Clinton taps Moonves for digital panel

WASHINGTON — President Clinton tapped CBS Entertainment president Leslie Moonves on Saturday to help lead a White House commission charged with drawing up a blueprint for the relationship between broadcasters and the federal government in the digital age.

The commission, which will be co-chaired by the American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein, will include more than two dozen industry execs and policy wonks. President Clinton announced Moonves’ and Ornstein’s appointments in his regular weekly radio address Saturday, but the White House has not yet released the entire list of appointees. In his radio address, Clinton referred to Moonves as “one of America’s most prominent and creative broadcasters.”

Among the commission’s top priorities is deciding how much, if any, free time broadcasters should give to politicians for campaign advertising, Clinton said during his radio address. “(The) commission will explore the details of free time for candidates and other public interest obligations, such as children’s broadcasting,” he said.

Like Clinton, Ornstein has publicly supported proposals to set aside free time for federal election campaigns. Broadcasters generally oppose the idea of giving any free time to politicians. The commission is informally known as the Gore Commission because it was first proposed by Vice President Al Gore.

The Gore Commission’s premise is that broadcasters should incur expanded public-interest obligations in return for the second channels they will soon receive to begin broadcasting digital signals. Although those second channels would be worth billions of dollars on the open market, the federal government is giving broadcasters the extra airwaves for free.

The commission is expected to work for at least a year before making its final recommendation to President Clinton.

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