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Greenwald Tries to ‘Outfox’ Fox News with Video, Petition

Fans of having the Federal Communications Commission force cable companies to provide their service a la carte are getting an assist from Outfoxed filmmaker Robert Greenwald.

Greenwald -- who produced the documentary about what he called News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's "war on journalism" -- posted a video on YouTube and elsewhere Thursday taking aim at Fox News Channel.

The video, from Greenwald's Brave New Films, ties together clips of women in bathing suits and blurred images of women in less than that from a variety of Fox News shows. Greenwald said they demonstrate that the channel is promoting indecent content in the guise of reporting on it. The images were from various stories, from trouble at the Playboy mansion to murders in Florida.

The video's kicker is a call for mandating a la carte cable carriage -- allowing subscribers to pick and choose among channels -- as a way to exclude Fox News. Greenwald also created an online petition to the FCC demanding a la carte.

"The best way to keep Fox out of your home is to force cable companies to offer ‘a la carte’ cable, where you only pay for the channels you want," the petition reads. "A la carte will lower your cable bill, prevent inappropriate programming from entering your home and will keep your money out of Fox’s pockets."

At press time, the petition claimed 9,322 signatories -- a number that seemed to be increasing by a couple of dozen signatures per minute.

Greenwald has a receptive ear in FCC chairman Kevin Martin on the a la carte issue, which the chairman has been pushing from K Street to Wall Street in an effort to give viewers more control of their cable bills and the content that comes into their homes.

Just Thursday, Parents Television Council president Tim Winter was pushing for cable a la carte in testimony to a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, saying that it would help viewers to screen out indecent cable content.

The cable industry said government-mandated a la carte is, instead, a recipe for higher prices and less choice, since some niche channels are only sustainable through a bundled model, similar to the survival of small stores in a mall anchored by a Bloomingdale’s. It also pointed out that viewers already have the means to block unwanted channels, although Martin and other argued that they should not have to pay for the channels they want to block.

“Is Greenwald still alive? Or is it just his career that’s dead?” said a spokesman for Fox News.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.