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Coalition Urges FCC to Move on Web-Based Broadcast Disclosure

The Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition has asked the FCC to adopt the Future of Media report's recommendation for improved online disclosure of broadcaster public inspection files online.

The group wants the FCC to do away with paper forms and adopt a new online public file requirement. But in exchange for "vastly reduc[ing] the data submitted," the coalition wants broadcasters and the FCC to provide a more holistic view of station programming information in four categories, Local News; Local Civic/Governmental Affairs; Local Electoral Affairs; and Closed Captioning/Emergency Accessibility Complaints.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the coalition says that the FCC should create a central database of such info with links to station Web sites, downloadable in raw form to the public and connected to ownership data the FCC already collects (which would make it easier to associate ownership structure with the amount of that programming). If it does that, says the group, broadcasters should not longer have to fill out a reporting form or maintain an issues/programs list.

The file should also contain any "pay for play" news and information programming, specifically any programming sponsorship that a broadcaster would have to disclose on-air per FCC rules.

The group provided a sample of their recommended online form.

"When the Reagan-era FCC deregulated the broadcasting license renewal process, it emphasized that the FCC's enforcement efforts would depend on input from the public," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, SVP and policy director, Media Access Project (MAP), in a statement. "These new disclosures will make sure that the system works as intended."

The coalition includes the Benton Foundation, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Free Press, MAP, New America Foundation, and the Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ.