Though the FCC backed off quickly, conservative members of Congress are pushing bills to make sure the commission doesn’t try again to restrict religious broadcasters’ use of noncommercial educational radio or TV channels. The problem for pubcasters is that the legislation could make it hard for the FCC to protect education in the reserved channels, opponents say. The House telecom subcommittee expects to mark up legislation in mid-May , says Ken Johnson, spokesman for subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.). The subcommittee gave a friendly hearing to religious broadcasters’ testimony April 13 . The latest House bill, the Noncommercial Broadcasting Freedom of Expression Act, would forbid the FCC to require the users of educational channels to air certain amounts of programming with “educational, instructional or cultural purposes,” or to determine that religious programming does not meet those purposes.
Until recently, it seemed that Simon Frech’s squabble with two religious broadcasters over an FM frequency would never end. In 1995, the FCC stopped considering competing applications from noncommercial broadcasters for radio and television frequencies, leaving Frech and many others in bureaucratic limbo. Adding it up
The FCC’s new point system for choosing among noncommercial broadcasters vying for the same frequency will reward several characteristics:
3 points if the applicant is locally based, which the FCC defines as being physically headquartered, having a campus, or having three-fourths of its board members within 25 miles of the community;
2 points if the applicant owns no other local broadcast stations. An applicant that can’t claim this credit but is part of a statewide network providing service to accredited schools can also claim 2 points;
1-2 points to an applicant whose frequency covers significantly more area and population than the next best proposal. “It’s frustrating,” says Frech, g.m. of KMUD in Garberville, Calif., who was about to launch a campaign to persuade the religious broadcasters to back off.
WNET, dastardly villain in a two-decade scheme to deprive science-fiction buffs of the coolest public TV program of all time, this summer will redeem its reputation among fans. “The Lathe of Heaven,” digitally remastered and repackaged with additional material, will be distributed to public TV stations for broadcast in June . A home video and DVD will be released in the fall. Originally broadcast on PBS in 1980, the drama inspired a cult following that never forgot the show, and never let WNET forget it, either. Fans of the program came together in an “extensive Internet community” to rage against the producing station’s “ruthless warehousing” of their favorite public TV show, and one site accused WNET of “corporate amnesia,” recalls Joseph Basile, director of program rights and clearances.