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FCC Releases Notice Of Inquiry On Content Control Tech

The FCC Friday released its notice of inquiry on content control technologies (officially titled "Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media Landscape"). The inquiry notice includes citing a litany of potential risks the commission ascribes to media use.

Among the questions the FCC asks is what authority it has over various media and whether legislation might be necessary to give it more.

The notice was teed up by a report to Congress back in August on parental control technologies for video and audio. The report included lots of questions the FCC still wants answers to dealing with various media including broadcast, cable and the Internet.

"Through this NOI, we seek information on the extent to which children are using electronic media today, the benefits and risks these technologies bring for children, and the ways in which parents, teachers, and children can help reap the benefits while minimizing the risks," the FCC said in a statement.

The commission is seeking information on media literacy, government coordination of efforts and its legal authority to regulate. It is unclear how much authority the FCC would have over Internet content or cable or satellite, for instance.

"We ask commenters, in proposing any action, to discuss the source and extent of the
Commission's authority to take the action," the commission says on whether new legislation would be needed to authorize such action. "In addition, as discussed above, commenters should discuss the compatibility of any proposed action with the First Amendment."

The FCC plans to use the information gathered in the inquiry in a review of its children's TV regulations.

While the FCC cites "positive impacts"  of media use, includilng educational content, technical literacy, communications with peers, and telemedicine, it also says the media presents "risks of harm,,"

including: "(i) exposure to exploitative advertising; (ii) exposure to inappropriate content (such as offensive language, sexual content, violence, or hate speech); (iii) impact on health (for example, childhood obesity, tobacco use, sexual behavior, or drug and alcohol use); (iv) impact on behavior (in particular, exposure to violence leading to aggressive behavior); (v) harassment and bullying; (vi) sexual predation; (vii) fraud and scams; (viii) failure to distinguish between who can and who cannot be trusted when sharing information; and (ix) compromised privacy."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Friday in announcing the notice that new technology has "significantly increased the availability of inappropriate content and elevated parents' concerns." He also said that broadcasting remains a "unique medium" and the exclusive source of video for millions of people.

But he continued to emphasize parental control, education and industry solutions. "The vital role of government in this media environment is therefore to empower parents and protect children, while honoring and abiding by the First Amendment," he said. The chairman also called on industry to increase the amount of educational content it offers.

Broadcasters are already required by the FCC to deliver at least thee hours a week of educational and informational kids programming on their primary channel, and three more hours per week for every free multicast channel they program.

Finally, the FCC wants input on whether improved media literacy is needed.