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Activists Push More Community Media

A group of media activists has asked the Federal Communications Commission to take several steps to boost broadcast localism.

The suggestions came in response to the FCC's broadcast localism inquiry, which was pushed by FCC Chairman Michael Powell, in part as an alternative to derailing the FCC's ownership rule revamp over those issues. (The rules wound up being challenged, stayed and must now be revamped anyway.)

The coalition,  led by the Consumer Federation of America and NYU School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, argued in its 50-page filing that the commercial interests of corporate media conglomerates have "eclipsed" community needs.

The groups capitalized on the recent controversy surrounding Sinclair's airing of a Kerry-critical program and Pappas Telecasting's donation of airtime to primarily Republican candidates in their filing, saying: "There can no longer be any doubt that  owners of broadcast outlets actively use their immense power to try to influence public opinion and the outcome of elections, while they give short shrift to the citizen's need for sound information with which to make informed choices."

Some of the group's members had complained to the FCC about both Sinclair and Pappas.

To correct what they charge is the consolidation-rooted lack of community access to media, they asked the FCC to:

1) Assign more broadcast licenses to nonprofit community media, including youth media and low-power broadcasting.

2) Develop regulations to ensure that commercial broadcasters provide local groups and media producers with access to broadcast time and facilities.

3) Develop new initiatives for expanding ethnic and racial diversity among broadcast licensees.

4) Establish mechanisms for supporting nonprofit community media, including a "localism and diversity" fund supported in part by licensing fees.