Statement by Common Cause at the NAB Conference

Celia Wexler delivered these comments Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas

Since 1997, the top five station groups in the country and their parent companies, along with the National Association of Broadcasters, have spent nearly $150 million on campaign contributions and lobbying in Washington.

That investment has paid off. Broadcasters are on the cusp of a digital revolution that could bring them billions in new revenues, thanks to the $70 billion worth of digital TV licenses they received for free from the Federal Communications Commission seven years ago. Broadcasters now want the FCC to approve a “multi-cast must-carry” rule that would require cable companies to carry their new digital channels.

Broadcasters have lobbied Congress and the FCC for special treatment because they say that they serve the public interest. But serving the public interest is not about running public service announcements or covering fires, or sponsoring telethons and breast cancer walks. Rather it is informing the public so that they can participate in their democracy.

We are here to say to broadcasters, “You can do better.” We are here to present them with a new vision of television, one that permits their news staffs and producers to use their creativity to connect their audiences to their local, state and national governments, and to engage viewers in lively discussions and debates about issues they care about.

Our 250,000 Common Cause members and supporters across the country, and our 115,000 e-mail activists will be bringing this same message to their local broadcasters, to their elected Members of Congress, to the Presidential candidates, and to the FCC.

We may not have $150 million, but we have the public on our side. We are here to launch a petition campaign that will spread across the country. We want the NAB to know: “What happens today in Vegas will not stay in Vegas.”

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