Lawmakers Critical of Public TV Plan

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House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) is pressing the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its decision allowing public television stations to use digital-TV spectrum for
commercial purposes.

"The [FCC's] decision sacrifices an important value in our communications policy in return for services of dubious value to both the public and the public broadcasting system," Tauzin said in a Nov. 1 letter to FCC chairman
Michael Powell.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) also signed the letter.

Last month, the FCC voted 3-1 to allow public TV stations to use some of their digital-TV bandwidth to provide subscription services and run advertisements within those services. Democratic commissioner Michael Copps voted against the plan, claiming that it threatened public trust in public TV.

Tauzin, Markey and Burr said they had no quarrel with allowing public TV to use its digital spectrum in innovative ways, but such uses should
"conform with public broadcasting's fundamental mission: nonprofit, noncommercial, educational service to the communities it serves."

In supporting the plan, Powell said it was mischaracterization to suggest that the FCC was authorizing public TV to depart radically from its mission.

The FCC required public stations to pay the government 5 percent of its subscription revenue and to use a substantial majority of its digital spectrum for traditional services.