FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has again dismissed broadcasters' protests that the commission's recent proposed fines on indecent programming have confused rather than clarified the indecency debate. Martin also expressed his support for multicast must-carry.
The March orders proposing to fine stations over $3 million for sexual content and profanity has drawn howls from broadcasters, who say the decisions have left them without a clear road map of how they can air edgy shows without actually violating laws. For example, blurring naughty bits is not assurance against an indecency finding, the FCC said.
NAB President David Rehr is one of those who said the FCC has yet to provide clear guidelines for broadcasters to follow.
The major networks' and their affiliate groups are joining together to fight the FCC's crackdown on profanity in court and at the FCC.
Speaking at the annual NAB convention in Las Vegas, Martin noted that some of the violations cited in the recent order involved the Supreme Court's famous "Seven Dirty Words" decision, based on a George Carlin routine aired on a California radio station.
Little could be more clear than that two decade-old decision, Martin said, yet broadcasters are still crossing those lines.
The chairman also reiterated his support for digital must-carry, saying that it would substantially ease the coming changeover to digital broadcasting.
If broadcasters were certain their full digital signals would be carried by cable, they would be working harder to program additional multicast channels available both over cable and the air. Consumers, in turn, would be motivated to buy an adapter for their older sets to tap into those new programming streams.
Martin called the failure of must-carry to gain traction in Washington a "missed opportunity," but says he's not likely to try and push the issue until an open seat on the five-member FCC is filled.
There is currently a hold on the nomination of Robert McDowell to the open Republican seat. Even one Senator can block presidential appointments.