Washington Watch


FCC To Seek Indecency Clarity

The FCC is expected to release a package of indecency actions, including a mix of fines and dismissals, that will have been voted on by the commissioners rather than issued by the Enforcement Bureau. That would help free up some license renewals held up by the content reviews, and could signal a trend of more commissioner-issued indecency actions.

Enforcement Bureau notices of apparent liability, or complaint denials, do not have to be voted on by the commissioners. For instance, the initial finding that U2 singer Bono's f-word on NBC's Golden Globes broadcast wasn't indecent was not voted on by the commissioners, unlike the reversal of that decision.

Sources say FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wanted to release the actions so that there could be more clarity (and fewer Bono-like reversals) to FCC indecency enforcement going forward. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has said he would like to see the commissioners more directly involved in indecency decisions.

NAB Urges Quick Rehr Pick

The hunt for a successor to National Association of Broadcasters President Eddie Fritts has left a near-unanimous board with one holdout.

The candidate to replace Fritts, David Rehr, head of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, is a Republican, K Street-connected lobbyist. He is also described as energetic and a successful fundraiser. Fritts will remain atop the association until April.

Raycom Defends Educational 'Sabrina'

Raycom has asked the FCC to deny the United Church of Christ's challenge to its TV-station license.

The FCC requires TV stations to provide at least three hours a week of educational programming in order to keep their license. UCC said Raycom's airing of animated series Sabrina did not qualify as core educational programming, as Raycom asserted, and challenged the station's license late last month.

The station, WUAB Cleveland, countered in its FCC filing that the complaint was simply the UCC trying to replace the station's programming choices with its own. Sabrina is from distributor DIC Entertainment, which offers shows to hundreds of TV stations and has repeatedly defended itself from critics who say they do not meet FCC standards.

Viacom and UCC Take Kids Rules to Court

The battle over new DTV kids rules has wound up in court. Both the United Church of Christ and Viacom have withdrawn their FCC petitions for review of the rules. Instead, Viacom has asked a federal court to throw them out, while the UCC wants them remanded as arbitrary and capricious.

Viacom argues that the rules should be vacated because they exceed the commission's authority, are unconstitutional, violate administrative procedures, and are “otherwise contrary to law.”

By contrast, the UCC says the rules do not go far enough, citing the lack of a total ban on interactive advertising and the preemptions of kids programming the rules permit.

Time Warner Lobbyist Bentley Dies

Shawn Bentley, 41, a veteran lobbyist and attorney who was a key crafter of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act and helped secure satellite carriers' ability to carry local TV stations, died of cancer Sept. 29 at Fairfax (Va.) Hospital.

At the time of his death, Bentley was VP, intellectual property and global public policy, for Time Warner, in Washington. He helped protect the company's intellectual property assets, concentrating on HBO, Warner Bros., Turner and New Line. He is survived by his wife, Becky, and daughters Kathryn and Samantha.