Senators decry the “specter of government regulated content”


Pat Roberts (R-KS) has fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin urging him to stay far away from getting into the program monitoring business, which is precisely where new enhanced reporting requirements are taking the Commission. Additionally, he said that 24/7 staffing requirements would only diminish the ability of broadcasters to provide quality local programming. 22 of Roberts’ colleagues agreed to the extent that they also signed onto the letter.

“It is wholly unwarranted to force all licensees to adhere to a blanket regulatory regime that does not account for the diverse needs and challenges of communities across the nation, and the measures that many broadcasters are already taking in this regard. Such an approach is at direct odds with the policy goal of ensuring our country’s broadcasters serve the communities in which they operate.”

Roberts noted that it is in a station’s self-interest to provide compelling local programming. And if citizens are dissatisfied, they can change the channel or challenge the station’s license via existing regulation concerning a licensee’s public interest obligations.

He noted that technology has made 24/7 staffing an unnecessary expense, and requiring it would only drain a licensee’s resources, with reduced broadcast quality an inevitable outcome.

RBR/TVBR observation: The last sentence of the letter was interesting. It acknowledged the existence of licensees who are not doing all they can to serve the local community. Roberts argued that the good guys should not be penalized because of the deficiencies of others. But he doesn’t suggest what, if anything, should be done about the others.

And as we’ve been pointing out, that is where the ultimate futility of enhanced reporting is revealed. The fact is, a station can be nothing more than a 24/7 affiliate of a tiny network from a far-off city that has nothing whatsoever to do with the local community of license. Except for one thing – if anybody at all listens to or watches it, then it is by definition serving the public interest, because that person is demonstrating interest.

So if we’re collecting evidence for license renewal time, but there is no authority to strip the most egregiously-non-local station possible of its license, what’s the point of this entire exercise?

The answer is obvious: There is no point. So FCC – cut it out.