THOUGH YOUR FAVORITE radio or television station may have adopted one of those snappy nicknames--"Stupendous 72" or "All-Rock, Bottom-Line 84"--when push comes to dial, these stations still cherish and protect the legal names given them at birth, known as call letters. And now that the Federal Communications Commission is thinking about lifting some of its controls over those call letters, the static from broadcasters has been coming through loud and unclear.
It isn't as if the FCC had announced that from now on any station could use any old four-letter word for a name. Stations would still have to request FCC approval of call letters not already in use; and these "W" (east of the Mississippi) or "K" (west) call signs still would have to be in reasonably good taste and sufficiently dissimilar from those of other stations in the same area to avoid public confusion.
What the FCC is considering is merely getting itself out of the role of mediator in call-letter disputes --leaving them to the courts or other kinds of remedy. Why not? The National Association of Broadcasters claims this would amount to "endangering . . . an essential regulatory scheme." Aren't most of these broadcasters the same ones who have been cheering on other proposals from the FCC to deregulate the industry? Give the FCC a break--and let the station breaks speak and spell for themselves.