In the Matter of AMENDMENT OF PART 73 OF THE COMMISSION'S RULES AND REGULATIONS
RELATING TO STATION IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
Docket No. 17145
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
6 F.C.C.2d 805 (1967)
RELEASE-NUMBER: FCC 67-114
January 25, 1967 Adopted
BY THE COMMISSION: COMMISSIONER LEE ABSENT; COMMISSIONER LOEVINGER DISSENTING; COMMISSIONER JOHNSON CONCURRING AND ISSUING A STATEMENT.
[*805] 1. Notice of proposed rulemaking is hereby given in the above-entitled matter.
2. The Commission's present rules regarding station identification (secs. 73.117, 73.287, and 73.652) were adopted in order to require licensees clearly to identify both the call letters of their stations and the cities which they are primarily licensed to serve as specified in their instruments of authorization. One of the basic purposes underlying this requirement is to enable the public and the Commission's own monitoring stations readily to identify the stations to which they are listening and, further, to identify the communities which they are primarily licensed to serve.
3. Through the receipt of complaints and by the monitoring of stations which were the subject of such complaints, the Commission has become aware that some licensees have been broadcasting identification or promotional announcements which tend to lead listeners to believe that their stations are licensed to cities other than those designated in their licenses. In most cases, the licensees involved in such conduct appear to be making the correct identification of their stations' licensed locations at the times specified in the identification rules. However, the Commission has observed that misleading identifications of location frequently are broadcast at times other than those specified in the identification rules and appear in such cases to constitute part of a concerted effort to confuse or mislead the listening public as to the licensed location of the station. The broadcast of misleading announcements implying that stations are licensed to cities other than those designated in their licenses defeats the intent and purpose of the Commission's identification rules and is inconsistent with the public interest.
4. Our policy with respect to misleading identification has been clearly annunciated in prior decisions of the Commission. In Gulf Television Co., 12 R.R. 447, 470(1), for example, we stated as follows:
* * * [*806] extreme caution must be exercised to the end that viewers and listeners be not misled to believing that the station has been assigned to more than one city or to a city other than that specified in the construction permit; studied attempts may not be made to conceal the true location of broadcast facilities.
5. In view of the foregoing, we believe that it would be desirable to amend the present identification rules, and to that end we are proposing amendments to the rules. The proposed amendments permit stations to identify themselves at times other than those presently specified for AM, FM, or TV. However, the amendments would prohibit the broadcast at any time of station identification announcements, promotional announcements, or other matter which would lead listeners to believe that the station had been assigned to a city other than that specified in its license.
6. We believe that nothing short of a general prohibition such as that herein proposed would cover all situations and prevent the defeat of the intent and purpose of our station identification rules. For example, we have determined that the practices of station KABL, Oakland, Calif., were undesirable but not in violation of our present rules. n1 KABL, in making the required identification, coupled the mention of its call letters and actual location with language concerning its coverage of San Francisco and the clanging of a cable car bell identified with San Francisco. Further, in announcements and program vignettes broadcast both before and after the announcements made at the required times, KABL repeatedly sought to identify itself with San Francisco rather than with Oakland.
n1 5 F.C.C. 2d 855.
7. We believe the proposed amendments would bring about an end to efforts to confuse or mislead the audience as to the city to which a station is licensed, and that they are appropriate and necessary means to carry out our functions under the public-interest standard of the Communications Act.
8. Pursuant to applicable procedures set out in section 1.415 of the Commission's rules and regulations, interested parties may file comments on or before March 6, 1967, and reply comments on or before March 21, 1967. All relevant and timely comments and reply comments will be considered by the Commission before final action is taken in this proceeding. In reaching its decision in this proceeding, the Commission may also take into account other relevant information before it, in addition to the specific comments invited by this notice.
9. Authority for the amendments proposed herein is contained in sections 4(i) and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.
10. In accordance with the provisions of section 1.419 of the rules, an original and 14 copies of all comments, replies, pleadings, briefs, and other documents shall be furnished the Commission.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, BEN F. WAPLE, Secretary.
PROPOSED STATION IDENTIFICATION RULEMAKING
An FCC rule requires the pause for station identification with which we are all familiar -- section 73.117. Now the Commission proposes to further modify the rule to prohibit a station from attempting to lead its audience to believe it is assigned to a city other than that to which it is licensed.
While I welcome the expression of views on the general subject of our station identification rules, I am hopeful comments will not be limited to the narrow rule change proposed.
The purpose and role of local stations in our Nation's larger metropolitan areas is central to many of the recurring issues in the cases considered at the Commission's weekly meetings. Our largest megalopolis areas are also the most profitable broadcasting markets. Their television and radio stations, though relatively numerous compared to the smaller markets, are inadequate in number to supply investor demand. As a consequence, the Commission has been presented with -- and has granted -- numerous requests for new stations in the suburbs and satellite communities that make up major markets. This has been done on the theory that the resulting congestion and signal interference is warranted because the communities involved are receiving a first service n2 -- even though, in fact, they already may be able to receive two or three dozen signals from neighboring communities.
n2 See, e.g., sec. 73.37(b) of the Commission's rules, which provides, in part: "An application for a new daytime station or a change in the daytime facilities of an existing station may be granted notwithstanding overlap of the proposed 0.5-mv/m contour and the 0.025-mv/m contour of another cochannel station, where the applicant station is or would be the first standard broadcast facility in a community of any size wholly outside of an urbanized area (as defined by the latest U.S. census), or the first standard broadcast facility in a community of 25,000 or more population wholly or partly within an urbanized area, or when the facilities proposed would provide a first primary service to at least 25 percent of the interference-free area within the proposed 0.5-mv/m contour. * * * Provided, That: * * *."
Once the suburban station is established it often immediately, and understandably, seeks to increase its potential audience and advertising revenue. This is achieved by increasing power and hours of operation, moving its antenna to maximize population coverage, and identifying its programming, image, and advertising with the central city.
To require a station located in a rural community of moderate size to serve, and identify with, that community has emotional, historical, logical, and public-interest underpinnings that are understandable and commendable. What that local service is now, and what it might be, are subjects about which we should know more than we do. But few would question that such stations generally desire, and that we can properly require, effective local identification.
Whatever may be the role of stations in large metropolitan areas, it is obviously different from that of stations serving our more independent communities.
How many broadcasting services can a large community use? What are we purchasing in return for the cost of increasing the jumble of signals on, especially, the nighttime AM band? How is the public interest harmed by a station associating itself with a larger and neighboring [*808] community -- especially if it is adequately serving the local service programming needs of the community to which it is licensed? (See, e.g., In the Matter of the Liability of McLendon Pacific Corporation (KABL), docket No. 16214, Dec. 13, 1966.) What is gained by requiring a station to serve a suburban community at all? If, on the other hand, a station can make a contribution to a satellite city, why permit it to operate with signal strength going beyond that community? If such stations do, in fact, serve the larger urban area, why not consider the megalopolis as a whole and prepare assignment tables on that basis, permitting each station in the megalopolis to serve the entire area?
Although I now expressly avoid suggesting answers, these questions give some sense of the broader context in which I view the rulemaking proposed here. (And see generally sec. 307(b) of the Communications Act and Policy Statement on Applications for Suburban Communities, 2 FCC 2d 190, 6 R.R. 2d 1901 (1965).) If there are interested parties inclined to treat such matters in their filings I would welcome their views.