Nationwide Petition to
FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Congress

CauseNET for April 13, 2004

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is holding its annual conference in Las Vegas on April 19-22.  Virtually anyone who is associated with the media is expected to attend, including: all five Federal Communications Commissioners (FCC), Senator John McCain and other key congressional leaders, and more than 90,000 individuals representing the major television networks, local affiliates, and the radio industry.  The buzz at the convention is all about the new era of digital TV and its ability to create billions of dollars for the industry.  In the broadcast "space" that one channel of programming now takes up, digital technology permits broadcasters to air as many as six channels or more of programming, all at the same time.

In 1996, Congress decided to give away to broadcasters digital TV licenses, which were worth up to $70 billion.  Now, broadcasters want the government to do even more for them -- to require cable companies to carry their new digital channels over their cable systems.  The FCC will be considering this "multi-cast must-carry rule" soon.

We can't rely on broadcasters to do the right thing because they've demonstrated, time and again, that they're more interested in the bottom line than in presenting programs that inform citizens and connect them to their communities.

So, we're going to the convention to let broadcasters, the FCC, and Congress know that the public deserves more, too.  We expect broadcasters to serve the public in concrete, measurable ways, such as providing three hours of public affairs programming a week.

A broad coalition of organizations including Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, True Majority,, Media Channel, the United Church of Christ, the Center for Digital Democracy, and others have joined together to launch a campaign to urge the FCC to approve a set of specific public interest guidelines for broadcasters. 

In Las Vegas, we will use our public "airwaves" by flying a hot air balloon - flashing our public interest messages - over the convention site.  We will also publicly present thousands of signatures on petitions to the FCC and Members of Congress, asking the FCC to hold broadcasters accountable for their public interest obligations.  We will be holding activities in local markets and meetings with local broadcasters around the country in the months to come. 

Sign the Joint Petition to FCC Chairman Powell and Congress

With the current state of political affairs and an important election looming this fall, the duty of the media to provide adequate and accurate information to the American public is critical.  If broadcasters are going to argue that it serves the public interest to require the cable industry to carry their digital programming, now is the time to ask them to show us how they serve the public. 

We are urging the FCC to approve specific and measurable guidelines for serving the informational and programming needs of local communities before they vote on the "multi-cast must carry" rules. 
Please sign the petition and forward this alert to your friends and family so that we can put the media companies on notice that we expect more than lip service on public interest obligations.