There is a very important hearing on the Capitol Hill today on broadcasters’ Public Interest Obligations (PIOs) in the digital age. The hearing is important as the Congress is about to examine the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to expand and expedite the nation’s transition to all-digital television broadcasting.

Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) in a letter to her colleagues discussed the significance of this hearing,

[t]he transition from analog to digital television will allow local stations to broadcast up to six separate channels of digital programming in place of the current single analog channel. In turn, the broadcasters are proposing that the FCC compel local cable operators to carry all of the new digital program channels. In 1996, our government granted broadcasters a free license to use this enormously increased digital broadcasting capacity, estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, in exchange for their obligation to serve the public “interest, convenience and necessity.” It is now crucial that the FCC provide clear and specific guidance on what constitutes public interest broadcasting.

The briefing will take place Wednesday, June 16th, in 1539 LHOB from 4:00 – 5:00pm. It will feature experts from the field of public interest advocacy, telecommunication law and the entertainment community, including our very own Celia Wexler, Vice President for Advocacy at Common Cause, Meredith McGehee, President of Alliance for Better Campaign, Jonathan Rintels, Executive Director of Center for Creative Voices in Media, and Gloria Tristani, former FCC Commissioner and Managing Director of Communications at the United Church of Christ, Inc.

This is an important and informative briefing to learn about how the FCC can enhance the diversity of viewpoints by promoting civic participation, independent programming, and children’s programming as part of broadcasters’ public interest requirements. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Shawn Chang at 202-225-7084.

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