Localism comments solicited


The FCC’s NPRM on enhancing broadcast localism has officially made it into the Federal Register under MB Docket No. 04-233. The official publication date was 2/13/08, which sets the comment clock to a deadline of 3/14/08 and the reply comment clock to a deadline of 4/14/08. The proposed rule changes will strive "…to enhance broadcast localism and diversity, to increase and improve the amount and nature of broadcast programming that is targeted to the local needs and interests of a broadcast licensee’s community of service, and to provide more accessible information to the public about broadcasters’ efforts to air such programming."

RBR/TVBR observation: This should be a fun one. While the goal of increasing localism is a noble one, this government-mandated effort is doomed to fail. For starters, who is to say that having access to programming from a distant source is not of local interest? Are the residents of Snakes Navel ID to be limited to the news and opinion generated by those in their local community? Are they to be limited to those musical selections recorded by local artists or available at the one-bin CD display at the local trading post?

The answer to such questions is that there is indeed a need for information from the outside world to trickle, or pour, into Snakes Navel. Ideally, the best and brightest broadcasters in Snakes Navel are going to super serve their local residents because they want to attract the largest possible audience and sell as many commercials as possible. Other broadcasters may have to mix and match local programs and syndicated fare with an eye to their bottom line. We would hope that many of those stuck in this tier are biding their time and plotting ways to move up to the elite in the market.

The sad fact is that many will simply plug in a roboformat, hire a salesperson and a contract engineer, and milk what cash can be milked from a mundane station. Even in this case, however, if people are tuning in, this lackluster station is serving a portion of the public.

It will be impossible to define what serving the public is, since there are countless ways to do so, and without an enforceable definition, this whole endeavor will turn into a tree-killing or byte-consuming exercise in futility with no endgame in sight.