A bill that would increase public interest obligations of broadcasters was introduced in Congress Wednesday by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.
"I've become increasingly concerned about the effect of media ownership on our democracy," Eshoo said. "The corporatization of our media and the massive consolidation of media outlets are the root cause of the erosion of public discourse in this country."
Eshoo said that television stations devote less than one half of 1 percent of total programming time to local public affairs and four of 10 commercial television stations surveyed in 2003 aired no local public affairs programs.
Eshoo's bill was introduced on the same day that the Federal Communications Commission relaxed its rules against cross-ownership that ban a company from owning a radio or television station in the same market in which it owns a newspaper.
"I believe relaxed ownership rules and rubber-stamped postcard license renewals have contributed to the degradation of television and radio programming," Eshoo said.
The bill would require broadcasters seeking license renewal to demonstrate that they have dedicated efforts to civic affairs and local news. The bill would also require broadcasters air locally produced programming and make a commitment to public presentation of the views of candidates and issues related to local, statewide or national elections.
The bill would require broadcasters to provide educational programming for children. Finally, the bill would reduce the term of a broadcast license from eight years until renewal to three years to provide more oversight.