Commercials coming to public broadcasting

By a 3-1 vote, the FCC on Thursday voted to allow public broadcasting stations sell commercials and other services on their new digital TV channels. The public broadcasters had sought the decree in order to help them pay for the conversion to digital technology, which by law must be completed by May 2003.

But consumer groups condemned the FCC ruling. “The whole point of creating public broadcasting was to have a noncommercial preserve for television,” Andy Schwartzman, president of Washington D.C.-based Media Access Project told today’s Los Angeles Times. “By definition, public broadcasting is supposed to be free from market forces. The plain language of the law does not permit it . . . and we intend to challenge this in court.”