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Tate Touts "Regulatory Humility"

At her first speech to broadcasters, new FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said her overriding principles would be partnership and what she called "regulatory humility."

Speaking to a group of several hundred broadcasters at the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference in Washington, she described regulatory humility as a tendency to look to "peal back" an old rule when adding a new one, as well as to look at the consequences of any new rules on "real world practices." She likened it to the toy box principle she applied to her children of getting rid of one for every new one added.

She said government should respond to real problems, but it also needs to identify a real problem first.

One thing she sees as a real problem is indecency. She pointed out that indecency complaints are up 12,000% in the past four years, and said it is the issue she gets the most complaints about. When a broadcasters asked whether that rise was not simply the product of a few Web sites. She said that she got "pages" worth of complaints from individuals with very personal stories.

When asked whether cable and satellite should be regulated for indecency, she said that might be an issue to take to the Hill, since it would require a change in law, though she added that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, had staked out a strong position on the issue.

Tate said she wanted to emphasize decency, rather that indecency, and called on broadcasters to be "inspiring" and bring "nobility back to our lives."

Having experienced the violence of video games with her own children, Tate said that, as a mother, she was concerned about the TV violence issue but had "formed no opinion."

On the partnership front, she urged broadcasters to try to work out their issues through mediation. She lauded the kids TV compromise, in which media companies and activists agreed on a modified version of new FCC rules that the commission is now considering. Tate said she was pleased that both sides came in together to talk about the deal with her.