FCC chairman announces localism initiative; establishes task force

Responding to the congressional and large public outcry opposing the commission’s changes to media ownership rules earlier this summer, FCC Chairman Michael Powell has announced that the commission will establish a Localism Task Force to recommend actions that might be necessary to strengthen localism in broadcasting.

“This past June, the commission completed the most comprehensive review of its structural broadcast ownership rules in history,” said Powell. “This 20 month study produced a balanced set of structural rules, faithful to the directives of Congress and the courts, to promote and protect diversity, competition and localism in the 21st Century broadcast media marketplace.”

Following the ownership rule changes, the Senate Commerce Committee held hearings where some public interest groups, associations, commission members and others expressed their opposition to relaxing ownership restrictions, arguing among other things that programming decisions to serve the interests of local communities would suffer as a consequence of greater media concentration and absentee ownership. (For more information see the RF Update story).

“During the proceeding and in the months that followed, however, we heard the voice of public concern about the media loud and clear,” Powell said. “Localism is at the core of these concerns, and we are going to tackle it head on.”

“Toward that end, the Localism Task Force will advise the commission on steps it can take and, if warranted, will make legislative recommendations to Congress that would strengthen localism in broadcasting,” said Powell.

There are three parts to Powell’s localism initiative: creation of the task force, to be headed by FCC Deputy General Counsel Michele Ellison and Deputy Chief of the Media Bureau Robert Ratcliffe; accelerating the activation of low-power FM stations, including opening a settlement window for low-power FM applications and waiving of “rules to permit mutually exclusive applicants to use all available frequencies to resolve conflicts and gain new station licenses”; and a notice of inquiry (NOI) seeking comment on FCC rules designed to promote localism.

Some of the issues the notice seeks comments on include whether existing rules to promote localism are effective or should be revised or supplemented, license renewals and network affiliate rules.

For more information, please visit: www.fcc.gov.

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