Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he planned to introduce legislation Tuesday that would require TV and radio stations to obtain license renewals from the Federal Communications Commission every three years instead of every eight.
In a prepared statement, McCain said the bill was necessary because broadcasters have reduced their local political coverage while devoting more and more airtime to soft news items, such as accidental injuries, that do not serve the needs of the local audience.
“From what I can gather, if a local candidate wants to be on television and cannot afford to advertise, his only hope may be to have a freak accident,” McCain said.
McCain was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee last year, but Senate GOP term-limit rules required him to yield the gavel to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) in January.
McCain's bill would also require the FCC members themselves to review 5% of all license and renewal applications.
The agency would be required to order broadcasters to list their public-affairs-programming efforts on their Internet sites. The FCC would also need to decide whether public-interest obligations should apply to digital broadcasters.
The bill “will have a small impact on those stations that are currently meeting their public-interest obligations, but it should have a large impact on those citizens whose local broadcasters are not meeting their obligation to serve the local community,” McCain said.