FCC Chairman Powell must enforce broadcast indecency law
“In his op ed article, ‘And That’s the Way It Is‘ (Wall Street Journal, 9/11/03), FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell defended his support for increasing the ‘national television ownership limit’ from 35% to 45%, by arguing that the increase is necessary to ensure the survival of ‘free TV.’
“But helping broadcasters compete with ‘pay television’ will benefit the nation and local communities only to the extent that broadcasters serve the public interest.
“Without question, broadcast television is still an important part of our nation’s communications system, but as broadcasters’ commitment to serving the public interest declines along with its audience, the social value of broadcast TV declines along with it.
“And that is the crux of Chairman Powell’s problem.
“On the one hand, Chairman Powell wants to free broadcasters from what he believes is unjustifiable government regulation. On the other hand, he (like his predecessors) largely turns a blind eye to broadcasters’ refusal to take their pubic interest obligations seriously.
“One way that Chairman Powell can help ensure that broadcasters serve the public interest is by enforcing the broadcast indecency law against network TV affiliates.
“Decades ago, the broadcast TV networks had a strong industry-wide code that reflected community standards. No longer. For the most part, TV networks only want to reach teens and young adults, and one proven way to do that is with programming that is very sexual or vulgar.
“Opinion polls have consistently found that a large majority of Americans believe there is too much sex and vulgarity on TV. Countless articles critical of TV sex and vulgarity have appeared in secular and religious publications. Many studies conducted by nonprofit organizations (e.g. Center for Media and Public Affairs, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Media Research Center) also show how sexual (talk & action) and vulgar broadcast TV has become.
“With so much concern, criticism and outrage expressed by so many over so long a period of time, it is inconceivable that TV networks seldom if ever violate the broadcast indecency law.
“But, to my knowledge, the FCC has never fined a TV network affiliate (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, UPN, WB) for airing indecent programming provided by a network. This is inexcusable.”