Martin shares public’s interest in public interest


The broadcast community received a little bit of attention in yesterday's House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet session with the five FCC commissioners. The DTV transition was mentioned several times and other topics also came up. But the lion's share of attention went to the auction of spectrum that broadcasters are leaving.

There was one look-out moment, however, an exchange between Anna Eshoo (D-CA), FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (R) and Commissioner Michael Copps (D) over public interest and license renewals. Eshoo said that the license renewal process provides a "golden moment" to assure that broadcasters are fulfilling their public interest obligations.

Martin noted that the public's interest in this topic is on the rise and said he has a pending FCC item which would give broadcasters a collection of categories to report on in order to provide a public interest record to evaluate. Copps agreed, but went further, saying that there is "precious little" out there to give broadcasters a sense of what's expected of them. He would spell out just what the FCC expects, and Eshoo agreed that yardsticks are what are needed. Eshoo telegraphed her support for the Copps wing of the FCC at the outset of the meeting, reading one of his many editorials on the topic into the record and recommending it be added to each subcommittee member's reading list.

Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey briefly grilled Deborah Taylor Tate (R) on childhood obesity/advertising guidelines. She said she is optimistic that media outlets will join food manufacturers in supporting voluntary restrictions on preteen advertising but will wait for a task force release due in September before considering possible FCC remedies. Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) inquired about the progress of the Tribune proceeding, which needs crossownership waivers, and was told it is on track for a 4th quarter decision. Mike Doyle (D-PA) spoke on behalf of himself and Lee Terry (R-NE) in urging a big push to get more LPFMs on the air.TVBR observation: Public interest reporting requirements. Wow. Right now if a station is on air as licensed and has any kind of audience at all it is considered to be serving the public interest. The reason to take this seriously is this: Any time Martin and Copps agree on a topic, it is close to a mortal lock to get anywhere from three to five votes on the FCC's 8th Floor. This could get interesting real fast.