By Greg Gardner (Contact)
To be delivered to: President Barack Obama
As a former broadcaster, I have felt for some time there is a need to restore the "public" in the public airwaves. It began in 1996 when the Communications Act of 96 went into law. It was sold to the American people as a necessity for the broadcasters, but a bad deal for the public. At present, the law stipulates that a media company can have unlimited ownership of broadcast properties in a single market. This needs to change. Before this law went into affect, communities across the country enjoyed a varity of programming options: Competing news stations. Competing music stations. Competing talk stations. The broadcasters claim there is competition in the marketplace, but it has been squeezed into a compact homogenized corporate cluster. Since the Act became law, diversity has taken a back seat. The multiple voices that once graced the airwaves have disappeared. Broadcast ownership rules stated (prior to 96) that a broadcast company could cover no more than 25-percent of the market share. Now it is at 35-percent. This applies to both radio and television stations. This is purely a monopoly of the worst kind.Independent radio or television stations are not able to fairly compete in a market. Prior to the 1996 law, broadcast companies were only allowed to own no more than 12 of each broadcast property--nationally. Twelve radio (AM or FM, combo's), and twelve television stations. This was known as the "12/12/12 rule". This rule was later adjusted upwards to fifteen(15/15/15). Additionally, In a summary from Museum TV.com the manner in which an owner renews their license has also changed. "Terms of license for both radio and television have been increased to eight years and previous rules allowing competing applications for license renewals have been dramatically altered in favor of incumbent licensees. New provisions under the act prevent the filing of a competing application at license renewal time unless the FCC first finds that a station has not served the public interest or has committed other serious violations of agency or federal rules. This provision will make it increasingly difficult for citizen's groups to mount a license challenge against a broadcast station." The previous period for comment from the public on a license was prior to the end of a three (3) year term. This 8 year term for holding a license is blantely unfair to the public and communities everywhere. Terms of a license must be pushed back to the original three-year term. Prior to this legislation, there was diversity in the airwaves. Especially on radio. There was diversity in music, talk, and educational programming--allowing free-form formats to exist and thrive on college campuses across the country. Finally, there is a jobs component to this. After this legislation took affect, various broadcast publications (Broadcast and Cable) estimated that approx. 75,000+ jobs would be eliminated as a result of this bill. Repealing this legislation would restore jobs for writers, producers, reporters, camera operators, and technicians. We must restore the sanity and diversity that once existed on our airwaves. We must undo this legislation so our First Amendment can once again have meaning. I urge President Obama, and FCC Chairman Genachowski to bring back previous FCC regulations because our communities depend on it.
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