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Hollywood Offers Own Indecent Proposal - Broadcasting & Cable

Hollywood Offers Own Indecent Proposal

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Pointing to a study they say suggests a link between media concentration and indecency, Hollywood producers and writers are saying that breaking up companies like Viacom and Clear Channel might be a better way to rein in indecent programming than raising fines or applying them to performers.

The Center For Creative Voices in Media and Free Press released a study Thursday saying there was a strong link, though they could not say a causal connections between concentration of media ownership and indecency.

They cited the statistic that 96% (97 of 101) of indecency fines between 2000 and 2003 were racked up by only four companies--Viacom, Clear Channel, Entercom, and Ennis, with 88% of the radio stations not owned by those companies accounting for the other four.

The groups suggested that "speakers and the First Amendment" might be better served by "breaking up large station groups, reintroducing ownership limits, and limit vertical integration of ownership of programming and distribution.

The Center, which is made up of producers, actors, and writers and advised Warren Beatty, Tom Fontana Homicide, Oz) , Marshall Goldberg (L.A. Law) and others, has, not surprisingly, opposed applying fines to performers. It has also sought government help to carve out room on network schedules increasingly dominated by co-owned studio fare since the FCC dropped its prohibition on networks owning a stake in the syndicated profits from their shows.

While invoking TV indecency, the study focused on radio, rather than the raunchy Hollywood fare on broadcast or cable (Tom Fontana's Oz, for example), that has also drawn criticism.

The Coalition is trying to walk a fine line by recommending government regulation to address an indecency problem it has elsewhere suggested was not a problem, at least not one for the government.In a May 2004 letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell written with Kids TV Activist Peggy Charren, Center President Jonathan Rintels, co-author of the just-released study, said the FCC's crackdown on indecency was tantamount to tantamount to "ruling out quality programming." They argued instead that: "Today, with the V-chip, and cable and satellite boxes that can block programs and channels there are many technological options for parents and others to avoid television programming some might find offensive for their children or themselves. And there are always the low-tech alternatives of changing the channel or turning the television off."

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