Noncoms Pitch Big Role in TV's $50M Repack Education Campaign

Noncommercial TV stations want the FCC to let them spend the money on a post-incentive auction repack campaign funded by Congress in the RAY BAUM'S FCC re-authorization act. That would include coordinating the campaign for both noncommercial and commercial stations. 

That came in testimony from Milwaukee PBS General Manager Bohdan Zachary in a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the act, testimony seconded later by America's Public Television Station's President Patrick Butler.

"We believe public television stations throughout the country can play a critical role in coordinating the consumer education efforts for their entire markets, both public and commercial, just as Milwaukee PBS did, because our stations have extensive membership outreach facilities and operations already in place and in use every day," Zachary said. 

His testimony included the example of his outlet's extensive local education campaign about its switch, and how the local CBS Sinclair stations issued a joint release announcing Milwaukee PBS' plan and then his outlet handled viewer calls from the other stations on the day of the switch of all three. He said his station's campaign as one that not all stations in the market "were prepared to undertake in the same manner we were."

"Of the $50 million in consumer education funding provided by the RAY BAUM’S Act, we believe that the FCC should dedicate a significant portion to local outreach initiatives, coordinated through interested public television stations in the market on behalf of the entire market."

Butler agreed that noncoms should get a significant chunk of the $50 million. 

"As Bohdan Zachary persuasively stated today, his experience in Milwaukee proved that successful consumer education cannot be achieved without a relentlessly local focus," said Butler. "Public television stations have a long history of close interaction with our viewers, through fundraising drives, local partnerships and community engagement activities. Local public television stations throughout the country are prepared to employ these robust community connections to facilitate consumer education for viewers of both public and commercial television, just as Milwaukee PBS did."

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.