'Bad thing for America'
"If we start going through a line of, 'We shouldn't be targeting children with advertising,' you eventually strip most every advertising out of this country. I think this is a bad thing for America," David K. Rehr, president-CEO of the broadcasters group, said in an appearance at the National Press Club yesterday. His remarks came a week after the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, joined Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., in unveiling plans for a task force to examine the impact of media advertising on children's health.
Mr. Rehr, a former beer industry association executive who became the groups chief late last year, also asked why cable companies should remain exempt from government indecency rules.
"Why is it that cable doesn't have indecency rules? Because the courts say they are a subscription service. But I know in my area and maybe in your area, cable uses free marketing and free subscriptions as a way to gain customers."
Mr. Rehr said the attention paid to cable ignores the broadcast industry's continued overwhelming ratings dominance. He noted that 235 of the country's top programs during the last TV season were on broadcast TV. In the advertiser-friendly 18-49 age bracket, the first 184 programs and 512 of the top 522 were on broadcast TV, not cable.
Protecting the public interest
"Broadcasters do everything they can to stop people from swearing cussing, holding up signs, being indecent. If you are doing everything you can to protect the public interest, is there an incentive in punishing you? I think that is something we are going to have to explore in the months and years ahead," he said.
Rob Stoddard, senior VP for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said the cable industry's exemption from indecency laws is well-founded. "No matter how you slice it, cable is a subscription service to which customers must make an affirmative decision to subscribe, and which doesn't use the public airwaves," he said.
He also noted that the cable industry has undertaken a major effort to educate parents about parental controls and media literacy.