TV Anti-Indecency Chip 'Not the Answer': FCC Chairman

27 April 2006

Addressing the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin told attendees he had little confidence in their planned ad campaign to promote TV program-blocking tools.

Martin pointed out that some 40% of the nation's TV sets lack the V-chip necessary to block programs according to their content rating. Furthermore, he said, no such ratings are carried either by sport or news broadcasts.

Together with the cable and movie production industries, broadcasters plan to fund a $300 million (€241.7m; £167.8m) ad campaign advising parents how to control programming on their TVs. Martin dismissed this proposal, telling his audience: "I'm not sure that's the complete answer".

Speaking later to reporters, the FCC chair reiterated his suggestion that broadcasters offer a family-viewing hour stripped of coarse programming. He also floated the idea that cable operators offer channel-by-channel subscription choice or family-friendly programming tiers.

Martin's conference address took place against a background of growing acrimony between broadcasters and the FCC which has of late imposed draconian fines on the industry for alleged 'indecency'.

Retaliating, broadcasters have launched federal legal actions, citing the US constitution's First Amendment (the right to free speech) and asking courts to overturn recent FCC rulings.

Meantime, one broadcast executive with literary leanings recalled George Bernard Shaw's maxim: "Decency is Indecency's conspiracy of silence."

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff