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Open Mike

Public-Interest Regulations Need FCC Approval, Too


I agree that over two years is too long a wait for new rules that will clarify local broadcasters' role in the competitive video marketplace [“The FCC Crawl,” Editorial, 2/27, p. 32).

That's why I think it is unconscionable that the Federal Communications Commission has let linger—for over 10 years—bringing clarity to television broadcasters' public-interest obligations in the digital age.

A recent survey finds that over three-quarters of American adults still turn to local broadcasters for their news. Will news or some other local programming be part of the business plans of small, independent broadcasters?

Last year, the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee called on the commission to complete long-open proceedings on broadcasters' public-interest and disclosure requirements by May 18. That many small stations throughout the country are deciding whether to join The CW or My Network TV or to go it alone only boosts the need for the commission to act swiftly.

The U.S. has the best broadcasting system in the world because of—not in spite of—public-interest obligations. If the FCC continues to ignore local broadcasters and their role in their communities, we are likely to see the death of free local TV within 10-15 years. Charles Benton Chicago

(The author is chairman of the Benton Foundation, a member of the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee. He served on the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters)

Dangerous Assignments


Good comments about David Bloom and Bob Woodruff in J. Max Robins' column [“In the Line of Duty,” 2/6, p. 4]. I think it's on target.

And as a veteran producer, I would add one thing: TV news is a combustible mix of anchors and reporters who want to be noticed and admired, and managers who use those desires to push their talent into extreme situations.

Sometimes, the assignments are productive. Other times, they are dangerous, and some are just badly conceived and embarrassing.

The point is, both sides are eager to justify the reasons for doing what they're doing because they feed off each other, until something in this volatile mix breaks down.

Brian Seifert