A Broadcasting CEO Asks the FCC: Must We Sacrifice the Constitution for Content Control?
As an FCC licensee dating back to the 1930s, I saw the FCC and other responsible people in our regulatory system becoming increasingly frustrated with what was happening to our industry, in terms of offensive content and programming. It became evident to me, from the FCC’s proposed MB Docket No. 04-232, that the commission did not know how to go about the problem and was grabbing at straws for a solution. This is dangerous, and indicates that our industry regulators are so close to the problem that it is difficult for the FCC to see it clearly.
The situation is akin to being so close to the trees that you can’t truly visualize the forest.
The FCC is severely handicapped, working with a regulatory “game plan” and a “regulatory mentality” that essentially was set back in the 1930s. The problems in today’s world are not the problems of a world in which you could buy milk for a nickel a quart and you could leave your home and car unlocked. I wanted to bring to the attention of the modern FCC that it will continually be frustrated by – and worse yet, do damage to – our wonderful constitutional system if they keep trying to solve 21st century problems with 1930s tools.
If the FCC wants to regulate our industry without causing grave damage to the public and our constitutional system of government, it will have to change its paradigm. I hope to have shed some light on how the FCC can do so in my Docket 04-232 filing.
I submit this filing with 68 years of being an FCC licensee. I hold, and have held, several FCC licensees over those 68 years.
The frustration that members of the FCC are having over the stupid and unwise antics of a few bad apples in our broadcast industry is understandable. The answer is not to burden good broadcasters, and in the process, change the landscape of our proven concept of a unique American broadcast system. The answer is not to put an unconstitutional “chill of government oversight” on a broadcast system that has helped make America great. Be careful – don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. This affects us on a number of levels.
I see this as the FCC attempting to improperly shift its governmental burden of rule enforcement to broadcasters, rather than performing whatever monitoring functions it deems necessary to enforce its rules. Mandatory recording of programming violates the First Amendment of our Constitution by presenting the risk of direct governmental interference in program content. This simply is “government overreach.”
Furthermore, after being licensed by the FCC for 68 years, it is our view that the proposal of MB Docket No. 04-232 demonstrates the agency has lost touch with the reality of local broadcasting and broadcasters.
Please don’t overlook the fact that there is much more than the equipment cost involved. There is the cost of staff time, archiving and the cost of the inevitable FCC report that will have to be filed to document compliance. This is a slippery slope to seriously degrading a broadcast system that is by and large not broken and certainly American to the core. It fits with our freedoms. Responsibility safeguards freedom – but sadly, some of our broadcast brothers are not wise enough to see that.
As an FCC commissioner, how would I fix it?
First, drop the “one size fits all” concept. Hundreds of small-market radio broadcasters, as well as other broadcasters, generally do a superb job of serving their communities. These people are close to their community and would no more violate their trust than they would tell filthy jokes at the local Rotary club meeting. They are responsible. Period. These are the people you would punish or possibly put out of business.
Punish the large broadcaster who is out of touch with his local Rotary club values and pandering to the lowest in human nature – out for the buck. Then there’s television, but I won’t even get into that.
I would suggest that the FCC take the trouble to think through some of the suggestions named here … In doing so, I am sure the commission would realize that the majority of broadcasters, (in) small markets in particular, are not the ones causing the indecency problem. They should not be punished for the transgressions of a few licensees who have lost their sense of responsibility. The bulk of the licensees are not causing the indecency problem. Period. Don’t use a buck shot-loaded gun where a sharp shooting rifle is indicated.
It is time for the FCC to stop looking blindly at licensees without realizing the profiles of the broadcasters they license. It is time for the FCC to consider changing its paradigm. It is time for the FCC to realize and analyze just what they are dealing with in licensees. The FCC proposal MB Docket No. 04-232 is unconstitutional, as it is in violation of the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution.
This proposed intrusive way for the FCC to enforce its rules by making the totality of the station’s programming content subject to governmental review is not what the United States of America is all about. This slippery slope will take our great country into an area that is abhorrent and not worthy its history. Our government will finally be directly involved with program content. That is abhorrent to the principles that serve as a magnet, drawing people into this great country.
This FCC proposal … is the worst proposal I have seen in my 68 years of being an FCC licensee.