Every eight years, the FCC license of every television broadcaster is up for renewal, and licenses in Indiana are up for renewal Aug. 1. A public comment period is built into the process, and ends July 1. A number of community groups, including the Indiana Media Action Coalition and Public Access Indiana, are taking the chance to organize and encourage public comment.
"The FCC grants licenses to broadcasters to use as a public trust, because the airwaves, the radio and television spectrums are ours. They belong to us," said Nick Hess of the Indiana Media Action Coalition. "People who are interested in media reform and have interest in media structure see this as a great opportunity for participation in the process, and an organizing tool. Every broadcaster in the city is up for renewal, and the FCC has built into the process a period for public comment."
One of the tools used by PAI is a survey linked from the front page of their site, www.indyaccess.org, which will be presented to the FCC July 1.
All broadcast license holders are required to maintain a public file and provide it for inspection to any citizen upon request, and the organizations encourage interested parties to do exactly that.
"The public has a right to inspect and influence broadcasters 24/7/365, but this time we have a little more influence than usual," said Andrea Price, president of Public Access Indiana. "It's the window of opportunity for the greatest leverage with the stations."
Because WFYI is the most local and public-oriented of area broadcasters, they have chosen it as their main subject of comment.
"We decided to focus our efforts on WFYI, because there's such a small window," Price said. "There's a lot of interest in understanding and commenting on the public programming on WFYI.
"The purpose of that is not necessarily just criticism, but it also establishes what Indianapolis thinks of the balance of the programming," Price said. "To establish what Indianapolis thinks as part of the public record. What I've heard a lot of people say is that they'd like to see more local programming, more diversity across the board, more perspectives. There's a desire for more public participation, more community participation in the decision making process, and more publicly produced material."
For more information check out www.indyaccess.org and http://www.fcc.gov/localism/renew_process_handout.doc.
The FCC Community Affairs number is 1-888-835-5322.