Indecency Hearing Provides Platform for Concentration Critics

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants to add media concentration to the definition of indecency. He also proposes penalizing any of the Federal Communications Commission members who supported "massive deregulation," by requiring them to take remedial civics courses and "watch the movie Citizen Kane over and over again until they flinch at the word ‘rosebud.’

That was a tongue-in-cheek amendment, withdrawn from the indecency enforcement bill passed in the House Commerce Committee today. The underlining criticism was serious, however.

A number of the committee’s Democrats used the indecency bill’s passage to attack consolidation. The most overt attempt was by Michigan’s Bart Stupak and Illinois’ Janice Schakowsky who proposed, then withdrew, an amendment that would have attempted to roll back the 39% audience reach cap for two years so the GAO could study the link, if any, between consolidation and indecency.

Rep. Henry Waxman suggested that rather than speech regulation, the better remedy for indecency should be more choice. "This bill will not result in higher quality or more local ism. It just opens the door for more government regulation of content," he said.

Waxman said the bill ignored the "glaring problems of consolidation," and that a better remedy for indecency would be more choice. Although several Democrats called for more media ownership hearings, Upton told reporters after the hearing that they were unlikely.

John Eggerton

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.