Chuck Bino: On broadcasting offenses in the media

May. 11, 2013 @ 06:52 PM

Sometime in the early 1980s comes to mind, when TV sets depended on an external or rotatable housetop antenna aimed at the desired station.  Cable channels were limited and satellite TV was really innovative, but required an unsightly 8-foot diameter dish antenna. The main draws were CNN and HBO.  If you could afford one, a cell phone was the size of a brick. Every home had at least one “hard line” connected telephone.
Boy, have these things changed in 30 years!  Accordingly, there is more acrimony and deceit in politics now than that time. Most folks today are equally divided on government’s role in our lives, as is reflected in our candidates and election results.
People are upset by the major media neglecting to give some issues the exposure they deserve.  For instance, except for Fox illuminating the Benghazi attack and possible cover-up, the major TV outlets let it slide for seven months. Same with the recent Maryland abortion doctor murder issues. A few months before their FCC broadcaster’s license is renewed, a TV station must make announcements or publish notices in print about its license renewal, asking for comments about the station’s previous service to the community. They must show to the Federal Communications Commission that the station is operating in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” This means that it must air programming that is responsive to the needs and problems of its local community of license, that there aren’t significant complaints from its viewers which show otherwise.  The FCC is the trustee and guardian of the valuable, limited, and coveted TV and radio spectrum.  See  http://www.fcc.gov/guides/public-and-broadcasting-july-2008#ACT
The Oregon Alliance to Reform Media (ORARM) petitioned the FCC to reconsider licensing eight Portland area TV systems because it was claimed that these did not cover political issues adequately in the 2004 state and local elections. Their petition was recently ruled inadequate to bring action by the FCC.
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2013/db0314/FCC-13-32A1.pdf
Unless it is a “hoax” or deliberate distortion of the news, the FCC allows considerable discretion in programming. The First Amendment is prominent.
So, what to do about failure to program in “the public interest, convenience and necessity?”
FCC states, “If you are offended by a station’s programming, we urge you to make your concerns known to the station licensee, in writing.”  “The fastest and easiest way to file a complaint containing this information is to use the FCC’s electronic complaint form, Form 475B, which is available on the FCC’s website at http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgb/fcc475B.cfm.”
Also, the Communications Act suggests that stations conduct “ascertainment” sessions with the public, where meetings are held with local officials to determine the “pressing public issues” in their community. Results become part of the station’s “public inspection files,” which they must show to interested parties.  The FCC considers station failure to perform these coverage area agreements as detrimental to the license renewal.
Lastly, your congressman is the key. An example of how you can make a small difference:
“At the request of 39 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the FCC conducted a proceeding seeking public comment on violent programming. In April 2007, the Commission delivered to Congress a Report recommending that the industry voluntarily commit to reducing the amount of such programming viewed by children.”
Also, “the courts have upheld Congress’ prohibition of the broadcast of indecent material during times of the day in which there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.”
As you see, although individual action is encouraged, we must work in concert to make a real difference . We deserve it.

Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.