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Capital Watch - Broadcasting & Cable

Capital Watch

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NABOB Backs McCain

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters has endorsed Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain's plan to make radio owners divest stations if they exceed new local-ownership limits.

New rules approved by the FCC June 2 would grandfather existing radio clusters, allowing them to remain intact regardless of whether they comply with the new rules. Arguing that old market-measurement methods created a loophole allowing one owner to control more stations in a market than Congress intended, the FCC switched to Arbitron market definitions. "These excessive-ownership situations should not have been grandfathered," said NABOB Executive Director James Winston. He also called on the FCC to reconsider its decision to include noncommercial stations in measurements of market size, a move that NABOB says lessens the loophole-closing effect of the switch to Arbitron. The group argues that radio consolidation in the past seven years has decreased opportunities for minorities to own stations.

Do Call

Cable companies are allowed to call video subscribers to market high-speed-modem, telephony or other services, even if those customers are among the millions that have signed up for the new national do-not-call registry. That's according to revised FCC rules unveiled last week.

The companies, however, must add customers to their corporate do-not-call lists if they so request. The NCTA lobbied for the provision, arguing that cable companies should have the right to market the full range of their products to existing customers. The FCC agreed: "As long as the company identifies itself adequately, a consumer should not be surprised to receive a telemarketing call from that company, regardless of the product being offered."

Broadcasters also won a minor concession. Prerecorded messages encouraging households to tune in to a radio or TV channel at a particular time for a chance at a prize or other opportunity are exempt from do-not-call restrictions as long as the calls are not also used to advertise goods or services. The FCC said it has received few complaints about the messages.

From Afghanistan to Iran

The U.S. is boosting its broadcast presence in Iran to capitalize on growing unrest there. Director of Radio Free Afghanistan Andres Ilves is moving over to head the fledgling (six-month-old) Radio Farda, targeted to Iran. Radio Farda is a joint operation of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Ilves is the first director of the service, overseeing offices in Washington and Prague. Pro-Democracy protests in Iran have heated up, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees all of the government's nonmilitary international broadcasts, says it needs to beef up in response. To that same end, VOA is debuting a nightly, Persian-language satellite-delivered TV program, News & Views, targeted to Iran.

Putting the F in FCC

Responding to calls by the Parent's Television Council to toughen indecency enforcement by the end of June, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (above) says the agency deserves an "F" grade "for the job it has failed to do in enforcing the statutes."

In a letter that also praised PTC President Brent Bozell for his indecency-battling efforts, Copps singled out the lack of FCC action against Infinity's Opie and Anthony
radio show for its St. Patrick's Cathedral sex stunt and the failure to seek revocation of the license of WKRK-FM Detroit for caller descriptions of sickening and violent sexual acts. Copps also suggested that the definition of indecent programming be changed to include graphic violence.

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