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Media Institute Urges Gore Commission To Adopt Public Broadcasting Plan, Reject Regulatory Approach

FOR RELEASE: August 4, 1998

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


August 4, 1998

The Media Institute today urged the Gore Commission to endorse a plan that would virtually double the amount of programming on public television in lieu of imposing additional public interest obligations on commercial broadcasters.

The Institute also advised the Gore Commission to abandon two ideas under consideration: a Commission-drafted "voluntary" code for broadcasters, and a proposal requiring broadcasters to devote one multiplexed channel to noncommercial public interest programming.

The PBS plan would allow public television stations to retain their current analog channel in addition to the new digital channel recently awarded by the FCC. Broadcasters are required to return one of the channels to the FCC by 2006. PBS stations would use the additional channel for classroom, educational, and other public interest programming not currently available.

Concerning industry standards, a "voluntary" code drafted in detail by the Commission is misguided, the Institute said. When commissioners speak of "reporting requirements, disclosure requirements, mandatory NAB membership, enforcement mechanisms, legal teeth in the code, use of code non-compliance in license renewal, processing guidelines, and the like," such a "voluntary" code is merely a euphemism for government regulation, the Institute warned.

The Institute also objected to the Commission's approach to multiplexing, which it said is marked by "the rather arrogant and elitist idea that the Commission, or any bureaucracy, should and constitutionally can determine through mandates what programming is available to the American people."

The Institute's comments were contained in an issue paper, "Thinking Outside the Regulatory Box," written by Prof. Laurence H. Winer of the Arizona State University College of Law. The paper was submitted to the Gore Commission under the auspices of the Institute's Public Interest Council, a group of communications attorneys and constitutional scholars following the work of the Commission.

The Media Institute is a nonprofit research foundation in Washington. The issue paper can be obtained online or by calling 202-298-7512.