Localism, 17-year cicadas: What's the difference?


That’s what Harry F. Cole and Patrick Murck of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth are wondering. In an FCC filing, they said that localism and cicadas "Both emerge after periods of dormancy lasting more than a decade, both generate considerable noise during their emergence, both tend to result in messes requiring clean-up activities well after each emergence has ended, and neither accomplishes much at all, other than to lay the groundwork for the next emergence." They argue that the FCC "…is under no external compulsion to take action in this area — and therefore, it can simply decline to act, if it so chooses." They say that the periodic calls for more localism have sometimes resulted in reporting requirements, but these turn out to be "increased make-work chores for broadcasters and Commission staff alike…" and that "…virtually all of those make-work chores have been abandoned…" since the 1981 deregulation movement. They say it’s impossible to link any problems of any kind to the abandonment.

They note the futility of reporting requirements due to the Commission’s reluctance to do anything even in the face of clear evidence of local inadequacy. They cite the case of a 24/7 shop-at-home station, the sole station in its city-of-license, which did not bother to interrupt its schedule of uninterrupted commercials even during a serious earthquake. Its license was challenged, a viable alternate licensee was presented and still the license was renewed. They also mention the fabled Minot incident, saying that a local owner would not necessarily have performed better and further, the very isolated nature of the story indicates that "some 15,000 broadcast stations" must be doing an adequate or better job during such emergencies.