In the next few days, concerns about the protection of children from indecency and violence could lead to a report from the FCC to Congress urging use of the V Chip and other parental controls in devices other than television sets. Remarks several weeks ago by FCC Chair Julius Genachowski suggesting that the FCC might want to look at content regulation beyond the broadcast medium, a view reiterated in an interview yesterday in TV NewsCheck, also suggest that concerns about the exposure of children to indecency and other troubling programming on cable, online and by wireless devices may lead the FCC into unprecedented extensions of its regulation of entertainment content beyond the broadcast media. An article today from Bloomberg News confirms that the FCC will be starting an inquiry to see if the television program ratings should be extended to cable and wireless entertainment services. This extension of Federal regulation to protect children is occurring at the same time that similar concerns are being expressed by state legislatures, including the adoption of a recent law in Maine that effectively prohibits direct marketing to minors.
The report due this week follows a Notice of Inquiry issued by the Commission in March, as required by the Child Safe Viewing Act, legislation passed by Congress. The law required that the FCC solicit public comment on "advanced blocking technology", the next generation of the V Chip, to see if these technologies can and should be extended to video programming other than broadcast television, including online communications, wireless communications (including video delivered to mobile devices), DVRs and other video recorders, DVD players, and cable television. The FCC Notice also asked why the current V Chip has seemingly not been used much by parents. The FCC even asks if rules should be extended to video games – which were not specifically named in the legislation. This would seemingly extend the FCC’s jurisdiction far beyond its current limits. The FCC’s report is due by August 29.