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Press Release

November 26, 2007

PTC: FCC Fumbles Public Interest Obligation

FCC Allows CBS to Flout Consent Decree; Places Corporate Interest Above Public Interest


LOS ANGELES (November 26, 2007) – The Parents Television Council™ responded to the FCC’s decision to allow CBS to pay a meager fine for violating the terms of a negotiated Consent Decree when CBS failed to comply with the conditions meant to prevent the airing on indecent material. The Consent Decree, negotiated with the FCC in November of 2004, summarily dismissed tens of thousands of broadcast indecency complaints that were filed by the public.  CBS agreed to take specific remedial measures if the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) against a CBS station, and the Commission issued an NAL in March of 2006 for a CBS rebroadcast of a teen orgy scene on the program Without a Trace


“The FCC has failed its obligation by letting CBS off the hook – not once, but now a second time – for airing the same indecent content.  The FCC has chosen CBS’ corporate interest over the public interest, but the public, not CBS, is the true and rightful owner of the public airwaves.  And shamefully, the FCC announced its decision the day after Thanksgiving, trying to bury any public scrutiny.  What kind of signal does this send to broadcast licensees – and more importantly, what kind of signal does this send to the public?  The Commission has failed miserably to serve the public interest,” said PTC President Tim Winter.


“CBS has no credibility when it says its violation of the Consent Decree was ‘inadvertent.’  The truth is that CBS first ignored broadcast decency law when airing a teen orgy scene in the first place, and then again when it ignored the terms of the Consent Decree its own attorneys negotiated to absolve itself of responsibility for the content it aired.  Last summer they denounced the FCC’s inquiry and said they had complied with the Consent Decree, and then they asked for a time extension to explain themselves.  After receiving multiple additional time extensions, they issued a statement that appeared to redefine the Consent Decree terms.  And now they are able to retain and renew their broadcast licenses without a hearing, in exchange for extending a Consent Decree that they openly ignored.


“How can the FCC justify a newly-adopted Consent Decree to replace an ignored Consent Decree?  What assurance does the public, the owners of the broadcast airwaves, have that this new Consent Decree is any more meaningful than the one already violated by CBS?  What the FCC should have done is hold a license renewal hearing in order to determine whether CBS has served the public interest in Salt Lake City as its KUTV broadcast license requires.  Such a license hearing would be a powerful and positive reminder to every broadcaster in the nation that they are granted temporary and conditional permission to use valuable property.


“Another way the FCC could have responded is in a manner consistent with what most other breach-of-contract situations might call for, to wit, that the benefits secured by the breaching party be returned to the harmed party.  In this case, the FCC would reopen each and every broadcast decency complaint which was summarily dismissed by the November 2004 Consent Decree, and each complaint would be adjudicated on its merits.  The dismissal of the complaints was the benefit secured by CBS in signing the Consent Decree and paying a fine.  Because CBS violated that agreement, those benefits should be forfeited.  In addition, each and every radio and television broadcast license held by CBS should have been reconsidered.


“Instead, CBS gets off with a paltry fine and a slap on the wrist – there is no real financial penalty to ensure that CBS will follow the decency law in the future.  The $300,000 settlement sounds like a lot of money to consumers, but it’s a tiny fraction of the sale price of KUTV and the value of the broadcast license it uses to operate.  The FCC has failed its legal obligation to protect families from indecent content and to enforce the terms of contracts it enters into.  The public deserves better,” Winter said.


To schedule an interview with a PTC representative, please contact Kelly Oliver (ext. 140) or Megan Franko (ext. 148) at (703) 683-5004.

The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.




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