At the end of the day, the publicly owned airwaves are about public safety, about community, and about ensuring First Amendment rights for everyone in the public square of broadcasting. Luckily, the Supreme Court is on our side. I n Red Lion Broadcasting v FCC, the Supreme Court held that
"the First Amendment is relevant to broadcasting, but it is the right of the viewer and listener, not the broadcaster, which is paramount."
That's the First Amendment Right of all the viewers and listeners, not the just ones who listen to the most profitable formats for corporations.
There is much energy around restoring the Public into the Public Interest. A grassroots movement started earlier this year in Florida, when the UU Legislative Ministry supported an 11 city media reform tour featuring Broadcast Blues.
But it is really finding its legs next month with the 2011 Wisconsin Media Reform Tour featuring Broadcast Blues. (Broadcast Blues is the 2009 documentary film I made which delves into issues of Public Interest Obligations of broadcasters. ) Thanks to the organizing efforts of local folks, I'll be traveling to eight cities in Wisconsin, showing the film, then surveying citizens as to their specific public interest needs. Next, we'll work on how to approach their local broadcasters, not just by email, but with personal visits, and convey to the broadcasters what they need. In some cases, friendly visits will get great results: heck, the manager of the station could be somebody you went to high school with. But other times, protests, boycotts, maybe even legal petitions to deny the stations' licenses may need to be filed.
We'll do whatever it takes to restore the public -- all the public -- into the public interest obligations of broadcasters.But unlike the Fairness Doctrine, this is a bottom up approach. This is "We the People" holding both broadcasters - and the FCC accountable to us. We are taking back that which we already own: our public airwaves.