Mike McIntyre (D-NC) has fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin concerning the FCC’s look into new regulations designed to foster broadcast localism. “I am concerned that the Commission is considering changes that would replace current regulations with decades-old rules that have been previously dismissed as ineffective and unnecessary,” he wrote. He noted that is was unfair to hit broadcasters alone with new rules and regs while continuing to allow a free ride for cable, satellite, internet and myriad other competitors. He also said the rule resurrections would raise constitutional issues.
“New content-based license renewal processing guidelines, for example, could force broadcasters to air programming they might not otherwise air for fear they may lose their broadcasting license. These processing guidelines are, in effect, programming quotas that give certain types of speech the government stamp of approval.” He said preventing such things was what the First Amendment is all about.
“Finally,” he concluded, “I am concerned for many of the smaller broadcasters that operate to benefit small towns and rural areas. My home state of North Carolina has many such broadcasters, and I fear that these new regulations could unfairly hamper their ability to provide quality local service.”
RBR/TVBR observation: Opposition to this has come from both parties, and that’s a very good thing. This issue is not quality local programming – everybody is for that. The issue is how to see to it that such programming is encouraged. The first step, we guess, is to define quality local programming, and then make it illegal to broadcast anything else. Otherwise, it won’t matter if a station fills out a thousand forms and hires 22 minimum-wage seat fillers to hang around the station through the wee hours of the morning waiting for a tornado or train derailment – there will be nothing to enforce.
We could write about this all day, but for now let’s just point out that the first step – defining the crime — is both intellectually and constitutionally impossible. It simply cannot be done. That alone makes all the rest of this a pointless exercise, and if it makes it into the regs, a monumental waste of time and money.