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Public Interest and the Media in the Digital Age

December 17th, 2009 by Steve Waldman - Senior Advisor to the Chairman

In its December 2 Public Notice requesting comment on the uses of spectrum, the FCC asked:

 
Broadcasting and the Public Interest: Broadcasters have historically played an important role in advancing public interests through free over-the-air broadcast TV. What are the benefits of free, over-the-air television broadcasting, in particular with respect to public awareness of emergency information, local news, political discourse, and education?”
 
These are good questions at a time when the media landscape is changing dramatically.  Some innovations -- from both traditional media companies and new players -- are not only just as good as the status quo, they’re considerable improvements, and universal broadband will clearly help facilitate further innovation.  In some ways, this is a very exciting time in the evolution of media as we are seeing new delivery systems and types of content come on-line almost every day.
 
At the same time, we must recognize that the business model challenges now faced by the traditional media may diminish its ability to provide one its most critical functions: full time, local, professional journalism. This function is crucially important for democracy. It enables citizens to hold leaders accountable and get the information they need. Chairman Genachowski brought me to the Commission to spearhead a broad-ranging effort to look at these issues through a recently launched project on the future of the media in a digital age.
 
We are charged with looking at these questions, and all relevant Commission proceedings, through this lens:  what policies are most likely to insure that communities get the information and news they need? We need to ask what current trends tell us about the likely direction of news and information gathering and dissemination, and what are the implications of these trends for broadband and spectrum policy? What role can/should/will all holders of spectrum – including wireless companies and commercial and public broadcasters – play in helping keep America’s citizens informed?
 
We hope a full range of players will weigh in on these questions in comments in response to the Public Notice, which are due by December 21. Or you can comment on this blog.

 

6 Responses to “Public Interest and the Media in the Digital Age”

  1. Guest says:

    I agree with not taking away our local tv. I rely on it only. Why pay the satellite companies for what should be free? I live in Rural Kansas.

    What happens to the local news when the news papers shut down? TV will be the only source.

  2. Guest says:

    I know it is after the "due date" but just heard about the FCC and public access to "FREE TV" I have not had cable or any type of paid TV since 1989. It is a waste of money and instead of forcing people to purchase this access, the Government stand should be helping the Taxpayers and more free TV. Have you noticed, since the change to "digital" the commercials are louder than the programing and the media seems to only talk about some type of paid service to get TV, I find the whole thing awful. Children today have no clue, they only know "cable" programs, and parents have another bill just to watch TV, it is wrong.
    Every company should be forced to provide free, over the air programming. If these companies make money from the taxpayers, ie: how the system was developed, who paid for the years of research in being able to send info over the air, who pays for the upkeep of satilight equipment? Who has to pay the salaries of the FCC to make sure they (cable & all others) are doing the right thing. We all know what happens when the Gov't, removes or reduce the authority branch, and no one is looking over their shoulder forcing them to do the right thing. Like the banks, insurance companies, mortage companies, they all got very greedy when "regulations" were relaxed.

  3. Guest says:

    I am happy to see someone on the Broadband Committee is looking at this aspect of broadcasting, whether it be over the air broadcasters, or internet services. I have only been watching over the air TV again for a little over 2 years. I live 50 air miles from the transmitters from the local TV market and in a valley with foliage all around, so I can testify first hand to the improvement of the DTV signal, it is 100 percent better then analog TV. My reason for switching from Cable TV back to an antenna, is money. At the time I was paying $55.00 a month for extended analog cable, that is price a little under $65.00 a month now, and it is poor quality analog picture, what I get with antenna is a much better picture when it comes to quality. The local cable TV does offer a over air tier package for about $23.00 a month, use to be $14.00 a month. With cable I would get Fox and PBS. The only one I find frustrating is that I can't pick up is PBS, since the local PBS station shut down all it's translators in this area to save money, I find that frustrating since there is some taxpayer money that they receive and it would appear they are more interested in broadcasting to Canada, more populate area, then sparsely populated area I live in, even though they receive some government funding.

    Local TV offers local news and severe weather warnings. To give an example last summer while the local NBC affiliate interrupted their network programming to give a warning of a storm cell that had the potential of being a tornado, it showed the storm on radar with pinpoint accuracy as it past over my home. The 3 network affiliates I pick up offer 6 hours of local news daily, plus the network news that they carry. Local radio stations in this area, are doing good if there is someone at the radio station to give a severe weather warning when issued by NOAH. Most radio stations in this area are nothing more then satellite relays and they do not have automated systems to issue weather warnings and the ones that are set to give automated warnings are set to studios that sometimes 3 counties away, it is funny to hear a NOAH warnings that is automated sound out for a city that 150 miles away, from a local station that is license for the very town you live in, but it really is the way that so called local radio station is set up.

    My concern with the what I have seen floated by the FCC for the current broadband plan is the idea to limit OTA to 6 MHZ in local markets and to have them share transmitters in more populated areas. Right now the TV stations that are in local market are either transmitting from a higher elevated rural area to the metro they are license to, or have transmitters in the metro, but because of the terrain I can pickup only the higher elevated transmitters, so I suspect under that plan I will not be able to pickup a signal over the air. My second concern is for the local stations and I do understand the Retransmission fees to local broadcasters are making cable TV bills rise, but Cable companies are in business to make money as are commercial TV stations. If you give cable or satellite providers a monopoly on video and limit local broadcaster has to being able to bargain with cable on retrans fees or consumers as to being able to receive free over air TV, you break the backs of local TV and the ability to offer local new and emergency broadcast services. Please note the local cable provider where I live, is already charging over $23.00 a month for just local channels broadcast in analog. It is hard to believe that the cable provide is not making a good profit on that monthly subscription, how much more profit will they make with what amounts to a monopoly.

  4. Guest says:

    Are comments on this blog considered along with comments to the public notice?

  5. manjit says:

    Ps. I to must say that local tv should be free. I live in england and our tv license cost £150 appx. per year, just to watch local tv.

  6. Guest says:

    Local cable tv is the backbone of america. I hate it when government steps in and does stuff like this. In the long run, we're going to end up paying for this. And to think we're even in a recession still... http://bit.ly/goGDW7

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