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THE FCC AND
Federal Communications Commission:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency, directly responsible to Congress. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions. More information is available at the Commission's website: http://www.fcc.gov.
The "airwaves" are the transmission frequencies used by radio, tv and satellite broadcasters, cell phone companies, remote control devices, etc. to transmit signals. The airwaves themselves are public property. While some businesses (such as cell phone companies) pay for their use of the airwaves, radio and TV broadcasters generally do not. They must, however, serve the "public interest" in order to use the airwaves.
There are a number of key issues surrounding broadcasters and their licensed use of the public airwaves. In addition to the broadcasters' public interest obligations, some of these issues include:
Role of the Media in Elections and Campaigns
Corporate propaganda masquerading as "news"
Revision of the Telecommunications Act
The history of legislation relating to media access and use of the public airwaves is almost as long as the history of broadcasting itself. Some seminal legislation, still effective today, is now more than 70 years old. Other more recent legislation reflects the changing role of media in our society, as well as the significant changes in media and broadcast technology. Some of the most important legislation is summarized below.
The Communications Act of 1934: The Communications Act of 1934, an "act to provide for the regulation of interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio and for other purposes", is the original legislation which established the FCC. A copy of the Act in .PDF format is available at: http://www.fcc.gov/Reports/1934new.pdf.
Telecommunications Act of 1996: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major overhaul of telecommunications law in almost 62 years. The goal of this new law is to remove artificial barriers to entry in the communications business -- i.e. to let any communications business compete in any market against any other. More information is available at: http://www.fcc.gov/telecom.html.
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA): On March 27, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), Public Law No. 107-155. The BCRA contains many substantial and technical changes to the federal campaign finance law. More information is available at: http://www.fec.gov/pages/bcra/bcra_update.shtml.
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