Good News: FCC Remains Tough On Content... But
Will It Matter?
Genachowski is about to take hold of the ultimate remote control in the country
as he readies to take The Chair at the FCC in the near future. Even better,
he knows where the mute button is and he’s not
afraid to use it. Both Genachowski (a Democrat) and Republican nominee Robert
McDowell support the enforcement of broadcast decency laws, which is obviously
good news for parents who are tired of having their remote controls holstered at
their hip like a six-shooter when they watch TV with their kids. Now we just
have to hope there is a broadcaster left on the “public” airwaves before the end
of their five-year term.
broadcast industry is about to hit a technological wall like it’s never seen
before. This past week,
The Diffusion Group, a market research firm,
predicted in 18 months 100 million households in the world will have televisions
connected to the Internet – many of them through video game consoles. Just as
recently, the CBS-owned TV.com
signed a deal with TiVo that will allow users
to record CBS programming with a click of their TiVo remotes.
another match about to light a fuse leading to the broadcast demise powder keg.
This is the time of year when broadcasters trot out their best products that
will headline the fall TV season with the hopes of luring advertisers to snap up
commercial airtime while they can. Called “Upfronts,” networks often sell about
80% of the advertising you will see in the fall, giving them a nice feeling of
security while productions are finished over the summer season.
there was not just an apathetic yawn coming from potential sponsors, but a
downright attitude of “Are you joking?” when networks informed their potential
clients of advertising rate increases.
The advertisers balked and instead said they
expected a 15% rate decrease. Late last Thursday night (June 18) things
were finally beginning to move, but no one is willing to bet just how much the
overall business will decline from last year.
broadcast advertising revenues continue to fall, we may see the day when
scripted television programs will be replaced with a slate of reality shows,
news programs, and YouTube-like viewer created content. Meanwhile, programs
requiring more money to produce will become the staple for premium cable
networks and pay-per-view channels.
is the Parents Television Council and not Business Week, but there
is good reason for you to know the corporate broadcast climate forecast is for
rough weather ahead – so rough that it may metaphorically blow your TV antenna
off your roof in the not so distant future. If the day were to ever come when
the majority of television entertainment is delivered over the Internet, it
would make today’s regulatory muscle flexing useless. Genachowski, like
President Obama, is a huge proponent of an open and free Internet. In short, it
would be logical to conclude media that isn’t delivered over public airwaves is
much less likely to face government regulatory action, especially in the areas
of decency issues. And that means that parents will be left with a major weapon
missing from their artillery.
President Obama has continued to commit to his
technology plan which does offer a promise to “...give parents the tools and
information they need to control what their children see on television and the
Internet in ways fully consistent with the First Amendment.” However, after
seeing the dismal implementation of the V-chip – the last tool that was ushered
in as a way for parents to be able to keep a leash on the television – we all
have reason to be very skeptical. For any technological tool to be reasonably
effective, it would need to use information provided by media creators. Networks
have refused to accurately flag their programs for the V-ship. Can we expect the
situation to improve within the wild domain of the unregulated Internet?
believe networks can make this transition in a way that will keep the dollars
rolling in, but they must begin producing programming with a wide
audience appeal. Standouts like American Idol prove there is still money
to be made in good ‘ol broadcast television, but they must rid their schedules
of the many programs that appeal to niche audiences and turn off the lucrative
and relatively large family demographic. They also need to regain the trust of
parents and families by working with electronics manufacturers to create a
bulletproof content control system that works for families and allows parents to
set controls according to their family’s needs.
In the end,
we should have an exciting new form of television that will provide a wide range
of information and entertainment choices in ways we can only begin to imagine.
But, just like the early days of TV, broadcasters still need to remember parents
(and all viewers) have the ultimate power: The off button.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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