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From: Digital Voices <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:      Your Chance to Make Television Better
Comments: To: [log in to unmask]
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Digital Voices -- 1/3/2000

Your Chance to Make Television Better

One year after the Gore Commission finished its report the Federal
Communications Commission is finally beginning a proceeding on the public
interest obligations of digital broadcasters.  Remember the Gore
Commission
conducted an exhaustive year-long inquiry to advise the FCC on just what
the public was supposed to get back for a $70 billion dollar giveaway of
public airwaves. We at People for Better TV have been calling for a
public
debate since before the first digital license was given away. More than
one hundred digital licenses later, we welcome this first step. But it is
only a first step, and a baby step at that.

But make no mistake, the announced proceeding, a Notice of Inquiry, will
not necessarily result in guidelines for digital broadcasters. It is not
that we mind public inquiries into important subjects. There are some
issues which the Gore Commission and four years of deliberation by policy
and technical experts have not resolved. But by now we should know how
the Children's Television Act applies to digital television. We should
know whether digital broadcasters can send the Playboy Channel over
pay-per-view digital signals, and sell their subscription list for that
service to Penthouse magazine. We should know whether digital
broadcasters
should send signals to serve the disabled. We should know whether digital
broadcasters are required to report on a website how they are serving the
public.

And while we support the call for voluntary "candidate-centered
discourse,"
the real debate is about much more than free time for political
candidates.
 Fundamentally, a determination of the public interest obligations of
local
television broadcasters is not about the needs of politicians, it is
about
the needs of parents and communities.

We urge the public to participate in these proceedings, and to send a
clear
message for guidelines.  You can now do more than just turn off your TV.
You can begin to set it on the right course for the future.  Or we can
let
the future be determined by the same people who brought us all-Monica all
the time, the new wrestling mania, followed of course by the five-minute
commercial break.  What we see must not be what we get for the $70
billion
dollar giveaway.

Mark Lloyd
National Coordinator, People for Better Television
Executive Director, Civil Rights Forum
  on Communications Policy
818 18th Street, NW
Suite 505
Washington, D.C.  20006
(202) 887-0301
(202) 887-0305 fax
www.bettertv.org
www.civilrightsforum.org
------------------------

Digital Voices is a free, online editorial service of the Benton
Foundation's Communications Policy & Practice program. Views expressed in
this service are indicative of the author, and are not necessarily the
views
of the Benton Foundation or CPP. Submissions are welcome, please direct
them
to Kevin Taglang at ([log in to unmask]).

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