It was television, rather than radio, that was singled out in early remarks made by three senators and the FCC chairman during opening presentations at Tuesday’s (Nov. 29) Senate Commerce Committee forum on decency. But the implications are clear that the same set of indecency standards that over-the-air broadcasters live by.
That sort of legislative effort could ultimately cover some of the programming provided on satellite radio.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin didn’t use the word “mandatory” when he suggested that the commission could help develop new means to curtail indecency, but his remarks suggested a tradeoff with cablecasters that would help give consumers an option to choose a “family friendly” set of cable channels without requiring those subscribers to purchase other unwanted channels.
Bonneville Broadcasting president/CEO Bruce Reese, speaking as the NAB’s joint board chairman, pointed out that XM and Sirius now have programming that can be “piped into 25 million satellite television homes.” Those new partnerships mean that over-the-air broadcasters face an “uneven playing field that broadcasters have with our satellite and cable competitors,” Reese said.
Reese also pointed out that most of the indecency complaints that have been logged in recent years have come from a handful of well organized interest groups.
Clear Channel senior VP Jessica Marventano urged the senators attending the forum to allow the industry to develop guidelines that could be created “without running afoul” of the First Amendment.
Her point echoed the sentiment made by former MPAA president Jack Valenti, who said the movie ratings system is a program that is voluntary and that works.
Marventano singled out specific language in some legislation that she said would give the FCC too much power over the fate of broadcasters. She also dubbed some specific language in pending legislation as “Draconian.”
“The House provisions [in some proposed legislation] empower the FCC to block the transfer of stations, to block renewal and to trigger licensee hearings” if only one station in the broadcaster’s group is guilty of the indecency violations, Marventano said.
“The worst thing that Congress could do is to impose Draconian legislation,” while putting “a neon sign” above their cable and satellite competitors that essentially advertises that indecency programming was available on those systems, Marventano said.
XM Satellite Radio senior VP Bill Bailey was slated to present his views to the forum later Tuesday.