If the FCC really wants “localism”, let’s start with Television and see how that works out. [Disclaimer: I haven’t watched TV since 1996]
With the new “Show me the transmitters near ‘X'” feature, if you poke around for just a bit you’ll see in reality what is in the FCC regulations. Two TV stations on the same channel must be at least 150 miles apart (more or less), In most cases, you won’t even find stations on adjacent channels anywhere near each other (channel 6 and 7 are not “next” to each other)
The guiding principle at the FCC (backed by the industry and the NAB) is that there should be *no* area where two TV stations have overlapping signals or even adjacent channel interference. Perhaps that made sense in the 1960s before transistors and integrated circuits. (Remember when you had to constantly manually run over and adjust your TV to keep the picture from “rolling”?)
So here I sit in Connecticut – we’re half way between New York and Boston. It’s too close to build any TV stations here without potentially interfering with the fringe coverage area one of the Big Cities. New Haven has one VHF station – Channel 8. Hartford has one VHF channel – 3 – too far away to get a clear signal without an outside antenna (and I live in a condo). There are a smattering of UHF stations, either carrying “must carry” shopping or the second tier channels (WB, CW or whatever they call themselves now) and the PBS station. If I want to see CBS, NBC or Fox, I’m out of luck. Unless I want to pay the local cable monopoly $40/month just to get basic cable (one of the first in the country – surprise!) or statellite TV (did I mention I’m in a condo?). The FCC rules are not serving this public person’s interest.
Let’s vastly reduce the government enforced monopoly. Instead of New York getting exclusive coverage for 70 miles out, let it only have that power over the actual city of license – New York. If WABC and WCBS TV want a presence in Greenwich Connecticut or Long Island, license lower power translator or repeater stations – but let other local stations compete and give preference to owners who want to start new *local* stations “in between” the existing stations. They won’t need 800 foot towers because their signals will only be licensed to go 10 miles. TV stations cost a mere fraction to build and operate of what they did 20 years ago (if you’re not trying to blast out a 2 million watt signal…) [The digital transition may cause a lot of this to happen any how]
So maybe you’re thinking – but there isn’t any revenue base to support the TV stations we have now – creating 10 new competitors in my market will just put everyone out of business. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to put on a local TV news show and have a fleet of helicopters to cover those high speed car chases? blah blah blah…
Maybe so, maybe not. We won’t know unless we give it try. Let’s start with TV and see how that works out.
Oh, and drop “Must Carry”. If a station wants to be carried on cable TV, it has to “cut a deal” with the Cable TV company. And make network affiliation exclusivity clauses against public policy and anti-trust laws or agreements that *force* TV stations to carry shows they don’t want to carry. If there are two CBS stations with overlapping coverage, all the better for the public. And end PACs that contribute money to the members of the Congressional committees that make the rules.