Mediageek Radioshow Headlines for 3-4-05

These are the news headlines as read on the March 4, 2005 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Sen. Ted Stevens, Broadcasters Want Indecency Enforced for Cable & Satellite; Illinois Anti-Muni Wireless Bill Dead for Now; Sinclair Asks Supremes to Review Ownership Reg.

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Sen. Ted Stevens, Broadcasters Want Indecency Enforced for Cable & Satellite
The new chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ted Stephens of Alaska, told National Association of Broadcasters leadership conference that he’d favor legislation that would require cable television to obey the same indecency rules as broadcast television. At his speech on March 1, Stevens also said that he would favor requiring cable companies to carry multiple channels from a single digital broadcaster, provided those channels provided “public interest” content.

With the help of federal court decisions, cable has repeatedly fended off restrictions on its content, even during the hours children are likely to be watching, by arguing that First Amendment law wonÂ’t permit restriction on cable if parents have other options for shielding their kids from objectionable shows.

And in an interview with Billboard Radio Monitor, Clear ChannelÂ’s chief legal officer said that he believes Congress should extend indecency regulations to satellite radio. He also stated that he believes there is interest in Congress in the issue, arguing that satellite radio is almost as free as traditional broadcast radio, given that free subscriptions are being included with the purchase of some new cars equipped with satellite radio receivers.

XM Satellite’s VP of corporate affairs calls Levin’s lobbying efforts “typical behavior on the part of big broadcasters resisting new competing technologies.”

Outgoing FCC Chairman Michael Powell has stated recently that he does not believe the FCC should endeavor to extend indecency regulations to cable or satellite. He told the Fox News Channel on March 3 that he believes legislation to achieve this would be unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruling allowing the FCC to police indecency on broadcast television and radio is written specifically for broadcast, based upon both the prevalence of broadcast media and the responsibility of broadcasters who use the publicly owned spectrum.

Illinois Anti-Muni Wireless Bill Dead for Now

An Illinois bill that would have outlawed municipal telecommunications systems, including broadband wireless networks, failed to be entered into the Illinois Senate by its sponsor Steve Rauschenberger, the Assistant Republican leader of the twenty-second district.

Unfavorable press coverage and pressure from citizen and community groups is believed to have played a role in the bill not being submitted. A coalition formed under the umbrella called Get Illinois Online have been working on the issue, and continue to organize in anticipation of a rewrite of the stateÂ’s main legislation concerning the internet and telecommunications.

However, similar anti-municipal telecommunications laws have been entered in several states, the most recent being Texas. Laws have been passed in 14 states, including Pennsylvania.

Most of these different state bills have very similar boilerplate language drafted by the telecommunications industry, looking to keep municipalities and other non-profit groups from providing inexpensive or free network services that the industry has failed to provide in a timely manner.

In 2004, the Supreme Court affirmed the political right of states to establish their own community internet ventures. Thus, major telecommunications companies have been forced to lobby state by state to repeal this right.

Even though the anti-municipal broadband bill in Illinois is currently dead, there are fears that the bill could be resuscitated and slipped into a larger unrelated bill, making it easier to pass.

Sinclair Asks Supremes to Review Ownership Reg

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc , owner of the largest group of TV stations in the United States, said on March 3 that it had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling on media ownership rules.

The June 2004 appeals court ruling had ordered the FCC to continue to enforce a rule which requires that at least eight independently owned and operated full power television stations remain in a given market. This rule blocks Sinclair from owning more than one station in several markets where it has plans to buy additional ones.

In prior litigation brought by Sinclair in 2002, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the 8-voices test to the FCC and ordered the agency to either justify or eliminate the rule. The FCC responded, stating and explicitly concluding that the 8-voices test could not be justified, that “it is not necessary in the public interest to promote competition,” and that “retaining the current rule does not promote, and may even hinder, program diversity and localism.”

Subsequently and in June 2004, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ordered the FCC to continue to apply the 8-voices test.