For FCC ownership hearings, NAB thinks citizens should stay home

[via Free Press]

As the Federal Communications Commission convenes its third public hearing on sweeping changes to the nation's media ownership rules today in Harrisburg, Pa., the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has called on the FCC to crack down on members of the public who stray from their Designated Market Areas to testify before the agency.

In an article in Broadcasting & Cable, NAB Vice President Dennis Wharton complained that there's "something curious about these so-called localism hearings" attracting attendees from surrounding states and nearby cities.

"There are 210 television markets in the United States -- and the FCC has promised to hold public hearings in just six of them," said Craig Aaron, communications director of Free Press. "Yet the broadcasters' lobby is shocked and dismayed that some people might care enough about their local media to take a day off work, get up at dawn, and drive four or five hours for two minutes at the mic during a public hearing. And -- here's the real shocker -- they're not even being paid to be there."

In a letter to FCC Chairman Martin, NAB President David Rehr suggested requiring "all individuals wanting to provide their personal opinions to the Commission [to] identify the city or town where they reside" in order to "ensure that the Commissioners hear from viewers and listeners who actually receive service from stations in the local markets where the hearings are being conducted."

"For decades, everyday people have been shut out of the decisions made by the FCC about the public airwaves -- and that's exactly how groups like the NAB would like to keep it," Aaron said. "Industry representatives and coin-operated experts are paid to attend these events. Instead of trying to intimidate concerned citizens with ID checks, the FCC needs to give the public more than a few days' notice about these hearings and hold them at a time when more people can actually participate. We need more public involvement in these crucial issues, not less."

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