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Quello Floats New Kids TV Plan; Would Create Two-Step License Renewal

May 24, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An FCC commissioner is shopping around a plan that would allow regulators to review an upcoming flurry of TV station license renewal requests while temporarily sidestepping a squabble over children’s television.

James Quello, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, sent the plan to the agency’s three other commissioners on Friday.

Under the plan, broadcasters would be entitled to a new eight-year license. But to get the full eight years, a broadcaster would have to show the FCC after three years that it had met its children’s television obligations, said Quello’s senior legal adviser, Lauren Belvin.

This would give the FCC time to resolve a dispute over whether to change existing obligations. The dispute has divided the commissioners and threatens to hold up license renewals.

The first batch of several thousand TV station renewal applications are due at the FCC on June 1.

Under a 1990 law, the FCC is supposed to determine whether a TV station served the educational and informational needs of children as a condition of license renewal. A sweeping telecommunications law passed earlier this year lengthened the term of a TV license from the current five years to eight years.

The National Association of Broadcasters declined to comment on the plan, which Quello said he’ll unveil on Tuesday.

The plan would require a broadcaster to specify at the beginning of the license renewal process how the station intends to fulfill its educational and informational program requirements for children. After three years, the FCC would determine whether the broadcaster had carried out its commitment, a condition for receiving an eight-year license, Belvin said.

The idea of making broadcasters state such commitments in advance was first promoted by FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

But Hundt is unlikely to support any proposal that doesn’t include a requirement that stations air at least three hours of educational shows for children each week. Quello is opposed to such a TV quota.

FCC Commissioner Susan Ness, in an interview, said she welcomed the proposal, though she said it ``still avoids the central question: What is the minimal amount of educational and informational programming that is required?″

An aid to Hundt echoed Ness’ complaint and said a two-step licensing process could add to stations’ administrative burdens.

An aide to Commissioner Rachelle Chong did not return phone calls.

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