Federal Communications Commission member James Quello yesterday warned broadcasters not to relinquish their public-interest obligations in favor of cheap, gratuitous programming if they expect to win friends at the FCC.

Quello, in a keynote speech at the opening of the Assn. of Independent Television Stations confab, said the FCC will “help (broadcasters) weather the storm” faced by competition from cable and others–but only if the industry “pays its dues.”

“You must understand that you have public-interest responsibilities,” said Quello. The commish warned of a “growing public outcry against smut, excessive sex and violence” that is evidenced by a “flood of public complaints and the overwhelming congressional concern.”

Quello urged broadcasters to “continue to navigate by that star called the public interest” if they want to survive. Quello touched lightly on the subject of who will succeed Al Sikes as chairman of the FCC. He noted that there has been rampant speculation that he himself will be named interim chairman by President Clinton. “I can only paraphrase Mark Twain to say ‘Reports of my interim chairmanship are greatly exaggerated.’ “

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