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Ferree: FCC Should Not Mandate DTV PSAs

Former Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau chief Ken Ferree said the FCC would be making a mistake by mandating broadcaster digital-TV-education public-service announcements.

Ferree, who exited the FCC in 2005 and is now president of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, wrote on the foundation's Web site that the mandate would be "pressing the panic button and trampling on core constitutional values."

FCC chairman Kevin Martin has praised the broadcasters' voluntary plan, which includes PSAs, a speakers bureau, a traveling road show and more, but he is also under pressure from top Hill Democrats to mandate PSAs to make sure the message about the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to digital gets out.

Ferree also praised the National Association of Broadcasters' effort, saying, "With a comprehensive multiplatform approach that will reportedly make more than 132 billion impressions on the American public, the NAB plan is remarkable both in scope and ambition. It should be allowed to work. At the very least, broadcasters adhering to the NAB plan should be given 'safe harbor' from an unnecessary, government-mandated, one-size-fits-all approach."

He added that "a state-sponsored, bureaucratically crafted message about the digital-television transition" would "almost certainly be overturned in court" as unconstitutional coerced speech.

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell also praised the NAB effort during an interview with B&C and Multichannel News editors.