverage of candidate debates and forums, political conventions, and ongoing news coverage." • "presentation of quality educational programming for children"
The bill allows the FCC to create rules exempting certain stations from the requirements, but no details were given. (Photo credit: Ian Port, The Daily Post, December 2008)

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Should the government decide how much news coverage a station devotes to politics? I would hope that congress would resist the temptation of becoming producers or editors and focus on content neutral solutions, like limiting the number of stations a company can own ...

Anonymous said...

The people own the air waves. At least that's what we are told. The government is (at its best) the representative of the people. To think that somehow the air waves are private property is erroneous and un-American. Broadcasters are required to operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity.

Anonymous said...

Terms like "dedication to civic affairs of the community" and "dedication to local news gathering" seem awfully vague. This might give activist groups, who are offended by a particular story on the news, a new grounds to challenge a station's license. News directors would then avoid controversial stories for fear of losing their license. Goodbye investigative reporting.

Anonymous said...

Ironic that the government would be taking the teeth out of broadcast journalism just as print journalism is on its death bed.

Anonymous said...

The government's role is to make sure airwaves don't become so crowded reception is poor. The airwaves are owned by the public? I guess trees are too so let's regulate newspapers. Maybe we should update "freedom of the press." Anyone under 50 probably wonders what a "press" is.
As for talk radio. there wouldn't have been Rush and such if print had been doing its job instead of isolating and disenfranchising whole segments of society. Did you ever wonder when the "angry white male was born?" I recommend everyone see "Gran Torino."

Environmental News Examiner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

People in the news biz could learn a lot from Rush, but most of them are too "well-trained" to even listen to the man.

As for Eshoo, and anyone else who thinks government should have control over news coverage, I hear the Hitler mustache is coming back in style now that Obama's in charge. ...

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute...wasn't Bush compared to Hitler? And wasn't Clinton and Bush I and Reagan and Carter, and Ford and Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy etc.? I'll be even FDR was compared to the Leader. At least it's a bi-partisan smear.

Anonymous said...

Wait,,,was not Bush compared to Hitler? Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson. The comparison is so old as to be without meaning nor merit