Thursday, April 21, 2005

Broadcast executives pledge indecency code

AP reports that "As support grows for a crackdown on overly sexual TV programming, broadcasters are working to develop tough voluntary guidelines they hope will stall government regulation." Of course the long time code of best practice subscribed to by all of the broadcasters back when broadcast was all there was worked very well until it was thrown out by the U.S. government in a moment of bone-headedly expansionist interpretation of the antitrust laws. While this will have little effect on the avalanche of raunchy and violent material that comes into homes over cable and the internet as well as DVDs and video games, there is still some merit in having those providers who operate under a license of the public airways to avoid bad surprises.


La Scimmia di Filo said...

Hey, it's a cool blog and you are a great reviewer! I do also review, theatre in my case, for a Mexican paper, and know how hard job can get. Will be back regularly from now. Greetings from Ciudad de México.


Joe Albert said...

Personally I think there should be no regulation regarding decency on television, radio, etc. The free market should regulate whether or not "indecent" material is shown. Let boycotts, not laws, convince companies what to air. There are always ways to push the line on regulations (I've done it plenty myself), but maintaining the support of customers is fragile and not something to be tested.

Nell Minow said...

Joe, I understand the point you are making. But the reason that broadcast channels have always been subject to the requirement that they operate "in the public interest, convenience, and necessity" is "scarcity." The government licenses the airwaves because (1) they cannot be owned by any private entity and (2) there are not enough places on the spectrum for anyone who wants one. Anyone can start a newspaper (or a blog), so there is no role for the government to play with regard to the content. Between the First Amendment and the free market, between Hustler, The National Enquirer, The National Review, and the New York Times, things sort themselves out. If we awarded broadcast licenses according to the free market, just auctioning them all off to the highest bidder, the world would be controlled by Rupert Murdoch (even more than it already is). If you could show me an example of a successful boycott in response to any failure of a media outlet to act responsibly, I might be persuadable. But keep in mind, speaking of the New York Times, compare the Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, all controlled not by the free market but by the families that have run them for generations, to the "free market" newspapers like the NY Post. The market is ideal for determining many things; just not all things.

Joe Albert said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Albert said...

Good point. Once again, one of my brilliant ideas foiled by the laws of men and physics. That's why I like internet radio and such, north of 4 billion possible stations at least, and growing. Of course, over the summer, I will have my slice of airtime accessible on a walkman. For the record, if you're in New Milford sometime in late July or early August, feel free to tune in, or in the case of the aforementioned Rupert Murdoch, run. Run like the IRS is coming.

Mark O said...

"If you could show me an example of a successful boycott in response to any failure of a media outlet to act responsibly, I might be persuadable."

While I fully agree that consumer/investor vigilance shouldn't be the only control or oversight mechanism, it did work, to some degree, in one recent case:

Sinclair Broadcasting Group change in policy about airing Stolen Honor, just a few weeks before the November elections.

Along with grassroots mobilization of MoveOn and other organizations, we also saw institutional investors applying pressure. And somewhat to my surprise, it worked.