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Texas says no to the FCC's proposed localism rules

source: Despair.comThe Texas Association of Broadcasters opposes the FCC’s proposed localism rules. Why not? Everybody else does.

Two years ago this December the Federal Communications Commission proposed a quartet of new regulations to nudge radio stations to provide more local news, music, and public affairs programming.

These included rules requiring a certain amount of local programming from each station, requiring licensees to staff their stations with an actual human being 24/7, mandating that license owners set up local station advisory boards, and a requirement that a signals’ main studio be situated in its signal area.

Since then these proposals have received nothing but cat calls and boos. The public interest groups that clamored for them in the first half of this decade rarely come to their defense. Instead, just about every regional or national broadcast association writes to the FCC denouncing them on a semi-regular basis. The religious groups say the local board rule will drive their stations in the hands of heathens, atheists, and Family Guy fans. The Fox TV lovers say it’s all a plot to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. Even advocates for minorities question the proposals, among them Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), father of now FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

So no surprise Texas wants them nixed too. Here’s the what the association told the FCC this month:

“The proposed 24/7 staffing requirement would force some small 24-hour AM radio stations to sign off at night, eliminating highly valued programming and local emergency information updates to listeners because of increased costs. In such cases, stations are currently able to provide automated programming and insert live, local information or updates of significant community interest as local needs dictate.”

Ok. Help me out here. How would “increased costs” force stations to sign off at night if most of the programming they’re providing is already automated? I can see where’s there’s a price tag to 24/7, but how does that force a station that mostly depends on canned programming to shut down? And if the station is providing those “live, local information . . . updates” at night, they’re probably fulfilling the 24/7 rule already. So what’s the problem here?

Another point Texas makes:

“The proposed requirement that each station have a studio within the community of license would require a group of licensees that serve multiple communities to incur significant additional costs at the risk of diverting money from local programming or forcing some stations to go “dark.” In many instances, licensees to multiple small, contiguous communities have concentrated administrative and studio operations in one location, achieving significant fiscal efficiencies that allow members of all the communities to benefit from a robust station operation. Such efficiencies would be lost under this proposal and reduce highly valued service to some of those communities.”

This appears to me to be a long winded way of saying ‘we can’t do this because we’ve centralized our licenses to the point where, well, we just can’t do it.’ Which is, of course, the problem that the FCC is trying to address with its proposed rules.

Ok. Fine. The nation’s commercial radio stations can’t afford to structure themselves to effectively serve their local communities. So the question for the FCC is who can? And how do we get them the spectrum they need to do the job?

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2 Responses to Texas says no to the FCC's proposed localism rules

  1. Philip Goetz November 25, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    I live in Austin Texas and attended the TAB conference two years in a row. August of 2008 I attended a panel called “Local Programming Idea Exchange”. There was an engaging presenter doing some great work near Dallas with a local club on music and fashion, someone from College Station talking about what they do, but the consensus is that local programming is too expensive to do. I raised my hand and mentioned the number of Radio Television and Film grads ot of work in Austin. Te answer that came back was that they need to leave Austin and go to a smaller market. I emailed the moderator and he put me in touch with the education co-ordinator at TAB. To this day I have not received a response from either of these individuals but my point was that if broadcast doesn’t shape up then there is going to be a panel called “Local Programming Idea Exchange for Digital Signage Networks” and TAB won’t exist. On another note I emailed Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson about the local community radio act. Freepress had a “email your congress person” type of thing and the form letter I received back mentioned “interference”. I had to direct her to two passages in my lpfm research paper. MITER report said no go on interference and the word “interference” was priviledged over “competition” in a memo from Minnesota public broadcast. No response. Let me know how to help from here in Texas. My complete report is linked out from here:

  2. Matthew Lasar November 26, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    It is no surprise that Senator Hutchison of Texas can’t be bothered with supporting Low Power FM. She’s too busy trying to stop net neutrality legislation and get a bill passed that would allow prisons to jam cell phones. But your proposal for a Local Programming Digital Signage panel sounds great. Maybe if the FCC and Congress get serious about moving spectrum from these broadcasters to wireless service providers, they’ll start taking their public interest obligations more seriously.

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