When you file a comment to the FCC, do you want the commission staff to open it to find a big insect plastered on the second page?
Probably not; but attorneys Harry Cole and Patrick Murck this week did just that. Actually it was an illustration of a bug, a cicada, chosen to make a point.
“Commission concern about broadcast ‘localism’ closely resembles the 17-year cicada in a number of respects,” they wrote.
“Both emerge after periods of dormancy lasting more than a decade, both generate considerable noise during their emergence, both tend to result in messes requiring clean-up activities well after each emergence has ended and neither accomplishes much at all, other than to lay the groundwork for the next emergence.”
Murck and Cole (who is also an RW contributor) told the FCC that they can identify no express statutory mandate relative to “local” service for broadcasters.
Also, they say, history shows that reporting requirements forced on broadcasters by the commission over the years have “simply led to substantially increased make-work chores for broadcasters and commission staff alike.”
The FCC, they argue, invariably never gets around to actually engaging in substantive evaluation of specific programming content or even defining exactly what “local” and “non-entertainment” programming is.
It also doesn’t have the staff to enforce standards if they existed; and such activities would present constitutional problems, turning the FCC into a “Federal Programming Evaluator,” they said.
“We suggest that the commission’s resources may be better utilized in activities other than the ceremonial ‘localism’ dance which the commission has performed repeatedly over its 70-year existence.”