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Indecency, Ownership Hot FCC Topics

Indecency, Ownership Hot FCC Topics

The news that Infinity Broadcasting talk show host Howard Stern is moving to Sirius Satellite Radio next year was the first topic discussed at the FCC Breakfast, sponsored by A.G. Edwards.
“We’re seeing an increasing tension between regulations on subscription services versus broadcast,” said FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin. “We’re seeing this in TV, too, whether changes should be made (to the indecency guidelines) to create a more level playing field.”
NAB and most broadcasters would like to see the commission apply the same indecency and obscenity guidelines that stations are subject also apply to satellite TV, radio and cable.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said making decisions about indecency cases “one of the worst parts of his job.”
“By and large, most broadcasters follow the law.” But he doesn’t believe the agency “should go after performers,” to hunt down indecency violators, but rather what should be said or not said on the air is a decision between companies and their talent.
He reminded the audience that the commission’s Enforcement Bureau doesn’t go after stations for indecency or obscenity first, but rather, acts on complaints submitted to the commission before investigating a case.
The FCC’s new radio market definition for the purposes of counting how many stations are in a market was discussed. The FCC is using the Arbitron Radio Metros for most markets and is trying to create a definition for smaller markets not rated by Arbitron.
Commissioner Martin said he was hesitant to make the change at first. “We had a definition. It had flaws, but was useful,” he said referring to the contour-overlap method of determining how many signals are in a market.
Adelstein said the implications for changing the definition “are enormous. We have a pending item and we need to figure it out.”
As for the issue of program taping and retention, a broadcaster told the commissioners that mandating these actions will make radio more bland. He suggested an exemption be made for news broadcasts.
Martin was sympathetic and said there may be other ways to address the issue.
The FCC has said the program recording and retention mandate would help the agency to investigate indecency complaints.

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