FCC: Coalition Urges to FCC To Bring Broadcast Data Collection Into the 21st Century


Today the Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition wrote to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Julius Genachowski strongly urging the Commission to take action to implement the modernized disclosure recommendations in its recent comprehensive report, The Information Needs of Communities (“INOC”). 

This report, issued earlier this summer, compiles the most up-to-date and comprehensive review of one of the core areas under the Commission’s authority—mass communications—and the Commission’s statutory obligations to ensure that the mass media serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. The groups praised the report’s top recommendation, to “emphasize online disclosure as a pillar of FCC media policy.” 

Members of the PIPA Coalition include:  Benton Foundation, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Free Press, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and the Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ.

"When the Reagan-era FCC deregulated the broadcasting license renewal process, it emphasized that the FCC's enforcement efforts would depend on input from the public," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director of Media Access Project.  “These new disclosures will make sure that the system works as intended.”

“Our emphasis here is identifying the core information that members of the public and journalists need to evaluate broadcaster public interest contributions,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center.  “It’s time to get past arguing about burdens and focus on the needs of the American people.  Hopefully, broadcasters will recognize the  benefits of eliminating the old issues/programs list, and embrace a modernized disclosure system as it is intended–a way to move ahead quickly on a compromise basis.”

“As an advocate for broadcaster accountability and transparency to local communities for more than fifty years, the United Church of Christ sees improved disclosure as central to the relationship between audiences and the stations licensed to serve their needs,” said Andrea Cano, Chair of the United Church of Christ’s media advocacy arm, OC Inc., and a former local television reporter.  “Communities of faith and communities of color, in particular, need a tool to more meaningfully hold broadcasters accountable to their viewers.”

In the letter, the Coalition urges the FCC to expedite adoption of streamlined online broadcaster program reporting by eliminating paper forms and instead implementing the online public file requirements proposed in the INOC Report.  The Coalition proposes allowing broadcasters, who receive their licenses to use the publicly owned airwaves for free, to vastly reduce the data submitted, but retain its statistically validity by submitting programming data using two “constructed” weeks per quarter selected by the FCC – a method used by academics in their studies -- using a standardized and comparable format in the following programming categories: Local News; Local Civic/Governmental Affairs; Local Electoral Affairs; and Closed Captioning/Emergency Accessibility Complaints. Broadcasters would also have the option of reporting on other types of programming, should they choose to do so, in areas such as emergency programming, religious programming, and national news.

In addition, because coverage of local electoral issues is critical to an informed citizenry, broadcasters would be required to disclose all local electoral affairs programming aired during the peak campaign periods when the lowest unit charge laws are in effect (i.e., 45 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election).

To read the full text of letter, click here.