U.S. bishops want FCC to require religious programming information


WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission has yet to act on a request made by, among others, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that religious programming be included among a host of other material to be submitted by broadcasters and posted on an FCC-maintained website.

The FCC was scheduled to vote on the matter Oct. 27, but deferred action on the proposed online reporting requirement.

“This is long overdue,” said Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, chair of the USCCB communications committee, in an Oct. 25 statement.

“An online disclosure will supply the public and the commission with a usable database of information about actual programs aired by broadcasters, and with the necessary facts for meaningful public participation in license renewals and commission proceedings,” he said.

As of Nov. 4, no action on the matter had been scheduled by the FCC.

The current practice is that individuals may go to the television or radio station’s headquarters and ask to see the public file, which each station is required to maintain.

Broadcasters have expressed wariness about the proposed reporting requirements, which would include political advertising, and the cost of maintaining the website. The latest estimate is that launching the website would cost $24 million in its first year, and $14 million a year after that, according to a report in Advertising Age, an industry journal. Broadcasters would like the FCC to pay the costs of maintaining such a site.

“In proceeding after proceeding, USCCB has informed the commission of the increasing difficulty and financial burden it and Catholic dioceses face in obtaining airtime on local broadcast stations for full-length programs and even public service announcements,” Bishop Zavala said.

“(The) USCCB has expended resources to gather and organize that information, but the commission frequently has dismissed this information as ‘merely anecdotal,'” he said.