Localism

Localism is a principle of the law governing radio, and was established as a bedrock policy principle in the Telecommunications Act of 1934. The goal of localism is to fairly distribute broadcast licenses around the country to groups that have roots in and connections to their local communities, and prevent licenses from being disproportionately allocated to powerful out-of-state corporations. Localism isn’t leftwing or rightwing, but it does have some anti-corporate implications. Localism prioritizes small businesses and community groups over broadcasting empires that repeat the same programming on hundreds of channels nationwide.

In 2004, the FCC opened a proceeding (called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) to determine if broadcasters were adequately serving local needs, and whether the FCC should change the rules to make sure communities aren’t underserved by broadcasters. In 2008, the FCC made a set of proposals to increase local accountability. Broadcasters were split on these proposals; some said that the proposed rules were ineffectual and would just create new paperwork. Other broadcasters welcomed the new obligations and believed they would ensure that stations meet their responsibilities as stewards of the airwaves. Some of the proposed obligations included requirements for broadcaster readiness in public safety emergencies, community advisory boards, and record keeping to better evaluate performance. Prometheus supported the general thrust of the localism proposals, but made specific recommendations to make sure that the data being gathered was real, useful, and not just creating paperwork for stations. We are also cautious about relegating localism to any one docket or proceeding, since all of the FCC’s decisions should be made with localism in mind.

Background Reading