FCC Breakfast Tackles Ownership, Content Issues
September 26, 2005 at 10:00 AM (PT)
Earlier, at the 2005 NAB RADIO SHOW's annual FCC Breakfast, Commissioner KATHLEEN ABERNATHY said that the biggest challenge in revising the FCC media ownership rules is in small and medium markets, where, she noted, two identically-sized markets could have radically different competitive and economic situations.
Commissioner JONATHAN ADELSTEIN stressed the "need to reach out again" with public hearings and independent research to analyze the effects of consolidation (ABERNATHY warned that relying on anecdotal evidence rather than hard data will lead to rejection by the courts). The commissioners declined to indicate a date for moving forward with the review.
Responding to NAB Joint Board Chairman BRUCE REESE's complaint of a "double standard" in dealing with indecency on satellite vs. terrestrial radio, ABERNATHY joked that "we like them (satellite) better," then noted that "the law is just different...there are certain basic rights consumers have to invite programmers into their home." ADELSTEIN added that the FCC is "constrained by what the courts have told us is unconstitutional."
ADELSTEIN took the opportunity to reiterate his view that the key for radio is "the connection to the community," which he defined as putting local artists on the air and "responsiveness to the community." ABERNATHY supported the idea of localism but expressed concern that rules and regulations might "micromanage" stations and indicated that a marketplace solution would be preferable. The public interest standard was raised again when ADELSTEIN said he would like to consider public interest programming obligations as a requirement for IBOC digital radio, while a disagreeing ABERNATHY said that she would prefer to "allow the market to see where it goes."
(Later in the morning, ADELSTEIN aide RUDY BRIOCHE clarified that ADELSTEIN's view of public interest obligations is that they "assure that minimum obligations are met" and not to add "additional burdens." "There's not a broadcaster I know that doesn't meet or exceed" any proposed standards, BRIOCHE said, adding "I think there's a happy medium.")
On satellite radio's airing of local traffic and weather, ABERNATHY said she thinks the present rules "appropriately restrict" local content, and ADELSTEIN agreed, adding that it would be "inappropriate" if satellite used terrestrial repeaters for local-into-local content.
Both commissioners praised broadcasters' cooperation and efforts during and after HURRICANE KATRINA. ADELSTEIN, who called the storm's aftermath "one of the most troubling things I've ever seen in my life.... it was beyond my worst imagination," promoted the FCC's role in cutting red tape to facilitate emergency broadcast operations, terming the agency "a very willing partner" with broadcasters in getting stations back on the air.
While both commissioners carefully avoided expressing an opinion on WATD/MARSHFIELD, MA owner ED PERRY's proposal of legislation to give local applicants an absolute credit in license auction and application proceedings, ADELSTEIN said that the idea was "intriguing" and merited consideration.