The Federal Communications Commission should withhold new regulatory benefits for broadcasters until TV stations promise to air more public-interest programming, according to a coalition of consumer groups and political activists.
In a statement Tuesday, the coalition argued that any effort by the FCC to expand cable-system carriage obligations for TV stations should come after the agency has adopted specific measures that TV stations would need to follow to keep their licenses.
The group voiced support, for example, for setting aside 90 minutes per week -- at least one-half occurring between 5 p.m.-11:35 p.m. -- for expanded coverage of local political and election issues, in addition to normal "horse-race" coverage of politics.
The coalition also called for more educational programming for children.
The call for greater commitments from broadcasters was enunciated by Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, the Benton Foundation, MoveOn.org, the New America Foundation and the Center for Digital Democracy, among others.
TV stations want the FCC to expand their carriage rights on cable systems, but the coalition said the commission should put that behind their demands for more public-interest programming.
Cable must currently carry a single programming service from a TV station that elects mandatory carriage. But with digital technology enabling one TV station to beam as many as six programming services, TV stations have asked the FCC to require cable to carry all six -- a move cable has been fighting for years as unfair to programmers that need to negotiate their access to cable viewers.