Seattle newspaper questions unknown localism rules


We know that back on 12/18/07, the FCC’s Commissioners agreed to open up a rulemaking which would detail reporting requirements and program quotas — or something — to assure that all broadcast stations are taking the FCC’s mandate to promote localism, diversity and competition seriously. Reporter Bill Virgin of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer pointed out in a recent article that as yet, nobody knows what this proceeding is going to entail.

The calls for a localism mandate are largely in response to a public against consolidated ownership, which is believed to lead to bland, repetitive, homogenized programming, exacerbated further by widespread use of network and syndicated programming fare.

Nonetheless, Virgin warns that it could very well change the way local radio stations operate, and it could also be in for a rather nasty dust-up when it comes into proximity with the First Amendment.

RBR/TVBR observation: It is well-known that the public participating in the outcry is loud. Whether it constitutes even a fraction of a minority of the vast pool of regular radio listeners is a matter of conjecture. And forget the public. There is no shortage of industry professionals who loudly decry the sorry state of radio programming. Still, the goal of every commercial station is to attract an audience; indeed, an audience is the lifeblood of a station, the only thing it has to sell.

We remember back in the 1990s when for the first time we could hear Don Imus in Washington. We all sampled his program. Some of us stayed with it; others preferred a truly local program in the morning, and/or simply didn’t care for Mr. Imus and let him take a hike. But as local residents, we had an option to listen to an iconic New York radio warhorse for the first time ever. Were we being served as local listeners? Well, yeah.

Say a citizen ignores all the local talent available on the dial to tune in a home shopping channel originating 500 miles away. Is the station serving the local population? Well, yeah, it is.

If we were programming a station, going up against any out-of-towner, or any network/syndicated program, we’d like to think we’d blow it out of the water by knowing and superserving our local citizens. But you can’t say the other stations aren’t serving local people, in their own way. If someone is freely tuning in, their being served.
We understand and even sympathize the FCC’s goal, but its not something they or any government entity have the tools to accomplish.