As we’ve discussed before, here, the FCC has been reviewing their power to regulate violent programming on broadcast stations. Despite the apparent constitutional and practical issues involved in such restrictions (e.g. are Roadrunner cartoons covered?), published reports indicate that a majority of the FCC Commissioners will issue a report asking Congress to give the FCC authority to regulate violent programming. The Washington Post today published a story stating that the FCC will this week release its report and ask Congress for the authority to regulate not only broadcast stations, but also basic cable programming. In the indecency area, the Courts have stepped in to prevent the FCC from regulating cable, given its subscription nature and its ability to block specific channels of programming upon request of a subscriber. If the FCC does in fact ask for the ability to regulate basic cable, this will break new ground, and will surely end up in court.
At a legal panel in Las Vegas, held in connection with the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, panelists speculated that the Chairman of the Commission and Commissioner Copps favor the report – while Commissioners Adelstein and McDowell are more concerned about the constitutional implications of this action – making for coalitions on this issue different from those that usually are in place on most FCC decisions relating to broadcasting.
This report, which many had expected to be released prior to the NAB Convention, will no doubt provoke heated arguments in Congress, the Courts and at the FCC. It’s one more programming issue in a year where proposing new programming restrictions seems to have become the rage.