Published: August 2007

Digital TV rules lack public benefit, say groups

Leading organizations involved in communications advocacy filed comments with the Federal Communication Commission asking it to hold broadcasters to their public interest obligations in the digital age. Broadcasters treat the public airwaves as personal property, but our airwaves are a valuable commodity owned by the American public.

Over the past 12 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has repeatedly failed to redefine broadcasters’ public interest obligations in light of the nation’s ongoing transition to digital television, a coalition of 28 groups, including Consumer Action, said in a filing at the FCC today.

The groups’ filing came in the FCC’s third periodic review of the conversion of the nation’s broadcast television system from analog to digital television (“DTV”). The DTV transition will increase efficient use of the spectrum, expand consumer choice for video programming, and increase the amount of spectrum available for public safety and other wireless services. Analog TV broadcasts are to end February 17, 2009. In its rulemaking, the FCC proposed procedures and rule changes necessary to complete the transition, but once again failed to address broadcasters’ obligations to serve local communities’ educational, informational, civic, minority, disability and emergency information needs – or how these services should be disclosed to the public.

When the FCC launched this proceeding earlier this year, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, “I am concerned that we have not yet provided broadcasters and the public with a concrete understanding of broadcasters’ public interest obligations in the digital age. This necessary piece of the transition continues to lag further and further behind. Congress made clear that broadcasters continue to have public interest obligations in the digital world, but left it up to us to specify how to apply them. As we continue to speed the arrival of the best possible digital television service to the public, an important proceeding that could bring certainty continues to linger at the Commission…. A crystal clear digital picture is important, but quality programming is just as, if not more, important.”

Other Organizations

Alliance For Community Media, Benton Foundation, Center for Digital Democracy, Chicago Media Action, Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause, Common Cause Illinois, Common Cause Michigan, Common Cause Ohio, Common Cause Wisconsin, Communication Service For The Deaf, Consumer Action, Democracy Now, Free Press, Hearing Loss Association Of America – New York State, Illinois Campaign For Political Reform, Illinois PIRG, League Of Women Voters Of Minnesota, League Of Women Voters Of Wisconsin, Michigan Campaign Finance Network, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Northern Virginia Resource Center For Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Persons, Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund, Sunshine Project -University Of Illinois At Springfield, Take Action Minnesota, The Campaign Legal Center, United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

More Information

Download a Word version of the comments submitted to the FCC.

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