With the transition to digital radio, the Commission has a rare opportunity to address documented failures in providing listeners with diverse and local programming. The transition to digital will provide broadcasters with additional programming capacity, and the Commission must use this opportunity to promote its goals of diversity, localism, and competition. The Public Interest Coalition supports the Commission's efforts to ensure that with the additional programming capacity, broadcasters, in return for the exclusive use of the public airwaves, provide meaningful service to the public. Thus, the Public Interest Coalition urges the Commission to adopt rules and policies in which the public will gain substantial benefits from the new technology.
First, the Commission must limit the number of subscription-based services a station can offer. Free over-the-air radio continues to play a vital role in people's lives. Limiting subscription-based services will protect and preserve free over-the-air radio.
Second, the Commission must impose spectrum fees on subscription-based services. Broadcasters will essentially be using additional spectrum to generate revenue. In return, to avoid unjust enrichment, it is appropriate for broadcasters to pay a fee for use of the spectrum to generate revenue. In addition, the Commission should seek to assign those spectrum fees in a manner that will directly benefit the public.
Third, the Public Interest Coalition supports the Commission's conclusion that it has the authority to adopt public interest obligations for subscription-based services. Under Title III, subscription-based services are required to serve the public interest. Thus, the Commission must adopt broadcast type public interest obligations, including the political broadcasting and payment disclosure rules, for subscription-based services.
Fourth, in addition to the broadcast type public interest obligations, the Commission must adopt additional minimum public interest obligations for both free and subscription-based services. These public interest requirements must further the Commission's goals of localism, diversity, and public safety. The Public Interest Coalition proposes that the Commission require all digital transmis- sions to air a minimum level of local civic or electoral affairs programming and independently produced programming. The Commission must also adopt rules and policies that will provide opportunities for minorities and women. Finally, the Commission must assure that all emergency related and public information is provided free of charge to the public.
Fifth, in addition to the above, the Commission must adopt rules in which subscription-based services fulfill additional public interest requirements for their free use of the spectrum. The Public Interest Coalition proposes a flexible plan from which radio stations will have the choice as to how they fulfill the additional public interest requirements. This flexible menu is based on a community's needs for certain services.
Sixth, as the radio industry adopts digital technology, the Commission must have a means for understanding how broadcasters are using the technology to serve the public. To do so, the Commission must adopt meaningful reporting requirements. These reports must be easily accessible to the public over the Internet and the public must be made aware as to where these filings can be accessed.
Finally, the Commission must ensure that automated broadcast operations are relevant during emergencies. Automated broadcast operations must be automatically overridden in an emergency.
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