Senate's "Decent" Witnesses Set

The Senate Commerce Committee has set the witness list for its Jan. 19 "decency" hearing.

The hearing will be divided into two panels. The first will feature Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, who has been charged by Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) with helping come up with a new program ratings system.

Also on the stand for hearing number one are EchoStar Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen and Comcast Executive VP David Cohen.

Stevens has said that if the multichannel video industry does not sufficiently self-regulate content, Congress may have to step in. Comcast is one of the companies that has already announced a family-friendly programming tier in response to pressure from Washington.

Four indecency-related bills are currently before the committee, including one raising FCC fines and another mandating per-channel cable pricing. The cable  industry, which is not subject to FCC  indecency enforcement, is trying to head off per-channel pricing through family tier initiatives like Comcast's.

The second "decency" panel--the committee doesn't use the term indecency to refer to the issue--features National Association of Broadcasters Joint Board Chairman Bruce Reese; Parents Television Council President Brent Bozell; CBS Executive VP Martin Franks; Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg; and Jeff McIntyre of the American Psychological Association.

The Senate also announced Monday some date changes for several of the many media-related hearings lined up for the first quarter of the year. A hearing on the broadcast video and audio flags will be Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 10 a.m. (moved from Jan. 31); a video-franchising hearing will now be Tuesday, Jan. 31, 10 a.m. (it had been Jan. 24); while a video-content hearing will be Jan. 31 at 2:30 p.m. (also from Jan. 24). 

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.