Saturday, March 13, 2004

Media Regulation, Decency, and Conglomeration/Consolidation

I've made a few snarky comments about the recent furor in Washington over broadcast indecency. I've been a bit disgusted by all of the moaning and groaning about and swift action against Bono's fuck and Janet's breast, in contrast to the general dismantlement of any notion of public responsibilities on the part of broadcasters over the public airwaves in other ways and in the allowance of increasing (and increasingly scary) integration, consolidation, and conglomeration in media ownership. It's a little heartening to see, though, that some in D.C. are connecting these issues-- tying the indecency bill and the television ownerhsip cap together, as described in this L.A. Times article: Lawmakers Review Media Ownership Caps, This Time in Name of Decency

In a demonstration that reruns are inevitable not just on TV but in politics as well, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is seizing on the popularity of anti-indecency legislation to try to undo media ownership rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year.

The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would sharply increase the penalty for radio and TV stations and on-air entertainers who violate federal indecency rules. Fines per broadcaster would rise from $27,500 to a maximum of $500,000 per violation. The Senate is expected to take up a similar measure soon.

But the bill as approved by the Senate Commerce Committee would do something else too: It would delay for one year some of the new rules relaxing the limits on how many broadcast outlets a single company may own. The measure is designed to give Congress' investigative arm, the General Accounting Office, time to study whether there is a relationship between media consolidation and the rise in complaints about broadcast indecency.


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