As part of a broad effort to loosen federal regulation of the broadcasting industry, a bipartisan Senate coalition yesterday introduced legislation that would revise dramatically the way licenses to operate television stations are granted.
The bill would extend television licenses from three to five years, permit the Federal Communications Commission to use lotteries, and would end the complex process of holding lengthy "comparative hearings" to choose new licenses.
The bill adds to an already busy schedule of communications legislation on the agenda of the Senate Commerce Committee, which seems to have reversed the trend of the last several years of moving slower on broadcasting and telecommunications matters than the House Communications subcommittee.
The committee has already held hearings on radio deregulation legislation and is moving forward with preparing a package of bills that will revamp the Fairness Doctrine, possibly modify cross ownership limitations on broadcasters and review bars on television networks owning cable television systems.
In introducing the bill on the Senate floor Yesterday, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), chairman of the communications subcommittee, said the legislation "addresses many of the concerns that have been expressed by broadcasters.
"By extending the licence term, it will add stability to the operation of the broadcast facility, as well as help to insure more effective personnel management," Goldwater said.
Broadcasters have regularly complained that the FCC process which allows challengers to tie up licensess in lengthy hearings have hindered their ability to make programming and financial plans.
A spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters said yesterday that the group, the leading lobbying arm of the television and radio industries, said that an early reading of the bill indicates that it is a "good beginning that will help in giving stability to the process."