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FCC to launch localism inquiry

The FCC will begin its inquiry into how well broadcasters serve their local communities. The inquiry is set up so that the FCC can receive direct input from the public on how broadcasters are serving the interests and needs of their communities; whether it should adopt new policies, practices, or rules designed directly to promote localism in broadcast television and radio; and what those policies, practices, or rules should be.

To be revisited is the question of broadcasters’ public interest obligations in the era of DTV and especially those for broadcasters who engage in multicasting. The commission will question whether broadcasters are airing programs that actually serve their community and will look at what constitutes and qualifies as local programming.

Payola, voice-tracking, national playlists and guests who pay for their appearances will also be examined in the investigation of broadcast practices, the commission said. The effect of nationally designated playlists ordered by corporate owners will also be scrutinized.

Also to be re-examined are license renewal practices and an inquiry to determine whether a shortening of renewal periods would force broadcasters to better serve the public interests. The commission asks whether current eight-year license terms are too long to permit an effective and timely review of stations’ performance?

Public comments in the proceeding are due Sept. 1. The deadline for reply comments is Oct. 1.

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