Capital Watch


Abernathy Is Minding the Kids

FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy wants to make it easier for parents to find kid-friendly TV fare and to file complaints against objectionable programming.

She is teaming with the FCC's Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau to create a "Parents Page" on the FCC Web site to help educate parents about children's television. The page, which will be up and running in a couple of weeks, stemmed from meetings with broadcasters about their educational-TV requirements. It will provide information on those requirements, the V-chip and other blocking technology, the ratings system, what indecency rules prohibit, and how to file an indecency complaint. It will also link to information on family-friendly programming on any station "willing to coordinate with us," she said.

Abernathy unveiled the initiative at the Cable Television Public Affairs Association forum in Washington. When asked by a reporter whether she supported either the creation of a broadcast family hour or family-friendly cable programming tiers, as have been suggested by Commissioner Kevin Martin, she said she "had no problems" with a family hour if the industry decided to create one, and would even encourage it, but wasn't sure that traditional model still fit.

She also said she likes the idea of family-friendly cable tiers, although she isn't sure how the economics would work. In either case, she said, she does not plan to use the FCC as a bully pulpit, as Martin has, to pressure the industry. Instead, Abernathy favors having family-friendly programming available "virtually on demand"—made possible by a multichannel world—and giving parents the tools to help their children find it.

FCC Sets EEO Grace Period

Broadcasters will get a 10-day grace period of sorts to comply with new documentation requirements for their EEO outreach efforts.

New recruiting rules require broadcasters to seek job applicants from diverse sources and document outreach programs. Yearly updates are due on the anniversary of a station license-renewal date, but the State Broadcasters Association has asked that stations be given 10 extra days beyond the anniversary to comply in order to have sufficient time to collect and process information. While the FCC decides whether to approve the 10-day grace period, the commission will put a slight twist on the idea. For the time being, stations must still file a report on their license anniversary but must account for activities engaged in only through the period ending 10 days prior. The reports must be kept in stations' public files and, when stations have them, posted on Web sites. Because the interim policy was announced March 31, stations due to report April 1 will have until April 11 to file.

C-SPAN Is Golden

C-SPAN's Presidential Timeline Giveaway won the Golden Beacon Award last week at the Cable Television Public Affairs Association's annual forum in Washington. The award, CTPAA's highest honor, goes to a campaign that combines impact and image enhancement. The campaign distributed history timelines to middle schools and generated requests from over 60,000 teachers and administrators, according to CTPAA

Cable service

NCTA President Robert Sachs last week paid tribute to the "several hundred" members of the cable business now serving in the war with Iraq. Calling them the industry's "true heroes," he wished a safe return to the "young men and women who interrupted their careers and left family and loved ones to put their lives on the line for their country." He also praised the work of cable news channels for their public service in bringing "the news and reality of war into American living rooms."