Spotlighting the localism proceeding: Citizen advisors


The enhanced disclosure form is out there, and it is just the beginning of what may become a laundry list of new obligations and responsibilities for broadcasters, based on what’s being looked into in the FCC’s NAL on localism. We’ll look at a number of the proposals in the coming days.

Today, we ask this question: Are you ready to meet four times a year with a "community advisory board?"

The FCC suggests these "permanent" boards should be composed of "officials and other leaders from the service area of its broadcast station. We [the FCC] believe that these boards will promote both localism and diversity and, as such, should be an integral component of the Commission’s localism efforts."

It wonders if the boards should be selected or elected. It also suggests listener/viewer surveys, "town hall" meetings, station management participation in other community organizations and boards, among other things.

TVBR/RBR observation: There are many markets that have a combined total of more than 50 television and radio stations. The supply of local officials and community leaders, made up of the type of people who already tend to fill their days from sun-up to late in the evening with paperwork, meetings and public events, should be exhausted relatively quickly in some of these markets, possibly leaving lower rated stations to compete for the advisory services of officials such as the Aide to the Assistant Deputy of Animal Control, Stray Cat Division or the Vice Orderly of Public Restroom Paper Waste Removal.

And then you’ll meet the citizens. We’ll be the scruffy-looking guys in the back of the town hall asking what you’ve done lately to save the whales, why you’re letting the local pro sports coaches off so easy, and why you haven’t been playing even so much as a single Gentle Giant cut. We’ve grown weary of your constant stream of Pop, Rock, Alternative, Country, Urban, Religious, Smooth Jazz, Classical, Americana, Gospel, Talk, Sports and or News programming that we always hear on your station, to the utter exclusion of 70s Prog Rock. (We don’t care that we were just about the only ones in town who had heard of Gentle Giant when they were active, to say nothing of those who remember them over 25 years after they broke up.) And if you don’t play them, we’ll rat you out to the FCC on account of your lack of responsiveness to your local community.

OK, we’ll take our tongue out of our cheek now.

Good broadcasters are already in touch with their audience — it’s a survival technique. The good folks at Nielsen, Arbitron and Eastlan provide some serious insight as to how your station is doing.

You know something? A consumer advisory panel may be a great idea. Direct contact with local citizens who love your station enough to use their spare time to meet with station management and air talent is a superb way to strengthen the bond with your key audience. And if you’re a local or regional broadcaster who competes with a company that’s just phoning it in from a thousand miles away, this would be a great way to underscore that fact to your own advantage.

But it should not become a regulatory requirement. Period.