Politicos push Kennard on free airtime issue

44 members of Congress sign letter

WASHINGTON — Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-N.Y.) has forwarded a letter to FCC chairman William Kennard asking him to reenergize his efforts to force broadcasters to give free airtime to federal political candidates.

The letter comes just as Kennard backed off his plan to bring the issue to a vote at the Federal Communications Committee. The letter, signed by 44 members of Congress from both the House and the Senate, asks Kennard to “proceed without delay” to consider “the obligation of broadcasters to provide free and reduced-cost air time to candidates for public office.”

Among those who signed the letter were Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Slaughter and the others who signed the letter said broadcasters owe the public something in return for the billions of dollars worth of additional airwaves they have been given to transition to digital television. “Last year the (FCC) … gave broadcasters billions of dollars of spectrum rights to develop digital television service and it is time for the Commission to re-examining the obligation of broadcasters to use our nation’s airwaves to serve the public,” states the letter.