The 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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