A coalition of six labor groups joined a chorus of witnesses at Senate and House hearings in attacking all or some of the proposed legislation to sharply deregulate the broadcast industry.
The proposals to overhaul the Communications Act of 1934 received support for the first time, but few speakers could find no fault in any one of the several proposals.
The strongest bill has been offered by Rep. Lionel Van Deerlin (D-Calif.), and calls for an end to all government regulation of commercial broadcasting within 10 years, and the abolition of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates radio, television, and cable television.
Van Deerlin's bill also calls for immediate deregulation of radio, as well as an end to several restrictions on broadcast ownership. The proposal would also allow public broadcasters to become "more self-sustaining" by carrying a limited amount of advertising.
And, the bill would eliminate the requirements for news and public affairs programming by radio stations.
Five labor unions, the National Education Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, the United Steelworkers, the Screen Actors Guild, the United Auto Workers, plus the Coalition of American Public Employes, have joined together to form the Ad Hoc Committee to Preserve the Public Interest Standard in Broadcasting to fight the proposal, and two similar but milder proposals in the Senate.
Committee spokeswoman Susan Lowell, from the NEA, said, "Efforts at revision cannot be judged primarily in terms of technological advantage." She warned that Congress must be concerned with public access to the broadcast media, and the possibility of creating a "climate wherein powerful commercial interests will be even more easily able to dominate the air waves."
Lowell said the proposed legislation would, for example, lead to a drop in children's programming.
At a hearing of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on communications, chief administration, communications official Henry Geller of the Commerce Dept. supported a limited deregulation of the broadcast industry, but called for special fees to be paid for by broadcasters to subsidize special children's and minorities programming.
Geller has also called for a revision in the copyright laws that would force cable television operators to have to negotiate for the rights to the work of artists in much the same way broadcasters now do.
At the same hearing, independant TV "superstation" owner Ted Turner of Atlanta praised the Senate for not proposing changes in copyright and retransmission consent procedures - which are part of the House bill.
"I contend that the marketable is working now, and, unless someone can show real evidence of harm, the retransmission consent side issue has no place in the rewriting of a law as important as (this) . . . It is just not good business or good government to force a contract negotiation between each cable operator and each supplier relating to programs that are already existing on the public's airwaves."
Turner, who owns the leading "superstation" in the country - an independant station that is retransmitted over dozens of cable systems around the nation - also attacked the dominance of the three networks over the television industry, which he said would change under deregulation.
"The economic power, and therefore control, of the brodcasting industry today is held primarily by the three major networks, along with their fifteen VHF owned-and-operated stations, accounted for 52.4 percent of all television revenues in 1977."
The result of this overwhelmingly dominant position of the three networks and their owned stations is that they have life-and-death control over the program producers and therefore over what is made available to Americans in their living rooms."
Meanwhile, at hearings of the House Commerce subcommittee on communications, television executives endorsed the inclusion of retransmision consent provisions in the House bill.
ABC Senior Vice President Everett Erlick said, however, that "ABC does not believe that a Communications Act rewrite is necessary or desirable," and called instead for "clarification, modification or revocation of existing statutes."
But curbs on cable retransmission without consent would "curb unfair competition from both cable television and super stations and finally provide a measure of government recognition for the program rights paid for by broadcasters."
Federal Communications Commissioner Charles D. Ferris told the Senate hearings that many existing regulations "have become unnecessary, unsuccessful or counterproductive," and endorsed deregulation. He said the basic goal of government regulation should be "to expand the marketplace of ideas."
On the House side, consumer advocate Ralph Nader called for legislation that would allocate 30 minutes of television prime time and radio drive time to an "audience network" of consumers. CAPTION: Picture, TED TURNER . . . networks dominate TV