Skeptical RTDNA wants help responding to FCC file proposal


The new public file requirements the FCC is seeking to implement include providing information on local news and information content. RTDNA is worried that this will be just one more task laid on the desk of already-overburdened news staffers and is asking for help from its membership to provide the FCC with strong comments on the matter.

RTDNA’s Mike Cavender said in a request to members for input, “RTDNA will respond to the FCC’s request for comment on the proposed form, particularly as to whether the burden of this additional record keeping and reporting requirement will fall on already-strained television newsroom staff, diverting resources away from critical news gathering and reporting.  We need your help to compile information that will inform the FCC’s decision making.  This is of vital importance and even though RTDNA won an extension from the FCC for broadcaster comments—that extension is short and time is of the essence.”

RTDNA included the following summary of the FCC proposals in its message:

* Local News: “Programming that is locally produced and reports on issues about, or pertaining to, a licensee’s local community of license.”

* Local Civic/Governmental Affairs: “Broadcasts of interviews with or  statements by elected or appointed officials and relevant policy experts on issues of importance to the community, government meetings, legislative sessions, conferences featuring elected officials, and substantive discussions of civic issues of interest to local communities or groups.”

* Local Electoral Affairs: “Programming [that] consists of candidate-centered discourse focusing on the local, state and United States Congressional races for offices to be elected by a constituency within the licensee’s broadcast area.  Local electoral affairs programming includes broadcasts of candidate debates, interviews, or statements, as well as substantive discussions of ballot measures that will be put before the voters in a forthcoming election.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We understand that these sorts of projects are devised with the best intentions – we’d love to see the results of a survey on this topic — but unless the FCC is prepared to send out an employee with the pile of forms they want handled, they are never as easily to do as they might seem.

May we suggest that instead of allocating FCC staff to gather, compile and make sense of the information gathered in a project like this, they use the same money and commission a good research company to watch the news in selected markets – some or all, depending on what the FCC can afford. The study would not be announced in advance, so there would be no pretense from stations looking to project a more positive image than exists in reality.

Do this two or more times a year – they could be called the Mystery Local News Sweeps – and the FCC should have more than enough data to carry on an informed national dialog on the state of television news in America.