have active x controls?
Download the clip
(right click and choose "save target as"
Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC – the
networks which use the publicly-owned broadcast spectrum to air their
programming – have claimed that traditional broadcast TV does not enjoy any
special advantages over other forms of entertainment, and therefore should not
be subject to broadcast decency laws.
But various surveys, studies
and statements by CBS itself contradict the networks’ claim.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that the Federal Communications
Commission does have the power to fine indecent speech when it is used on the
broadcast airwaves at times when children are likely to be in the audience. This
finding was completely consistent with Congressional laws and Court rulings
The Supreme Court has said that the government
can regulate what is shown on broadcast TV for three reasons. First, the
airwaves are a public utility, owned by the American people as a whole. The
networks do not own the airwaves; local stations are permitted to use them,
providing they obtain a license from the federal government, and use the
airwaves “in the public interest.” Second, the government has a legitimate interest in
protecting children from indecent media content. Finally, because over-the-air
TV and radio are seen and heard by many more people than are movies, newspapers,
books or other forms of media, the government can regulate them more closely. In
the legal language of the Court’s 1978 ruling in FCC v. Pacifica, the
broadcast airwaves are “uniquely influential and pervasive” in the lives of
Americans, and therefore government regulation of their content does not violate
the First Amendment.
In their recent arguments before the Supreme
Court, the TV networks claimed that the Pacifica decision is grossly
unfair and obsolete. Fox
told the Supreme Court (supported by CBS, NBC,
ABC and the
ACLU, among others) that the broadcast networks
should not be subject to decency laws. This would mean that the networks would
be able to use any foul language they want, in any amount, at any time of day –
no matter how many children are watching. In fact, the networks went so far as
to say that broadcast decency laws are a violation of the First Amendment.
The crux of the networks’ argument was this:
according to the networks, broadcast TV is no longer as important as it was
thirty years ago. With the rise of cable and satellite TV, DVDs, the Internet,
online media viewing, iPods, iPhones and other new technology, the networks
claimed, broadcast TV is just one more choice among many. It no longer gets as
much attention or has the unique influence over people as it once did, said the
In their brief filed before the Supreme Court,
“While the broadcast media may have enjoyed ‘a
uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans’ in 1978, that is no
longer so in 2008…The vast majority of Americans today watch broadcast stations
side by side with hundreds of cable channels that are not bound by the FCC’s
indecency rules. Given the array of alternative media now available to the
average consumer and the variety of roles these alternative media play, it is
simply no longer the case that broadcasting has a ‘uniquely pervasive presence
in the lives of all Americans.’ “ -- Brief
of Fox Television Stations, Inc. (FCC v. Fox)
And – after pausing to sneer at the
“moth-eaten foundations” of the Supreme Court’s Pacifica decision in
their brief supporting Fox, the other broadcast networks claimed:
“Thirty years after Pacifica,
it can no longer be said that, of all channels of communication, broadcasting is
pervasive”…Like all media content, broadcast programming is accessible by
children to some degree, but certainly it is no longer uniquely
when compared to the countless other avenues —cable, satellite, the Internet,
mobile phones, iPods, iPhones, the list goes on -- through which children up to
age 18 receive video and audio content. Against this background of profound
technological change in how people obtain and communicate information in the
21st Century, the Commission’s insistence that ‘Pacifica’s
premises remain as valid today as they were in 1978,’ is simply absurd.” –
Brief of NBC Universal, Inc., CBS Broadcasting, Inc., and
ABC, Inc. (FCC v. Fox)
In order to compete with cable, the Internet and
the rest, the networks claim, they must change with the times – by imitating the
extreme violence, explicit profanity and graphic sex found on some cable
networks. This is permissible, they say, because broadcast television no longer
has the unique influence it once did.
But such a supposition is incorrect. Consider:
·As of 2007, more than 98% of U.S.
homes have at least one television set (which receives broadcast TV). Only 60%
of US homes have cable.
·In 2009, the average American
household spends 8 ½ hours in front of the television per day. Teens
spent an all-time high average of 3 ½ hours per day watching TV – almost one
entire day per week.
·99% of viewing in the past year was
done on a “traditional” television set. Less than 5% of TV viewing was DVR
playback. YouTube, Hulu and all other Internet and cell phone media accounted
for less than 1% of viewing.
·Two-thirds of children in the
United States have television sets in their bedrooms. Children spend more time
watching television than time in school, and more time than in any other
activity except sleep.
recent study conducted by Ball State University
found that, while many people may think they watch television less and use other
forms of media more, in fact broadcast television remains the dominant form of
media in America today – by an overwhelming margin. According to the study, TV
accounts for 99% of all video consumption, reducing viewing via DVRs, computers
and cell phones to a totally insignificant margin. Even among more tech-savvy
young adults, TV viewing accounts for 98% of all video consumption.
Another study underlines the continued
significance of TV, demonstrating that while some argue watching TV is dead
(especially among young viewers), in fact it is more significant than ever.
But beyond these statistics, the entertainment
industry itself has stated that broadcast TV remains the most influential medium
in America today. One proof that TV is still “uniquely pervasive” was provided
by Jason Kilar, CEO of the online video website Hulu.com. Though Hulu has grown
in popularity and gained viewers since its inception in March, 2008, in an
article and video Kilar stated that Hulu
viewership went up an incredible 49% after showing a commercial during the Super
Bowl – on broadcast TV! If a purely online service, with a large appeal among
technophiles, chooses to advertise on TV and sees huge gains by doing so,
clearly broadcast television still reaches and influences more people than any
Internet website or form of high-tech communication.
But Hulu’s experience is not
the ultimate proof of broadcast TV’s continued media dominance. Now, even
CBS itselfis telling sponsors that broadcast TV is “uniquely
Broadcasting & Cable, CBS has begun “an
unprecedented ad campaign selling the power of its own airwaves…aimed at
reinforcing the notion that broadcast television is very much alive and kicking
[and] battling the common perception that broadcast television is in a long-term
decline and that the future of profitable TV is with cable.”
In the planned promotional
campaign to be carried on CBS’ 140 radio stations, Face The Nation, 60
Minutes, the Late Show with David Letterman, various daytime soap
operas, and in ads in USA Today and The New York Times, CBS tells
potential sponsors that commercials shown on broadcast TV will be seen by more
viewers and will attract more buyers than cable or satellite TV, the Internet or
any other form of technology.
“No medium reaches more people than network television…[and]
CBS reaches more people than any other network.” -- CBS President of Marketing
George Schweitzer (Broadcastingcable.com, May 3, 2009)
By this contradictory logic,
when CBS is selling commercial time to sponsors, broadcast TV is the most
dominant, most important, and most influential form of media in the world -- but
when CBS and its fellow broadcast networks are arguing before the Supreme Court
for the “right” to ignore broadcast decency laws, TV is just one medium out of
many, with no unique influence over the 99% of Americans who see it.
Even though there are
many more forms of entertainment today than there once were, the Supreme Court’s
wisdom in its Pacifica decision still stands. Broadcasting is every bit
as “uniquely pervasive” today as was in 1978. Because of broadcast TV’s
overwhelming influence – especially over children -- the American people have a
right to expect that the publicly-owned airwaves will be kept free of indecent
language, as the law requires.
This column was compiled from reports by the Parents
Television Council’s Analysis staff.
Parents Television Council,
Clean Up TV Now, Because our children are watching, The
nation's most influential advocacy organization, Protecting
children against sex, violence and profanity in
entertainment, Parents Television Council Seal of Approval,
and Family Guide to Prime Time Television
are trademarks of the Parents Television Council.