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STATEMENT BY STATION KWSC
PULLMAN, WASH., June 26, 1947. Senator WALLACE WHITE,
Senate, Washington, D. C.: Your attention is desired again this station's opposition in part to the White bill as S. 1333.
First, rather than burden the radio industry with further restrictions, this State college noncommercial educational station suggests a review of present restrictions to determine which of them are still necessary.
Second, there should certainly be no authorization for the FCC to require financial reports.
Third, KWSC would be opposed to present provisions of this bill dealing with political broadcasts, broadcasts of controversial subjects, and announcements giving the source of news stories.
Fourth, KWSC would favor a complete restudy of any provisions if really felt necessary regards chain regulations and limitation of station ownership.
Fifth, State college station would favor the bill's provision regarding separation of the Commission and program review.
STATEMENT BY LAYMEN'S NATIONAL COMMITTEE
LAYMEN'S NATIONAL COMMITTEE, INC.,
New York, N. Y., June 26, 1947. Hon. WALLACE H. WHITE, Jr.,
Senate Office Building, Washington, D. C. DEAR SENATOR: You will pardon us for taking on something that represents a sardonical smile when we read in the press the storm of protests being put up by the broadcasting stations on your bill. Especially where they speak of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, etc., etc.
We thought it might interest you to know that this committee, now going into its eighth year of existence and created for one purpose only, to wit: To bring about a more sober realization of the important part religion played in the creation of this Government of ours and how vital it is oday to every man, woman, and child, Protestant, Catholic, and Jew alike if liberty and justice under God as we Americans know it is not to perish from this earth, has not been able to obtain time on the three major networks for either of its two annual activities, National Bible Week or National Sunday School Week.
If those who are protesting your bill can reconcile their rantings and ravings about free speech and free expression with the fact that I have just mentioned to you, I would like to have them do so. Sincerely yours,
HOWARD KIROACK, Executive Vice Chairman.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD T. LEONARD, VICE PRESIDENT, UAW-CIO My name is Richard T. Leonard. I live at 1707 Seward Avenue, Detroit, Mich. I am vice president of the UAW-CIO, a labor organization of 800,000 workers in the auto, aircraft, and agricultural-implement industry.
On behalf of the UAW-CIO, I would like to present to your committee our views with respect to 1333, in support of certain provisions, in opposition to others and to make suggestions for certain provisions to be included.
As citizens, union members, and radio listeners, we are particularly interested in those provisions of the bill that relate to freedom of speech and expression and to the preservation of public control over radio channels. Our experience in presenting radio programs as well as our devotion to the maintenance of democratic institutions in America qualifies us to speak to your committee on these subjects.
On the subject of freedom of speech and expression. This bill now provides certain specific limitations and restrictions on free speech and expression. These are found in designated sections as follows: Section 15 (c) of the bill (amending sec. 315 of the act), relating to political campaigns:
"(c) No licensee shall, during a political campaign, permit the use of the facilities of a broadcast station for or against any candidate for any public office except (1) by a legally qualified candidate for the same office; or (2) by a person
designated, in writing, by such candidate; or (3) by a regularly organized political party whose candidate's or candidate's names appear on the ballot and whose duly chosen responsible officers designate a person to use such facilities."
Section 17 of the bill (adding sec. 330 to the act), relating to discussion of public or political questions :
Neither the licensee of any station so used nor the Commission shall have the power to censor, alter, or in any manner affect or control the substance of any program material so used : Provided, however, That no licensee shall be required to permit the broadcasting of any material which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence: And provided further, That no licensee shall be required to broadcast any material which might subject the licensee to liability for damages or to penalty or forfeiture under any local, State, or Federal law or regulation. In all cases arising under this section, the licensee shall have the right to demand and receive a complete and accurate copy of the material to be broadcast a sufficient time in advance of its intended use to permit an examination thereof and the deletion therefrom of any material necessary to conform the same to the requirements of this section.”
Section 20 of the bill (adding sec. 334 to the act):
“No person shall utter any obscene, indecent, or profane language, and no person shall knowingly make or publish any false accusation or charge against any person, by means of radio communication.”
In addition to these specific restraints on free speech, section 16 limits the authority of the FCC in protecting citizens from abuses or curtailment of freedom of speech by station licensees.
“(b) The Commission shall have no power to censor, alter, or in any manner affect or control the substance of any material to be broadcast by any radio broadcast station licensed pursuant to this Act, and no regulation or condition shall be promulgated or imposed by the Commission which shall interfere with the right and duty of the licensee of any such station to determine, subject to the limitations of this Act, the character and the source of the material to be broadcast: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to limit the authority of the Commission in its consideration of applications for renewal of licenses to determine whether or not the licensee has operated in the public interest."
I shall discuss the effect of these provisions if enacted into law.
According to the language of section 15 (C) of this bill, independent political groups such as voters' leagues, civic associations, citizen councils are prohibited from using the radio in supporting or opposing candidates for public office. Although a representative of such a group may appear on the radio, if designated by a candidate, it is not likely that such authorization can be obtained in most cases. Nor is it desirable that the candidates should have the right to determine who shall speak on the issues in the campaign.
Independent political groups are formed and exist upon a nonpartisan basis. Customarily they do not either endorse or oppose the complete slate of either major party. Is it likely that a candidate of one party will designate in writing the independent political group who will support him over the radio but who will, at the same time, oppose a colleague on his party slate?
This section would forbid labor organizations or their political committees as well as other nonpartisan groups from using broadcast facilities in political campaigns for any independent expression of political views and opinions,
Students of election statistics report that over 40 percent of the citizens are not tied to a major party but are independent in their voting. This is a sizable group to disfranchise of radio rights in political campaigns.
Section 17 of the bill authorizes the station to censor "material which might subject the station to liability for damages
under any local, State, or Federal law or regulation."
This provision gives the broadest censorship power to radio stations. Since the standard by which the radio station would determine whether to censor is the mere possibility of being subject to liability, its discretion would he almost unlimited. All the radio station need do to censor, would be to obtain its lawyer's opinion that the station might be subject to liability and it has complied with the law. It would be far better to relieve the station of all liability for state. ments by speakers than to give the station the censorship power granted in the provision.
Section 17 of the bill also provides that “no licensee shall be required to permit the broadcasting of any material which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.”
The effect of this provision may best be reviewed in the light of current practices in broadcasting under the present law.
The present law, and the FCC by its decisions, have placed responsibility for program control primarily upon the broadcaster. The FCC guards the public interest in free expression by reviewing the program operation of the station in the public interest. On occasion the FCC has held public hearings where stations have presented one side of controversial issues or censored remarks or ideas displeasing to the station owner.
Are there now any programs being presented to radio stations for broadcast that urge the violent or forceful overthrow of the Government? We have heard of none. If there are, then there is a strange and unexplainable silence on the part of the broadcasters. No problem has yet arisen which requires this provision.
However, the use to which some broadcasters would put this provision is not difficult to foresee. At the present time even without this provision, labor organizations experience repeated censorship by broadcast stations in labor disputes.
Criticisms of the conduct of law-enforcement officials or of corporate agents are frequently regarded by broadcasters as tending to forcefully overthrow the Government. Mass demonstrations either in favor of or in opposition to certain legislation is included in the same category by some broadcasters. It seems to us that the effect of this provision will be to prevent adequate reply on the radio to unfair or prejudicial statements. As a consequence the requirement that a radio station is obligated to give a balanced presentation of views on controversial issues will be seriously impaired.
Section 20 provides that no person shall knowingly make or publish any false accusations or charge against any person by means of radio communication. Althcugh on its face this may appear to be reasonable restraint upon free speech, in practice it is likely to open the door still further to arbitrary censorship by the station and inhibit the free expression of opinion over the radio.
Again let me refer to current practice in broadcasting stations. During and since the war tliere have been a number of revelations by congressional committees regarding the nature and effect on national defense of cartel operations in various industries. On the basis of these facts, one of your committees has charged that the effect of these cartel operations was to materially weaken the national defense of this country and its military operations, particularly during the early stages of the recent war. Corporations involved have claimed that this charge was false. Spokesmen for labor organizations have been censored by radio stations and prevented from airing these charges over the radio. The question as to whether this charge is true or false, it seems to us, is not one to be determined by the broadcast station. Rather, it is for the people themselves to hear the facts, hear the charges and replies to the charges, and form their independent judgment.
There is no provision in the bill, as it now stands, for any procedure or course of appeal by a person or organization denied the right to present not only the facts, but to draw reasonable conclusions and interpretations from the facts. I would like to direct this question to the committee: In the event that a person is denied the right of free speech on the air by a station operator, what remedy is there to secure free speech and o prevent or inhibit a repetition of the censorship?
In section 16 of the bill, the language provides “the Commission shall have no power to
* in any manner affect or control the substance of any material to be broadcast by any radio broadcast station
and no regulation or condition shall be promulgated or imposed by the Commission which shall interfere with the right and duty of the licensee of any such station to determine such to the limitations of this Act the character and the source of the material to be broadcast
This provision in effect repeals and nullifies Commission decisions over a period of years which have held that the station has an obligation to present both sides of controversial issues, that the station shall refrain from censorship of ideas, that the station shall present balanced programing, and the more recent spelling out of the public-service responsibility of broadcasters in the blue book. Certainly all of these declarations of the Commission affect the substance of material to be broadcast and interfere with the right of the licensee to determine the character and source of the material to be broadcast. In our opinion these declarations by the Commission are reasonable. Furthermore, they are necessary if the Government is to assume any responsibility for enforcing the rights of citizens not only to speak freely but to listen freely.
The saving clause at the end of this section to the effect that the Commission's authority in considering the licensee's operation in the public interest is not limited by this section apparently means that these decisions and declarations
of the Commission have nothing to do with public interest. Just what will be left of the concept of “public interest" is certainly vague and unclear, if indeed there would be anything left of the “public interest” concept at all.
Section 16 also provides that "nothing in this act shall be understood or construed to give the Commission the power to regulate the business of the licensee of any radio broadcast station unless otherwise specifically authorized in this act."
At the present time in this country there are some stations which broadcast commercial advertisements 5 minutes in length. There are stations which are willing to sell up to 100 percent of their time, if it is possible, and in many cases actually sell 90 to 95 percent of their time. There are stations which broadcast racing information. There are stations which refuse to allow any free time for the presentation of public issues. If these provisions become law the licensees of these stations will have been protected by Congress against any interference by the Commission on behalf of the general public.
It is difficult to believe that your committee would knowingly be a party to the inevitable growth of further overcommercialization of the radio and eventual disappearance of educational and informative sustaining programs under the stress of competition by marginal operators of radio stations.
What is needed is not the separation of the Commission from evaluation of program content in the public interest, but rather congressional encouragement of further work on programing by the Commission.
Now as to the question of public ownership of radio channels. The fact that the public owns the radio-broadcasting channels and that private interests are conditionally allowed to use these channels for limited periods of time, is stated in section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934:
“'It is the purpose of this Act, among other things, to maintain the control of the United States over the channels of interstate and foreign radio transmission; and to provide for the use of such channels, but not the ownership thereof, by persons for limited periods of time under licenses granted by Federal authority and no such licenses shall be construed to create any right beyond the terms, conditions and periods of the license."
To carry out the intent of this provision, certain governmental machinery is necessary. This provision is not self-enforcing. The broadcasting industry is powerful economically and politically. Unless the people of the country are to be left helpless against the whims and caprices of the broadcasters, a strong agency is necessary to speak for the public rights in radio. Furthermore, the public is entitled to receive full information about the operation of the radio industry in convenient reports.
Section 8 of this bill provides that the Commission has authority to require stations to keep records of programs and technical operation and to receive financial information from the radio stations. However, the bill also provides that such information received by the Commission shall be kept confidential, except for committees of Congress or upon der of the Commission in proceedings before it.
The public is entitled to have access to these reports for the simple reason that the stations are using radio channels which the public owns. There are other reasons why the public is also entitled to reasonable examination of program, technical, and financial reports filed with the Commission.
First as to programs. It is a legitimate concern of the public to know what proportion of the programs of a radio station are commercial and what proportion are sustaining; to know how many and which community organizations have received program time from the radio station; and to know what proportion of time, if any, is devoted to discussion of public issues. With few exceptions, radio stations do not publish a break-down of programs avaliable to the general public. In a number of cities local newspapers do not list the programs with the radio station. Although radio stations by the act are required to operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity, in the absence of any place where at least the name or description of the program is on file, the public has no information as to the actual performance of the station. There is no baxis available to compare public-service records of one station with another or the stations in one city with stations in another city.
The broadcasters frequently state, in response to criticisms of program scheduling, that the public likes what they have or they wouldn't listen. It is ap parent that in order to form any opinion the public should have some knowledge of what the variations between stations are and what some stations have found it possible to do in the way of public-service programing. Stations are very reluctant to permit any public examination of their program or other records. If the station program reports to the Commission were made available to the public in either Washington or the regional offices of the Commission, it is quite likely that station objections to disclosure at their home office would disappear.
Financial information is, of course, tied in with program information. А customary refusal by a station of a request for free or public service time is based not on the merit or demerit of the program itself, but rather on the proposition that it is necessary to sell time to support the station financially and that it is impossible to operate the station with very much free time. Sations will not ordinarily reveal their financial status so that a civic organization has no way of determining whether or not the station actually must have the revenue to sustain its operations. If financial information were available regarding the station's operations, civic and community groups would have some check upon the financial position of the station. Also local groups would be able to ascertain the proportion of the station's income which actually went into the production of live programs and how local stations compared with other stations in this respect.
It may be argued that the availability of this information to the public would injure the station competitively and that this information is actually in the nature of a business secret. Of course the fact is that most stations in a given community are familiar with the program, technical, and financial details of competitive stations, although they may not have the financial figures down to the last decimal point. It is not competitors who will be deprived of information by keeping these details confidential but rather the general public which has the greatest interest in the facts of station operation.
As I stated earlier, enforcement of the public ownership of radio channels requires a strong administrative agency to protect the rights of the public. The limitations of the Commission's authority as set out above will serve to weaken the Commission. Moreover, section 5 of the bill, which divides the Commisison into two separate divisions and makes of the Chairman a perfunctory position, serve to further weaken the Commission.
There are two provisions of the bill dealing with public ownership of radio channels which are beneficial and should be enacted into law. One of these has to do with the identification of news sources. Section 18 would enable the public to know the origin of editorial comments. But we suggest that the problem of identification of news sources is not always an easy one. It would appear to be advisable, therefore, to give the Commission the authority to enforce this provision by appropriate rules and regulations which would be adapted to the problems as they would arise.
Section 25, prohibiting discrimination by the Government agency, is a long overdue provision, insofar as it relates to race, religion, or creed. With respect to these items, the provision should include a similar prohibition of discrimination by radio stations. The discrimination against Negroes in employment in radio stations and as talent is well known. As the bill now stands the situation will not be remedied,
However, with respect to the matter of discrimination on the basis of occupation or business association, a different picture is presented. Newspapers own approximately one out of every three broadcast stations in the country. Both the Commission and independent observers have taken an interest in the implications of this monopoly control over the means of communication. There are 100 cities or towns in the country where the only newspaper owns the only radio station. Irrespective of the conduct of either the newspaper or the radio station in these situations, it is intolerable in a democratic system that one person or corporation shall have the sole and unchallenged control over the two principal media of communication in any given community,
Finally, I have some suggestions to offer for provisions to be included in the proposed bill. The spelling out of the meaning of fair treatment on public issues and in programing by radio stations as set forth in the WHKC decisions might well be written into law:
“(a) It will be the future policy of Station WHKC to consider each request for time solely on its individual merits without discriminations and without prejudice because of the identity of the personality of the individual, corporation, or organization desiring such time.
“(6) With respect to public issues of a controversial nature, the station's policy will be one of open-mindedness and impartiality. Requests of all individuals, groups, or organizations will of necessity have to be considered in the light