With the threat of indecency regulation of cable programming hanging in the air, newly christened Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin Tuesday gave cable executives very little guidance on what they could expect during his tenure.
Martin's appearance at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention had been billed as a big splash--his first major public appearance since his appointment two weeks ago.
He left industry executives hungry for more details and offered few specifics about his overall agenda.
As for indecency regulation, Martin said he expects cable executives to take the initiative in resolving the concerns of critics of their sometimes raunchy programming. "This is an opportunity for the cable industry to speak not just to me but to the consumer and the parents we hear from."
While broadcasters are subject to FCC indecency regulations and sanctions, the cable industry is not, though there are some legislators who would like to change that.
Martin noted that complaints to the FCC about television programming have zoomed from a few hundred annually to more than 1 million last year. He didn't note, however, that the bulk of that traffic was generated by one group, The Parents Television Council, and made much more easy by click-and-complain e-mail forms.
Martin, a Republican, did note that generally he believes "the marketplace is much more important than regulation." But "that doesn't mean there are no rules," he added.