The average amount of time allocated to public service announcements on video distribution entities is 17 seconds per hour, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study of a week in 2005. It repeated a study conducted in 2000. The further breakdown showed 18 second from English-language broadcast stations, 15 seconds from basic cable outlets and 29 seconds from Spanish-language Univision. The results were roughly equivalent to those from the earlier study — Prof. Walter Gantz of Indiana University, who worked on the study, said the differences were statistically insignificant — showing that while there were no gains made, neither was there a particular erosion of PSA service.
Nevertheless, non-profits seeking to get a message out are looking at ways to get hold of more broadcast inventory. If it cannot be negotiated directly with networks and local stations, they wonder if the public interest planks in a broadcast license can be expanded to include PSAs.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, one of three commissioners in attendance, said, "Breathing new life into the public interest standard is on my ‘bucket list’ before I leave the FCC." However, he noted that providing time for PSAs was not the most important part of pub-int. Jonathan Adelstein, noting that most PSAs are aired between midnight and 6AM on broadcast outlets — some 60% — said that insomniacs may be well informed, but that some of the important info needs to be aired when people are actually watching. Deborah Taylor Tate defended the good works broadcasters are already doing and warned against the possible negative results from adding layers of regulation.
RBR/TVBR observation: We gather that any sort of PSA obligation would be a matter far down the regulatory pike at this point. Public comment would need to be gathered just for starters. It’s place in a clear definition of public interest would need to be determined, and a clear definition of what actually constitutes a PSA would be needed. This won’t happen tomorrow. But we’ll have more on this topic next week.