License Renewal to Hit Hometowns

Jul 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps announced last week that he’s planning to turn up the heat on broadcasters by holding a series of field hearings in their communities to determine whether they have been doing enough to warrant .
At hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee, Mr. Copps, one of two Democrats on the five-member FCC, said the agency’s current renewal procedures are so lax that they essentially amount to automatic renewal for incumbent broadcasters.
“It’s a farce,” Mr. Copps said.
To beef up the reviews, he said, he plans to organize field hearings in communities around the country as s for stations begin coming up this fall.
“How can we know if licensees are serving their local communities without hearing from the local community?” Mr. Copps said. “I intend to go to local communities to listen and to learn.”
In a statement, Mr. Copps said he also wants to remind citizens that they, not broadcast corporations, own the airwaves.
“Most people do not even know that they can challenge the renewal of a local radio or television station if they believe that the station is not living up to its obligations due to a lack of local coverage, a lack of diversity, excessive indecency and violence or for other concerns important to the community,” he added.
The National Association of Broadcasters declined comment.
But Mr. Copps’ announcement got a sympathetic reception from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Commerce Committee chairman. Indeed, Sen. McCain said he is considering sponsoring legislation that would reduce broadcast license terms from eight years to three and shift more of the burden to licensees to demonstrate why a is warranted.
An aide said Mr. Copps has yet to schedule the first of his planned field hearings but that the commissioner intends to hold them whether he receives FCC underwriting or not.
Mr. Copps used a series of agency field hearings to publicize the efforts of his GOP agency colleagues to relax the agency’s media ownership restrictions. The FCC’s media ownership ruling has been so controversial that lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are currently attempting to overturn at least parts of it.