Skip to main content

FCC To Issue NOI On Content-Control Technologies

The FCC will issue a notice of inquiry (NOI) March 2 on how to implement the Child Safe Viewing Act, which requires it to collect data for a report to Congress (due Aug. 29) on the most advanced methods for blocking video content, including on wired and wireless platforms and across a variety of platforms including TVs, DVD players, VCRs, cable set-tops and wireless handsets.

That's according to Mary Beth Murphy, chief of the FCC Media Bureau's policy division, who will likely be writing the report, who was a panelist at a Kaiser Family Foundation seminar in Washington on the impact on kids media issues of a new Congress, FCC and White House.

One of the arguments broadcasters are making in their challenges to FCC indecency actions is that the V-chip/ratings system is an effective content-control tool and, thus, a more narrowly tailored means to the government's end of protecting children. The Pryor bill asks the FCC to look at technologies that operate independently of any ratings system as well.

Vicky Rideout, VP of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of the program for the study of media and health, Wednesday characterized presumptive FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as "a little bit of a Rorschach test for media insiders," saying he's variously described as a consumer watchdog and the ultimate industry insider."

She also suggested new House Communications, Tech & Internet Chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) was something of an unknown quantity on kids issues, calling him "someone who doesn't really have a lot of history on children's media policy issues. Of course, he has big shoes to fill. His predecessor was Ed Markey (D-MA), who spearheaded children's TV legislation and was an early champion of the v-chip ratings system as a way for parents to have more control over the TV set.

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), author of the Child Safe Viewing Act, told the seminar audience he though Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) chair of the Senate Commerce Committee would have a "very active" committee, saying he had alerted members of the committee and subcommittee of that fact. "Whether that is good or bad for this group, I don't know."

Pryor said he was concerned about the constitutionality of issues. He said parents needed a lot of control over media, but that the goal of the Act was to have the FCC look at new parental control technologies, including "what's out there and what's possible." Pryor said he was very concerned about the Internet. He said he understood that some people were uncomfortable with the issue of restricting content on the Internet, but he said that conversation needed to be held.

Pryor said he thought it would be great to find ways to allow parents to control content on the Internet. "That is something I will be working on in this Congress." Pryor said Sen. Rockefeller knows of his interest, and he knows of Rockefeller's interest in media violence.

Colin Cromwell, a telecommunications policy analyst, for Markey, said that members of the House and Senate are focused on larger economic issues and probably won't be as focused on these [kids media] issues in the first 100 days. "It won't be something that will be a high priority of the Hill until we get past mid-summer," he said, "which may be when the FCC report arrives on the Hill."

He also said Congress' reaction would depend "in large part" on what the Supreme Court decides in Fox's challenge of the FCC's indecency crackdown. "You might find Congress and the FCC reacting in response to a court case that either gives unfettered freedom perhaps to broadcasters, remands certain things for the FCC to look at again, or affirms the decision that the commission made. That court case will affect what the FCC and Congress feel needs to be done."