From: Jessica Glass <>

To: NTIADC40.NTIAHQ40(piac)

Date: 3/3/98 1:08am

Subject: Public Comment


National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)



From: New York Free Media Alliance

Date: March 2, 1998, NYC.

On behalf of New York Free Media Alliance (NYFMA), I would like to

respond 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

broadcasting ventures.

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

levied on

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.

Jessica Glass

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