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Federal Communications Commission
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

January 18, 2001
David Fiske (202) 418-0513

FCC Chairman Kennard Identifies Eleven Principles
for Broadcasters in Serving the Public Interest

FCC Chairman William Kennard today released a report outlining eleven major principles on how broadcasters can fulfill their statutory duty to serve the public interest.

Entitled "Report to Congress on the Public Interest Obligations of Television Broadcasters as They Transition to Digital Television," the report said this broad examination of television broadcasters' public interest obligations is intended to promote thoughtful discussion among and between broadcasters and their communities. It added that it is not an exhaustive list of ways that broadcasters can serve the public interest, and urged licensees to consider other innovative ways to serve the public interest.

The report responds to a May 25, 2000, request from Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Robert Byrd, and Sam Brownback, for the Commission to engage in a broad reexamination of the public interest standard. It draws on comments received in the Commission's pending Notice of Inquiry on the subject that was released on December 20, 1999, and at a Commission En Banc Hearing on the subject held October 16, 2000. The report noted that many of the principles outlined in the report apply to existing analog television broadcasting as well as to broadcasters transitioning to digital television (DTV)

Specific principles identified in the report include the following:

Local Issue-Oriented Programming: Broadcasters must air programming that covers issues that are important to their local communities. The report said this could include: airing local public affairs programming daily in addition to news coverage; using good journalistic practices in covering local issues of public concern so as to present conflicting viewpoints and giving persons attacked a reasonable right of reply; setting aside airtime for expression for local community groups: and using the flexibility of digital technology to improve service to communities, such as multicasting to provide localized programming.

Public Service Announcements: Broadcasters should exercise their best efforts to attract and air local public service announcements during peak viewing hours. The report said this would ensure that such PSAs have maximum exposure for maximum service to the community.

Communications with Communities: Broadcasters should gather information from their communities about their interests and needs and engage in an ongoing dialogue with all segments of their communities about those interests and needs.

This could include: using web-based forums such as "chat-rooms" to have ongoing and regular contact with communities; providing information back to communities about how the broadcaster has attempted to serve local needs; ensuring that the station's public file is accessible to the community and that personnel are trained to respond to the public's request for access; and using on-air announcements to encourage the public to provide feedback.

Enriching Children: Broadcasters should air and take reasonable steps to promote programming that enriches children. This could include: airing programming that serves the educational and informational needs of children of different ages and in different stages of cognitive and psycho-social development; airing children's educational and informational programming at appropriate and consistent times; limiting the amount of commercial advertising in children's programming and the use of direct links to commercial websites; working with local community organizations and newspapers to inform parents about the availability and nature of children's educational and informational programming; and using the flexibility of digital technology to serve children in dynamic, innovative ways, such as datacasting and interactive video.

Protecting Children: Broadcasters should do more to protect children from potentially harmful program content. This could include striving to ensure that violent or sexual content is limited or is presented responsibly in programming directed to children or with a significant child audience; refraining from airing programming that is inappropriate for children when a significant number of children are reasonably expected to be in the audience; improving application of the existing program ratings system and airing public service announcements or other on-air announcements to educate parents about the ratings system and the V-chip; refraining from airing ads for motion pictures, programming, and products that are not appropriate for children when a significant number of children would reasonably be expected to be in the audience; and exercising good judgment on the use of new applications, such as interactive television, during children's programming.

Enhancing Democracy: Broadcasters should air programming that covers political candidates and events of significance to their communities. This could include: covering political conventions, and local and national debates; devoting at least five minutes each night for thirty days before an election to candidate-centered discourse; not imposing "blanket bans" on the sale of airtime available to state and local candidates; and using digital technology to enhance democracy in innovative ways.

Disaster and Emergency Information: Broadcasters should make use of DTV's enhanced capabilities to provide the best disaster and emergency information possible. This could include: developing new ways to provide disaster and emergency information needs, such as pinpointing specific households or neighborhoods that are at risk; implementing disaster warnings and emergency information in a way that accounts for the needs of persons with disabilities; making disaster and emergency information available in a variety of languages; and working with appropriate emergency communications specialists and manufacturers to determine the most effective means to transmit disaster warnings and emergency information.

Consumer Privacy: Broadcasters should protect the privacy of their viewers, especially children, if and when they collect identifiable information. The report said that as digital television evolves, privacy issues will unfold and the Commission should continue to monitor and suggest remedies where it finds potential threats to consumer privacy.

Diversity: Broadcasters' activities should reflect the diversity of their communities. This could include: assessing programming to determine whether it reflects the changing society of the 21st century and meets the needs of all communities; and reaching out to all segments of communities when filling job openings.

Disabilities Access: Broadcasters must make their services accessible to persons with disabilities. This could include: taking advantage of DTV's capabilities to expand and enhance closed captioning; taking advantage of DTV's enhanced audio capacity to provide programming with video description; making ancillary or supplementary, and web-based services, accessible to persons with hearing and visual disabilities; and assessing the needs of persons with disabilities in deploying new services.

Technology and the Public Interest: Broadcasters should periodically reassess how new technologies can be used to enhance service to their local communities. The report noted that digital technology offers broadcasters new and improved ways to serve their communities, and they should take advantage of these opportunities in order to best serve the public interest.

The full text of the report is available on the Commission website at www.fcc.gov

- FCC -

Mass Media Bureau Contact: Eric Bash 202-418-2130