Noncoms Ask FCC for Some Content Deregulation

PBS, NPR, America's Public Television Stations and CPB teamed up to tell the FCC it needs to tweak some of its content-related regs.

That came in comments on FCC chairman Ajit Pai's review of regulations related to broadcast, cable and satellite.

The FCC votedMay 18 to launch a review of all its rules and regs applying to media outlets. Pai promised to bring out the regulatory weed-whacker and drew plenty of volunteers to start it up.

Noncoms say they should not have to include an educational/informational (E/I) logo on their children’s programming, pointing out that, for example, PBS member stations—which translates to about nine out of 10 noncoms—are required by contract to air seven hours of children's TV per week, exceeding the FCC requirement. 

"[T]he E/I bug requirement, which was first applied to NCE stations in 2004, creates technical and viewability challenges for PBS as it works to innovate by streaming across a wide range of platforms," they said. "Viewership of PBS educational children’s content on mobile devices has increased dramatically in recent years and the E/I bug is particularly disruptive on smaller screens."

They also called on the FCC to clarify its indecency regs. While they said they were not opposed to the regs per se, they said the FCC needs to revisit what it considers actionable indecency, including taking context into account, as well as "what process should be implemented for reviewing and acting on complaints (given that these matters can take many years), and what sanctions are appropriate for violations, particularly in context-related circumstances such as typically arise on an NCE station."

They want the FCC to return to its pre-2004 (pre-Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl reveal fall-out) policy of generally deferring to broadcasters good-faith judgments, and to "provide greater transparency and predictability for stations, program producers, and distributors; and empower FCC staff to more quickly address complaints, including by disposing of meritless complaints that can negatively impact stations by remaining unresolved for extended periods of time."

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.