Skip to main content

FCC Committee Recommends DTV Obligations

As expected, a media working group of the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) Nov. 18 approved recommendations for new broadcast public interest obligations in the digital age that include setting quantifiable obligations and disclosure requirements.

Among the recommended obligations are diversity of DTV programming providers, outlets and employment, closed captioning and video description.

That recommendation will be passed on to the commission, which chartered the CAC it in 2003.

Laying out the case for public interest obligations was Capitol Broadcasting's Jim Goodman, a strong supporter of public interest obligations and a member of the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.

Goodman could have been mistaken for FCC Commissioner Michael Copps as he laid into merged media.

He said that had the FCC's loosened media ownership rules not been stayed by the court, he could have owned two TV stations, the local paper, eight radios and Time Warner cable in a single market.

That, he said, was the sign of a dysfunctional process in which the FCC referees the businesses interests of big corporations and "the consumer doesn't have a damn thing to do with it."

Goodman said that without a re-commitment to the public interests of diversity, competition and localism, broadcasting would not survive.

Goodman, who is not a member of the committee but was making the case for standards at its Friday meeting, suggested that minimum public interest standards and reporting requirements were a baseline commitment.

He hsa suggested to the FCC that the minimum be some amount of: local, public affairs,programming determined through interaction with the community; a requirement that that  programming be candidate centered in the run-up to elections, and a baseline number of public service announcements.

Those were worked out with the United Church of Christ and the Campaign Legal Center and filed in an open DTV proceeding at the FCC that is in its sixth year. Goodman said it was time for the FCC to act on that petition.

He also said there should be an FCC requirement that stations report on what they are doing in the public interest.

The Committee asked the FCC to update it on the status of the recommendations every six months.