CONSUMERS CONCERNED ABOUT TV INDECENCY

New FCC Chief Tells Cable Industry Conference of Increasing Complaints

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SAN FRANCISCO (Adage.com) -- In his first address to the cable industry since becoming chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, Kevin Martin said the FCC was not on a crusade against indecency but rather it was reacting to growing consumer concerns about "what’s appropriate on TV and all the different forms of media."
Photo: AP
Kevin Martin, the new FCC chairman, told a cable industry gathering that consumers are concerned about indecency on TV.
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Increasing complaints
Mr. Martin, 38, who replaced Michael Powell as FCC chairman, delivered his remarks at this week's National Cable & Telecommunications Commission's annual conference here. He said the number of indecency complaints the FCC has received in recent years had increased significantly. “We received a few hundred complaints, next year a few thousand, then ten thousand and then one million. ... I think you're seeing an environment where consumers and parents are increasingly concerned.”

“The commission is responding to complaints,” he said. “We are reactive.”

When asked to define indecency during a question-and-answer session with Fox News Channel contributor Stuart Varney, Mr. Martin said the FCC works with a legal definition of indecency.

Apply new standards to cable?
Efforts by Congress to apply to cable and satellite TV the same decency standards as found on broadcast TV has sent a chill through the cable industry. Those restrictions would affect programming such as HBO's The Sopranos and Deadwood and the ability to show movies uncut. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, last month said, "I think [broadcasters and satellite and cable operators] ought to play too, to the extent it's possible, by the same rules" as the federally licensed broadcast networks.

When asked what indecency laws were likely to be applied to cable and satellite providers, Mr. Martin answered cautiously: “Congress determines what should be applied” and the FCC then simply enforces the rules.

Mr. Martin, whose onstage Q&A ended after only 10 minutes, left many in the packed conference room interpreting what was not said.

Praised broadband investment
In an determined effort to stay on the right side of the cable business, Mr. Martin praised cable's $95 billion investment in building broadband networks and added that the cable industry had already stepped up to the plate to address issues such as increasing the diversity of its programming.

Mr. Martin, who has previously said he wanted to build on the strengths of his predecessor, said, "Chairman Powell was a visionary in technology and how it is changing these industries." Mr. Martin, who was an FCC commissioner before his appointment, often sided with Mr. Powell on the issue of media ownership deregulation, and sounded as if that topic would stay on the FCC's agenda.

"The marketplace is much more important than regulation in terms of driving innovation, but the government has an important role to play," he said, adding that he would like to shape the industry by making sure there’s an opportunity for everybody to compete in the converging marketplace.

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