Broadcasters’ public interest obligations include airing religious programming, said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in a comment filed with the Federal Communications Commission Nov. 1.
The bishops said recent “treatment of religious programming indicates that local broadcasters are more interested in commercial gain that in serving their communities’ interest in religious matters.”
The comment was based on a survey conducted over the summer by the USCCB Department of Communications. The survey demonstrated that several dioceses have been forced to pay for time for local programming that was once free to them. Dioceses reported that this practice began in the late 1980s.
Other religious programming was discontinued for lack of free airtime, while other programming was “banished to graveyard times” when there are few viewers.
The bishops cited a long-standing FCC policy, which dates to the 1960s, that includes religious programming in broadcasters’ public obligations.
The FCC is expected to reply by Dec. 1.