A new Fairness Doctrine?

Where the new FCC regulations will lead won't be known for many years. What is the new "public value test" for broadcasters?

. . . [Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps] points out that while the Fairness Doctrine regulated political speech by mandating equal time for all views on a given topic, the "public value test" will only require that broadcasters serve the "public interest", whatever that may be.

. . . The [new] federal government will not be policing political opinions. It will simply be ensuring that content meets a standard for public value.

What Copps fails to grasp is that "public value" is such a subjective term that it is almost unavoidable for political factors to play into a determination of whether or not certain content satisfies the definition. In other words, there is not official regulation of political speech, but such speech will almost surely be regulated indirectly.

According to Copps, who recently outlined his proposed "public value test" in a lecture at Columbia University, the test would require "quantifiable" increases in "the human and financial resources going into news." The test could mandate other, non-news types of programming, Copps added, such as children's programs and "civic affairs programming." The regulations would determine what news content is important, and mandate "quantifiable" increases in such coverage - Copps mentioned election coverage specifically.

The "public value test" would also mandate "diversity" in broadcast newsroom staff. In other words, the FCC would require radio or television stations to employ more racial and ethnic minorities.

Another hot-button element of the "public value test": it would require "disclosure", both of programming content to the station's listeners, and of information about political advertisements to a certain government agency.

Other elements include "community discovery," localism, and public safety broadcasting. . . .

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