From: Jessica Glass <email@example.com>
Date: 3/3/98 1:08am
Subject: Public Comment
To: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INTEREST OBLIGATIONS OF DIGITAL TELEVISION
From: New York Free Media Alliance
Date: March 2, 1998, NYC.
On behalf of New York Free Media Alliance (NYFMA), I would like to
your solicitation for public commentary: to broadly advocate for public
interest obligations in digital TV. NYFMA is a NYC-based media activist
group that believes in and works toward increased access by the public
to its airwaves. Please see our mission statement and website, below.
We agree that there should be a fair allotment of meaningful
public-interest programming that all commercial broadcasters must be
obligated to observe and broadcast daily. This should be in the form of
decent children's tv, free air-time for political candidates, and
balanced news and information, and should extend to digital tv
We respect the work of The Benton Foundation, The Center for Media
Education and others in this
area and trust they will hammer out the details of a satisfactory
agreement in this regard.
But NYFMA's concern is that, while public interest obligations should
accompany broadcasters' receipt of digital television licenses, the
debate around this important issue is not currently considering the
related question of enabling the public to exercise its free speech, the
area of access to the production and distribution of our own
programming on ourairwaves.
The New York Free Media Alliance would like to take this opportunity to
William Kennard's own words as General Counsel of the FCC in Legal Times
2/19/96: "the broadcast spectrum is a limited public forum." He likens
it to a town
square. To reiterate, it is the public that owns the airwaves.
Therefore, the public should have the right to not only view
non-commercial, public-interest programming. The public
should also have the right to produce and air programming, to make use
of this public property in ways not governed by advertising,
commercialism, and the imperative of audience as market. We like to
think of the time-worn analogy of the relationship between a mall and a
public park, or for that matter, private kiosks in a town square. The
rent paid by the kiosks pays for the maintenance of the town square.
NYFMA cites the successful public-access cable TV model as a strategy to
ensure a space on the digital bandwidth for public programming and the
funding to pay for it.
We further cite Robert McChesney, Professor of Journalism & Mass
Communication, U. Wisconsin and others who propose that a 3-5% tax be
the advertising revenues (that will increase with the new bandwidth
space and therefore new channels) for profit-driven broadcasters.
The funds from this tax could then be used to subsidize the operation of
corresponding public access TV in the digital spectrum along with
production facilities. By virtue of
this technology's physical nature, these set-asides cannot actually be
governed by city/cable company
franchise agreements. Thus we need to
write this broad public interest obligation into digital TV rules at the
Will this be an undue financial burden on these broadcasters?
Please consider that, as a result of the Telecommunications Reform Act
of 1996, media companies have more freedom in cross-ownership, and in
mergers and acquisitions; they have gained unprecedented profits. With
broadcasters* ability to gain additional advertising revenue from new
digital TV channels, we feel that a small "public access tax" will be
quite feasible after a short while. In fact, this would provide a
stream substantial enough to cover much of the cost of PBS-TV as well.
To conclude, we propose that digital TV broadcasters, in order to
receive licenses, be subject to strict public interest programming
obligations, and furthermore, that those companies reaping a profit from
advertising revenues be also compelled to repay the community with a
tangible fee, as stated above,
for the use of this precious resource: the airwaves.
Please regard our statement as a matter of our constitutional right to
free speech, as advocacy for more diverse TV programming, and as an
effort by citizens serving the public interest in an earnest effort
to improve the democractic qualities of our society.
Thank you for your consideration.
on behalf of NY Free Media Alliance
*NYFMA Mission Statement*
The purpose of the New York Free Media Alliance is to create media for
change and to change the media. We are activists, organizers,
educators and workers interested in creating and increasing public
in media and elsewhere.
Our mission is to encourage the growth of independent
media that serves communities through access and accountability. We
with other community groups and networks in an effort to link issues,
toward movement building, increase the power of civil society, and thus,
the chances for social justice.
We seek and support media that's made to serve the public interest, not
business. Through direct
actions, civil disobedience, debates, workshops and
gatherings, our aim is to subvert commerical control of culture by
fighting for the free flow of
information and offering ideas and alternatives from our own
> It is not our intent to interfere with existing
> broadcast services.
> We urge all micropower broadcasters to properly select
> frequencies, use frequency stable transmitters,
> employ harmonic filtering and control
> modulation levels.
-Stephen Dunifer, excerpt of response to NAB statement
Media for Change <<< FREE MEDIA >>> Changing the Media
voicemail: (212) 969-TOFM
CC: NYFMA <firstname.lastname@example.org>