These are the news headlines as read on the July 22 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Rep. Hinchey Introduces Sweeping Media Reform Bill; Hinchey also goes to bat for wi-fi.
Hinchey Introduces Sweeping Media Reform Bill
A bill that reads like a media reformers wish-list has been introduced into Congress by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat from New York. The bill is called the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005, and, according to a press release from Hinchey, it Â“seeks to undo the massive consolidation of the media that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years.Â”
Among the reforms included in the bill are, reinstating a national cap on the ownership of radio stations, lowering the number of radio stations one company can own in a single market, reinstating the 25 percent national television ownership cap and requiring regular public interest reports from broadcasters.
The bill, introduced on July 14, now has fifteen co-sponsors in the House, 13 Democrats and one independent, Bernie Sanders from Vermont.
There is little likelihood that the bill will gain much needed traction with Congressional Republicans. Rather, the bill is more like a warning shot about the agenda that media reformers will be pushing during the Telecommunications Act rewrite in 2006.
Rep. Hinchey, the billÂ’s author, took a lead in opposing Republican cuts to public broadcasting funding that were successfully defeated. The Media Ownership Reform Act may be the first indication that media reformer in Congress are feeling more embolded to make the battle over media regulation much closer to the forefront in 2006 than it was for the last Telecomm Act rewrite in 1996.
Hinchey also goes to bat for wi-fi
Hinchey also stood up to advocate for using vacated analog TV spectrum for public wireless broadband technology at an event held on July 19, sponsored by the Future of American Caucus. The caucus was formed in May to advocate for public interest standards in broadcasting, and to oppose relaxing media ownership rules.
Hinchey told the audience that it would be a mistake for the government to auction to the highest bidder portions of the analog TV airwaves that will go dark in 2009, without setting aside some of the frequencies for “public broadband.”
Television broadcasters are required by Congress to give up their old analog TV channels when the switch to full digital broadcasting is complete. Due to a bipartisan deal struck between Congress and the National Association of Broadcasters, that switch is now almost certain to happen in 2009.
Many in Congress only see dollar signs in the soon to be vacant airwaves, hoping to auction off the frequencies to the telecomm industries for millions of dollars to bolster the limping national budget. A growing collection of lawmakers and public interest groups are advocating that some of that real estate be dedicated for things like free wireless broadband. Some are also calling for some portion of the revenue that comes from the spectrum that is auctioned go to actually fund wireless public broadband, public broadcasting or to subsidize digital TV tuners for those who canÂ’t afford new televisions.