The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday challenged Federal Communications Commission plans to deregulate the radio broadcasting industry, warning that the result could be significantly reduced public participation and involvement in broadcasting.
In a filing to the commission, the ACLU and several other consumer groups called on the FCC to "solicit the greatest possible public participation in this proceeding."
Specifically, the ACLU called upon the FCCto make available all or most of the documentation its staff used to justify its call for radical deregulation of the radio industry. The activist group is also seeking to increase all aspects of public participation on the FCC's decision-making process.
The commission staff said such deregulation could be achieved because the competitive and economic forces now at work would force radio stations to be responsive to the needs of the public in order to survive.
he regulations in guestion dictate the amount of community of public affairs programming stations must do, as well as minimum percentages of news and other non-entertainment programming required. They also involve maximum limits on commercials.
The FCC staff has proposed a virtual scrapping of those regulations, but maintenance of the broad requirement that stations act "in the public interest."
"We are concerned about the public's access to the airwaves," said ACLU staff attorney David Landau. "Deregulation of radio will have a significant impact on what the public hears, and we want to make sure the public has a chance to voice it's opinion about that."
For example, the ACLU calls for FCC hearings around the country at which the public can hear details of the plan and at the same time vioce an opinion.