FCC Wants Broadcasters to Take “Value Tests” to Stay on the Air

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What if broadcasters had to prove that they provided value to the public in order to keep their licenses? That’s an idea being proposed by Michael Copps, one of the five commissioners on the FCC, who told an audience at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism yesterday that the current licensing system in the US should be replaced by what he calls a “public value test,” administered every four years.

Arguing that such a test would return us to “the original licensing bargain between broadcasters and the people: in return for free use of airwaves that belong exclusively to the people, licensees agree to serve the public interest as good stewards of a precious national resource,” Copps outlined what he would want to see tested: A substantial amount – ideally 25%, he said – of localized programming, which would result in what he called “a lot less streamed-in homogenization and monotonous nationalized music at the expense of local and regional talent,” as well as “meaningful commitments” to news and public affairs programming, which would include non-partisan political content, as well as evidence of a broadcast plan in the case of an emergency or disaster.

Copps did not say whether he had presented his ideas to the other FCC commissioners, not whether they were under review.

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