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Media Institute's Public Interest Council Expresses Profound Disappointment Over Gore Commission Final Report

FOR RELEASE: December 18, 1998

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


Decmber 18, 1998

The Media Institute's Public Interest Council (PIC) has reacted to the Gore Commission's final report with profound disappointment.

In a statement by PIC member Laurence H. Winer, the Public Interest Council said the Gore Commission "has missed perhaps the best opportunity in 70-plus years of broadcast regulation to reexamine the whole concept of government regulation of broadcasting in the name of the public interest."

The Gore Commission has failed to meet Vice President Al Gore's challenge "to sustain and strengthen the First Amendment freedoms that are so critical to all media," and instead has relied on "wax museum arguments" to perpetuate an outdated regulatory system, the PIC said.

Among the shortcomings of the Commission's final report, according to the PIC: The Gore Commission made no attempt to define the public interest, instead proceeding essentially by whim of its members. Neither the recommended minimum public interest standards nor voluntary code of conduct have any relation to the transition to digital broadcasting. And the proposed "pay-or-play" model amounts to a content-based tax on programming.

The PIC also critiqued the Gore Commission's novel interpretation of Madisonian democracy. Under this interpretation, "the First Amendment supports -- if not requires -- more regulation of speech," the PIC said. The Gore Commission's theory "is hardly a mainstream view of First Amendment jurisprudence," the PIC noted.

The Gore Commission was created by President Clinton in March 1997 and charged with making recommendations on public interest obligations for digital television broadcasters. The 22-member panel held eight public meetings in Washington and other cities between October 1997 and November 1998. It issued its final report to the vice president today.

The Public Interest Council is a Media Institute working group of constitutional scholars and communications attorneys created to follow the activities of the Gore Commission. Copies of the PIC statement and First Amendment analysis are available from The Media Institute by calling 202-298-7512.