FCC Hearings May Decide the Future of Television

by Sassa Rabin, Special Projects Staff

The NOW Foundation and the coalition People for Better TV (PBTV) have made progress in their goal of hearings on the responsibilities of television broadcasters. In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a Notice of Inquiry to solicit comments from the public about the future of digital television. This is a step forward, but not as great a one as NOW and PBTV had hoped.

"After months of grassroots pressure from consumers across the country, the FCC has finally taken a step toward tangible, mandatory public-interest obligations for broadcasters," said NOW Foundation Education Vice President Elizabeth Toledo. "A Notice of Inquiry starts the process of asking the public what they want to see on the airwaves. A subsequent Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) will codify those requests."

NOW activists and PBTV organizers across the country are coordinating viewers who will watch television, visit their local TV stations and write letters to the FCC with their comments. Certain cities have been targeted because of their congressional representation: Boston, Houston, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Columbia, S.C.

Even activists who do not live in one of these cities need to let the FCC hear about their television-watching experience and vision for better TV. Montgomery County (Md.) NOW activists have been diligently publicizing this issue and all of their members wrote letters to the FCC.

Send FCC letters with specific concerns, complaints and recommendations in care of the NOW Action Center, 733 15th Street, NW, 2nd floor, Washington, D.C., 20005. Readers can also request copies of the "Be a Media Activist" kit for yourself, your chapter and your actions - contact Sommer Spector by e-mail at global.issues@now.org or 202-628-8669, ext. 145. Activists who live in one of the targeted cities, please call to find out how to get in touch with the local PBTV organizer.

For additional background on this issue, see the Fall 1999 issue of the National NOW Times or the NOW Foundation website at www.nowfoundation.org.

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