Republican Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell addressed the National Religious Broadcasters Capitol Hill Media Summit in Washington this week. Each managed to sound Republican, while at the same time for the most part avoiding any message overlap. Tate focused much of her opening remarks on protecting children, while McDowell was more interested in heading off any re-regulation attempts.
McDowell made a point of thanking those assembled for their help in pushing forward the DTV transition, as well as the adoption of new technologies along side their broadcast operations. Then he launched into his main point, saying, “So in the context of this new media world, why are policymakers like us at the FCC unearthing decades-old mandates to re-impose on radio and TV stations? Didn’t we think that they were safely slumbering away in their crypts for all eternity? Why is the FCC considering overburdening the traditional electronic media precisely at this crucial moment in history when broadcasters face more competition than ever before? This apparent new era of media re-regulation is troubling in several respects. For starters, with top-line revenue falling, I know that many small broadcasters can ill afford to shoulder the costs of obligations that were deemed obsolete years ago.” He characterized the proceedings on Enhanced Disclosure and Localism as “troubling initiatives.”
Tate said that new technological capabilities come with a price. ”We have unfortunately watched the continued increase of coarse language, sex, and violence during what used to be a family TV viewing hour.” She added, “As you may know, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours a week watching television. Even during the ‘family hour,’ a 2007 study found that 75% of the programs aired contained foul language, and 90% of the programs contained some type of objectionable content. A Zogby poll found that 79% of respondents thought that television contained too much sex, violence, and coarse language. I can think of no other national issue on which there is this level of agreement. Americans want family-friendly programming and I applaud the NRB members that have created more family-friendly choices.” She also called on broadcasters to help combat childhood obesity, and mentioned efforts to make the internet safer for children.
RBR/TVBR observation: We completely agree with McDowell. As noble as promoting localism and responsiveness may be, it simply cannot be mandated by legislation or regulation and still pass First Amendment muster. On the other hand, we completely disagree with Tate, and although she didn’t say where her foul/objectionable family hour content stats came from, we don’t believe them for one second. There are polls out there showing that the vast majority of Americans think they, not the FCC, should control the content coming into their living room.