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Capital Watch

Bono's Golden Moment

Rock star Bono landed the usually tame Golden Globe Awards in hot water with content monitors. The U2 front man's exuberant use of the F-word during the Jan. 19 NBC broadcast prompted a Parent's Television Council campaign, one of three orchestrated barrages by family values activists that helped fuel a spate of indecency complaints in June.

Seems angry individuals filling out and sending a form letter to the FCC against a June 10 Keen Eddie episode decided to do the same for one attacking the award show that had been posted months before. The complaints, which also criticized a March 31 Will & Grace episode, contributed to a 65% spike in complaints to the FCC about broadcast station practices during the second quarter of 2003 versus the first three months of the year.

The total number of complaints climbed from 439 to 724. Of those, 242 were multiple, identical complaints filed in June regarding the three episodes, the FCC said. Complaints generated by a write-in campaign urging television stations in Richmond, Va., to provide real-time closed captioning of live news broadcasts also contributed.

The 1163 complaints logged through the first half of the year were more than two-and-a-half times the 441 tallied through the first half of 2002. Cable complaints fell from 308 during the first quarter to 273 in the second quarter, with most cable categories experiencing modest declines. The most common cable complaints regarded billing and service problems.

Digital Only

WNVT-TV Goldvein, Va., is the third domestic television station to win government approval to cease analog operations and broadcast only in digital. The request follows the FCC's Sept. 12 approval of a plan to relinquish analog ch. 53.

According to the station, digital-only broadcasts on ch. 30 are scheduled to begin Nov. 1. WNVT-TV, which airs world music and foreign and educational programming, is one of a handful of public stations not affiliated with PBS. The station argued that eliminating dual broadcasts will help it conserve cash.

The FCC is allowing stations on analog chs. 52-59 switch to digital-only well-ahead of the 2006 target date in order to make way for wireless services slated for the spectrum. The other stations with permission are WWAC-TV Atlantic City, N.J., and KVMD(TV) Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Freeze Officially Lifted … Again

The FCC's Media Bureau on Sept. 17 resumed accepting applications for transfers of broadcast station ownership.

The agency has twice frozen and thawed application processing in order to adjust its review procedures to account for new, relaxed ownership limits approved June 2 and then for a return to previous limits after a panel of the federal appeals court judges in Philadelphia issued a stay order on the new rules.

Applications submitted on updated forms when the first freeze was lifted Aug. 14 must be resubmitted under the previous forms. Applications using the previous forms that were pending prior to the FCC's June 2 vote to change media ownership limits no longer must be amended to show compliance.

Tauzin's Toast

House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin praised the alcohol industry for its restraint in protecting kids from booze ads. Noting the new FTC report detailing industry efforts to limit exposure of people 21-and-under to alcohol marketing, the Louisiana Republican called a new placement policy that guarantees an adult audience no less than 70% for any broadcast or print ad "responsible and appropriate."