Benton Pushes For Digital Obligations

Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Bentonhas written FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein backing his call for a DTV Task force and recommending that that group make DTV public interest obligations part of its charter.

Last week, Adelstein called for the FCC to create a national DTV task force, working with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, to educate consumers about the DTV transition.

Benton suggests that the information consumers need most is "what's in it for [them]?" What that should be, says Benton, is "local news and public affairs, election coverage, disability access and emergency services."

Benton is part of an FCC consumer affairs advisory panel that recommended in November that the FCC explicitly define broadcasters public interest obligations in the digital age. He also wrote FCC Chairman Kevin Martin last month asking him to do the same thing and saying the setting of the DTV hard date--Feb. 17, 2009--should be a spur to that effort.

Benton wants Media Bureau Chief Donna Gregg to report back to the Consumer Advisory Committee by its April 7 meeting, and asked Adelstein for his support.

The Benton Foundation advocates for public interest obligations for broadcasters and media ownership rules that "promote a diversity of media voices and greater civic discourse."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.