Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) took dead aim at TV violence and sex Thursday, saying TV was in the worst state ever. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin did not argue, agreeing with Rockefeller that the industry's public-information campaign on the V-Chip/ratings system was insufficient.
Rockefeller said he barely watched TV and hoped his grown kids don't. Addressing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, he said that nobody watches news anymore because there isn't any, except on cable where it was a case of who can report the latest murder first.
"Junk, sex, scandal," he summed up, saying it was entirely different from when he grew up, though he conceded that America had changed as well. "Can I allow for that?," he asked. "No," he said defiantly, "no, I don't have to with something that is publicly owned called broadcasting."
Rockefeller is reintroducing a bill that would allow the FCC to regulate violence as well as indecency. He cited Parents Television Council statistics on the rise in TV violence, then asked Martin if the industry educational take on self-regulation was working. No, said Martin, saying he continued to have concerns about both broadcast and cable content and said that industry educational efforts were insufficient.
For his part, Rockefeller argued that the FCC's efforts were insufficient as well when it came to holding broadcasters to their general public interest obligations. He said that the change in leadership in the last election meant that the FCC was going to get "a lot more attention" on what it had or hadn't done to oversee commercial broadcasters, saying he thought the commission had abandoned its responsibility. "That's a pretty strong thing to say," he added, "but I say it without any hesitation whatsoever."
Also unhesitatingly critical was Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). He said the FCC's public interested standard had been emasculated and asked Martin if he would agree to issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking on public interest standards.
Martin said he supported tougher reporting requirements and added that if broadcasters were doing all the things they said they were doing in terms of local news and other service, they shouldn't be afraid to demonstrate it. But he also said he was hesitant to start proposing what kinds of programming stations should be airing.