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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).

September 19, 1997


COMMISSIONER CHONG CHALLENGES
RADIO BROADCASTERS TO FIGHT
FOR FIRST AMENDMENT FREEDOM


At the NAB Radio Show in New Orleans, Commissioner Rachelle B. Chong warned broadcasters of "an insidious trend toward limiting the First Amendment freedom of broadcasters," and called for an end to increased government intrusion into program content decisions.

Characterizing her luncheon speech as a "swan song," she highlighted a long litany of examples of this trend, including efforts to require quantitative guidelines for children's educational television, calls for free advertising time for political candidates, laws requiring "voluntary" TV content ratings, and calls for bans of hard liquor ads. Commissioner Chong said that she and others had consistently opposed efforts to launch FCC inquiries that were really "thinly disguised efforts to dictate program content." She chided some broadcasters for assuming that they must accept government mandates "for business reasons," and challenged them to speak out to protect free speech in editorials, public affairs programming, and lobbying efforts. She urged them to strengthen their case for free speech by being responsible in their programming decisions and responsive to concerns of parents about violence on television during hours when children are likely to see it.

Commissioner Chong also said that it was unlikely that the current Commission would resolve pending broadcast ownership issues, and that this "hot potato" would likely be decided by the incoming Commission. She highlighted Congress' clear intent in the 1996 Telecommunications Act to liberalize the broadcast ownership rules, but noted that some continue to argue that liberalization of the rules will lead to a loss of diversity and localism. She urged the broadcasters to "dispel any myths." She argued that the radio industry, not government, should decide what ownership structures work best in their increasingly competitive businesses.

She counseled the broadcasters "to take the time to give [the new Commissioners] your perspective on the realities of station ownership in the competitive radio world of the Nineties." With that knowledge, she hoped the incoming Commission would establish sensible rules that would allow radio station owners to realize some economies of scale and respond to new competition from cable-provided audio, Digital Audio Radio Service, Internet Radio and CD players.

-FCC-