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Bill would require local broadcast news

Broadcasters would have to show a “dedication to local news gathering” and cover more election news in order to renew their licenses under a bill authored by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (pictured), D-Palo Alto.

Eshoo’s bill, H.R. 4882, would also require broadcasters to renew their licenses every three years instead of the current eight years.

In December, Eshoo was talking about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give free air time those who oppose the political comments of broadcasters. Republicans, led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, vowed to fight any such bill, saying it would kill AM conservative talk radio.

Eshoo’s bill doesn’t mention the Fairness Doctrine. She also suggested in December that the government might regulate satellite and cable broadcasting, but H.R. 4882 appears to only involve broadcasters who currently receive federal licenses.

“Drastic media consolidation over the past decade has greatly diminished the broadcast licensees’ performance of public interest obligations and broadcast media’s ability to foster diversity, competition, and localism,” the bill says.

“A survey of evening television news broadcasts of 44 local affiliates of broadcasters in 11 markets prior to the 2004 election showed that only 8 percent of such broadcasts contained a story about local elections. By contrast, eight times more coverage went to stories about accidental injuries, and 12 times more coverage to sports and weather. In 2006, news about politics and government accounted for about 10 percent of stories on local television news while crime and traffic comprised nearly 50 percent of the coverage,” H.R. 4882 said in its “findings” section.

In order to renew a license, the bill would require a station to demonstrate:

The bill allows the FCC to create rules exempting certain stations from the requirements, but no details were given. (Photo credit: Ian Port, The Daily Post, December 2008)

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