February 18, 2006

CNN Trying to Be Fox News

Posted by Eric Jaffa
January 17, 2006 @ 9:23 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Media Watch, TV, Radio

Television cable news channel “‘CNN Headline News” is giving a show to right-wing radio host Glenn Beck.

Media Matters for America covers some of Glenn Beck’s radio show remarks:

Discussing disclosures from a caller who claimed to have tortured prisoners in U.S. custody: “I’ve got to tell you, I appreciate your service. … Good for you. Good for — I mean, good for you. Is it because you did it for the country? … I have to tell you, when all is said and done, I’m glad people like you are on our side.”

The family tier of Time Warner will include “CNN Headline News.” The appropriateness of a show hosted by a right-wing loudmouth who supports torture being presented as suitable for small children is debatable. Time Warner made the decision to put “CNN Headline News” in the family tier before the announcement of Glenn Beck’s show. But after the debut of the “Nancy Grace” show about violent crime on “CNN Headline News.”




Bias Against Free Speech In Selection of ‘Decency’ Panel

Posted by Eric Jaffa
January 10, 2006 @ 1:54 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Government, TV, Indecency

I was optimistic as this year started that Congress would set aside the indecency controversy for 2006.

Cable providers such as Time Warner had announced a “family-tier” of channels. The channels in that package are mostly appropriate for small children, and can be purchased separately from channels such as MTV.

Unfortunately, there are going to be two groups of decency panels convened for Senate hearings on January 19, 2006. One to discuss a new ratings system for TV, another to talk about passing indecency legislation.

On the indecency legislation panel will be “National Association of Broadcasters Joint Board Chairman Bruce Reese; Parents Television Council President Brent Bozell; CBS Executive VP Martin Franks; Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg; and Jeff McIntyre of the American Psychological Association. “

I assume that at least two of those people, Bruce Reese and Martin Franks, will oppose heavier indecency fines. Brent Bozell will support heavier indecency fines. As for Alan Rosenberg and Jeff McIntyre, I don’t know. But Jeff McIntyre has knocked “self-regulation” with regard to TV ratings, which isn’t an encouraging sign.

The big problem is that Congress should be addressing more important issues, like how to increase the supply of low-income housing. Congress shouldn’t be contemplating whether to further restrict freedom of speech. If Congress is to address freedom of speech at all, it should be investigating how to EXPAND freedom of speech.

« Brent Bozell and Jeff Jarvis »

A smaller problem is that while Brent Bozell, a well-known supporter of increasing indecency fines from outside the TV industry has been asked to testify, no one outside the TV industry known for advocating free speech has been asked to testify. Jeff Jarvis could be such a person, but hasn’t been invited.

Jeff Jarvis wrote today about his attempt to get on the panel.




Howard Stern Explains What He Considers Indecent

Posted by Eric Jaffa
January 9, 2006 @ 9:24 pm
Filed under: FCC, Cable/Satellite, Government, Indecency, Radio

During a press conference this morning, Howard Stern explained what he considers indecent.

AUDIO

Howard Stern doesn’t consider “doody” jokes indecent.

Things he does consider indecent:

• US soldiers in Iraq not having enough body armor.

• The Iraq War may have been started based on a lie.

• “The Religious Right” who oppose letting a woman choose an abortion and also oppose affirmative action for a hand up for people born into poverty.

• “The Religious Right” who like “The Taliban” are intolerant regarding contrary opinions, and also intolerant towards gays.

• The Catholic Church covering for abuse by priests by transferring the priests to another parish.

• Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) spending millions of our tax dollars on a bridge to nowhere.

(more…)




Keith Olbermann Says John Gibson Should Resign

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 27, 2005 @ 8:46 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Cable/Satellite, Media Watch, TV, Religion


John Gibson with a big grin. His blonde hair is combed back and he's wearing a blue shirt with a suit and tie.
John Gibson

Keith Olbermann is a host at cable news channel MSNBC; John Gibson is a host at cable “news” channel Fox News.

As a guest on the radio show of conservative Janet Parshall, John Gibson had the following conversation on November 17, 2005:

GIBSON: …listen, we get a little theological here, and it’s probably a bit over my head, but I would think if somebody is going to be — have to answer for following the wrong religion, they’re not going to have to answer to me. We know who they’re going to have to answer to.

PARSHALL: Right.

GIBSON: And that’s fine. Let ‘em…

Keith Olbermann said that while he used to be friends with John Gibson, this “wrong religion” talk is like something a terrorist would say. He named John Gibson as a “Worst Person in the World” on December 2, 2005. Olbermann concluded, “I’d tell you which religion John thinks is the only one that’s right, but what’s the difference? It’s not the faith that’s the issue; it’s the intolerance. John Gibson, today’s ‘Worst Person in the World.’”

John Gibson recently responded on his own radio show and on Fox News that his remarks were taken “way, way, way out of context” and the he was misquoted.

Keith Olbermann regards that as deceitful. Olbermann said tonight that Gibson has been accurately quoted, and the Gibson’s remarks are worse in context.

Olbermann concluded tonight that John Gibson should “leave the airwaves for good. Because between the remark and the denial, he has, sadly, forfeited his right to stay here.

Video at Can ‘O Fun.

« Janet Parshall Also Made Dubious Remarks About Religion »

Keith Olbermann tonight also took exception to conservative radio host Janet Parshall’s remarks to John Gibson on that radio show:

I have to tell you, I don’t know when they held this election and decided that tolerance was a transcendent value. I serve a god who, with a finger of fire, wrote, he will have no other gods before him. And he doesn’t tolerate sin, which is why he sent his son to the cross, but all of a sudden now, we jump up and down and celebrate the idea of tolerance. I think tolerance means accommodation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean acquiescence or wholehearted acceptance.

Olbermann said that the Bible verse is, “Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me,” which Olbermann interprets that people who decide to worship the God of the Bible should do so exclusively, but that other people can worship any God they choose.

Personally, I question Janet Parshall’s comment that God “doesn’t tolerate sin, which is why he sent his son to the cross.”

Isn’t the concept that the crucifiction provides a path to atone for one’s sins (not an intolerant message that anyone who sins will burn in Hell?)

Is intolerance for sin really the message of Jesus? What about Jesus saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” What about Jesus’ befriending a prostitute?

I’m Jewish, and on the holiest day, Yom Kippur, people go to temple to atone for their sins. There isn’t a sign on the temple door sayng “No sinners allowed,” nor have I ever seen such a sign on the door of a church.

Janet Parshall follows her glorification of intolerance with moderate words about “accommodation…but [not] wholehearted acceptance” and so she’s having it both ways.




The Week at SpeakSpeak

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 24, 2005 @ 4:56 pm
Filed under: SpeakSpeak, Right Watch, Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Government, Media Watch, TV, Video Games, Religion, AdWatch

• In Sacramento, California last week, about 50 protesters demanded that Wal-Mart commercialize Christmas. LINK

• Corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been casting a shadow on Congressmen Tom Delay (R-TX) and Bob Ney (R-OH) for months. But now he’s also casting a shadow over conservative writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara. It was recently revealed that Abramoff paid them to write op-eds. LINK

• Conservative columnist George Will claims there is a lot of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But he wants oil companies to drill there even if there is only “three thimbles of oil,” to strike a blow against “collectivism.” However, blogger Amanda Marcotte responds that collectivism is a good thing. She refers to the US Constitution’s purpose of promoting the “general welfare.” LINK

• US citizens are under surveillance by our government. The Washington Post describes FBI “national security letters” a new military department spying on Americans called the “Counterintelligence Field Activity,” and more. LINK

• Conservative commentator Robert Novak is leaving CNN for Fox News. Novak notes that over the years at CNN he “said some fairly outrageous things.” LINK

• Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said on the channel that “the president has violated the law” by ordering warrant-less wiretaps. LINK

• Bill O’Reilly is a “bully” like “Joe McCarthy,” writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. LINK

• New York police are disguising themselves as protesters to spy on Iraq War protesters and other activists. LINK

• Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) tried to ban the sale of certain video games to minors. A federal judge has put the ban on hold. LINK

• Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has written another racist statement against Arabs. LINK

• Actor Wil Wheaton thinks that right-wing talk radio has made his parents more right-wing. LINK

• Time Warner will offer a group of cable channels called the family tier which are all supposed to be G-rated. However, one of the channels doesn’t meet that criteria: CNN Headline News includes a show about violent crime hosted by Nancy Grace. LINK




MSNBC Now Has Less Microsoft, More NBC

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 24, 2005 @ 1:27 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, TV, Media Concentration

From the New York Times via Raw Story:

Ending a partnership that soured long ago, Microsoft and NBC announced yesterday that they would dissolve their joint ownership of the cable news channel MSNBC, with NBC taking control.

NBC has completed a deal to assume majority control of the channel immediately, with an 82 percent stake, and it will become the sole owner within two years, NBC executives said yesterday. The two companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

But the partners will continue their 50-50 ownership of the MSNBC Web site, which, partly as a consequence of its affiliation with Microsoft, is the most-used news site on the Internet.

« More On Cable News Ownership »

The NBC channels are owned by GE. Fox News and the Fox broadcast channel are owned by Rupert Mudoch’s News Corp. CNN is owned by AOL Time Warner.

Current TV,” by contrast, is independently owned. It shows short videos about current events, fashion, and music. Current TV isn’t a cable news channel in the sense of people sitting behind desks and talking about the day’s stories, but it may be the closest thing to an independent cable news channel.




‘CNN Headline News’ Should Not Be on The “Family Tier”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 23, 2005 @ 4:56 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Opinion, TV

The following is the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of SpeakSpeak.

Time Warner is planning a package of cable channels known as the “family tier.” It’s an option of subscribing to 15 G-rated cable channels.

Except that one of them isn’t G-rated, and that is “CNN Headline News.”

The cable news channel broadcasts a show about violent crime hosted by Nancy Grace. On last night’s episode she discussed an escaped rapist named Reynaldo Rapalo.

“Nancy Grace” is on “CNN Headline News” for 3 hours per weeknight (2 hours are repeats, I assume.)

Last week, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in a statement about the “family tier:”

“We selected channels that were G-rated in nature, did not include ‘live’ entertainment programming and which contained content that was generally perceived as acceptable for the entire family to view,”

“CNN Headline News” doesn’t fit the “G-rated” criteria.




Christmas Portrayals of Bush and Cheney

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 22, 2005 @ 1:20 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Government, Media Watch, TV

The cable channel “Current TV” shows short videos and cartoons.

At the Current TV website, you can watch a cartoon by Josh Faure-Brac in which George W. Bush meets Santa Claus.

They visit the North Pole. Bush observes that it isn’t very cold…

George W. Bush: Oh man, global warming’s real?

Santa Claus: Well, I don’t know, maybe you should ask Frosty the Snow Bucket!

Since Al Gore is an activist on global warming, this Current TV cartoon is fitting for a channel for which he’s the chairman. The cartoon is being shown on TV in addition to being at the website.

As for Dick Cheney, you can read a portrayal of him as Ebeneezer Scrooge at the blog “Mia Culpa.”

« More On Current TV »

The channel is available in about 20 million homes, says Alex Dolan, Current TV’s Public Relations Director.

That is only counting households where Current TV can be viewed immediately (it doesn’t count people who don’t get it but can call their cable companies to add it.)

The bulk of the households with Current TV get the channel automatically through satellite’s DirectTV, which has over 15 million customers.

It is also automatically available to most Time Warner digital-cable subscribers in New York City and Los Angeles.

People who subscribe to cable television through Comcast need to order their obscure “Digital Extra” package to get Current TV. That includes me, as I described on the day I got my cable service restored.




Brent Bozell Wants “Fox News” in the ‘Family Tier’

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 19, 2005 @ 3:14 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, PTC, Cable/Satellite, TV

Time Warner cable will introduce a “family friendly” cable programming package sometime next spring.

The concept is that instead of basic cable, which includes channels like MTV which may not be appropriate for small children, subscribers would get 15 G-rated channels (Toon Disney, Food Network, etc.). This would be in addition to the broadcast channels and some public service cable channels.

The news channels that purported to be part of Time Warner’s family tier are CNN Headline News, The Weather Channel, C-SPAN-2, and C-SPAN 3.

Conservative Brent Bozell implies that the family tier should also include Fox News (as well as CNBC and MSNBC).

However, a new article at Media Matters for America explains that Fox News isn’t always G-rated.

Fox News Channel has, as part of several recent segments, aired a series of photographs and videos of scantily-clad women, and blurred images of nude women. A Media Matters for America review of Fox News Channel from December 5 through December 15 found at least eight different segments featuring photographs or video footage of nude or nearly nude women, as well as discussions on news programs of “hot” videos, and an item on provocative attire in the workplace. One program, Your World with Neil Cavuto, a weekday business program that airs at 4 p.m. EST, featured six of the eight segments. While host Neil Cavuto offered little in the way of explicit justification for the use of the material, the segments listed below were all cast as business stories…

December 5: Your World with Neil Cavuto featured a segment on Playboy’s plans to offer “Playboy Bodcasts” for Apple’s new video-capable iPod, which allow users to download features such as “joke of the day” or “video advice from Playboy’s sexy Cyber Girls” directly onto their video player. Cavuto showed an iPod’s screen featuring the “sexy,” scantily clad women.

The article continues with more examples.

It’s acceptable for a cable news channel to show racy images. The point is that including a channel that shows racy images — like Fox News — to the family tier would undermine the concept. Which is why Time Warner was right to exclude it from that package.

« Is “CNN Headline News” always G-rated? »

“CNN Headline News” isn’t always G-rated, either. It showed the dead bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons after they were killed by the US military in Iraq.

Arguably, CNN Headline News shouldn’t be part of the family tier, either. (Though it’s G-rated a greater percentage of the time than is Fox News.)




The Week at SpeakSpeak

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 16, 2005 @ 8:07 pm
Filed under: SpeakSpeak, Right Watch, Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Government, Media Watch, TV, Flag Burning, Religion, Radio

• Bill O’Reilly admits that “Happy Holidays” isn’t offensive after all. LINK

• Hillary Clinton proposes legislation that could be used to jail a protester who burns an American flag for a year. Senators should be thinking up ways to INCREASE our freedom, but no. LINK

• Departing FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy says indecency fines are “probably the hardest area for me as a commissioner. This is one where I could argue both sides very easily. I am a firm believer in the First Amendment and the right of free speech. And at the same time, I appreciate the need to protect children.” How about writing clear rules, if one could easily argue something is indecent or that it’s not indecent under the current rules? LINK

• Meanwhile, what is “indecent” in the general sense of the term? How about Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) wasting “$223 million of pork earmarked for the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ to be used by about 50 Alaskans”? LINK

Bill O’Reilly’s reporting about bans on red-and-green clothing (Christmas colors) is false. No surprise. Will O’Reilly have to resign like Dan Rather did (for a flawed story which was more ambiguous and better researched?) LINK

• New Hampshire’s liberal radio host Arnie Arnesen: She may get fired because she’s criticized SUVs. Car dealerships are threatening to pull advertising from her radio station. LINK

Ted Koppel says ABC News has fewer foreign correspondents today than it did 30 years ago. LINK

• “A la carte” cable would mean people get exposed to less diversity in programming, says AdAge columnist Simon Dumenco. LINK

• Gay groups and the American Family Association took opposite positions on whether Ford should advertise cars in gay magazines. Ford originally said it would pull its advertising from magazines with mostly gay content. Eventually, the gay groups won. LINK

• The US military is spying on civilians who oppose the Iraq War. This includes Quakers. LINK

• Conservative groups disagree on whether Congress should mandate “a la carte” programming. The Parents Television Council and Concerned Women for America argue that a la carte is the best solution to the “indecency” problem. Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and TBN’s Paul Crouch, Jr., fear (logically) that a la carte programming would vastly decrease viewership of religious channels. LINK

• A trend in entertainment is increased consumer options in how to view content. Therefore, I argue that Congress should be hands-off for the next few years regarding indecency and mandated a la carte. Let things develop. LINK

• Bush told the NSA to spy on US citizens. LINK

• $300 million of our tax dollars are being spent on propaganda — for example, covertly planting stories in the press of other nations. That includes allies’. Planting propaganda is legal abroad, but not in the US. LINK

• Clear Channel owns billboards, as well as radio stations and concert halls. The company refused to post a billboard which would say, “‘Wal*Mart: Killing Local Businesses…One Main Street at a Time.” They had no problem hosting a billboard that states “George W. Bush, Our Leader.” LINK

• NPR is soooo liberal. If you believe the hype. If you look at statistics, however, NPR favors conservatives. LINK

Howard Stern aired his last show on broadcast radio. He was driven out by the pressure of FCC indecency fines. Sad day for free speech. Howard Stern will start a show on Sirius Satellite Radio on January 9, 2006. LINK

• Time Warner describes its “family tier,” which may debut next spring. LINK




“Family Tier” of Time Warner: Channels and Pricing

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 16, 2005 @ 5:46 pm
Filed under: PTC, Cable/Satellite, TV

Subscribers to the “family tier” from Time Warner will receive these 15 channels, according to MediaPost:

Boomerang, Discovery Kids, The Science Channel, Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Nick Games & Sports, La Familia, The Weather Channel, C-SPAN-2, C-SPAN 3, CNN Headline News, DIY Network, Food Network, HGTV, and Fit TV.

From a USA Today article by David Lieberman:

“We selected channels that were G-rated in nature, did not include ‘live’ entertainment programming and which contained content that was generally perceived as acceptable for the entire family to view,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in a statement. While prices and packages vary in different systems, Time Warner says the average Family Choice subscriber will pay $33 a month for about 35 channels. That includes the entry-level, basic service, which usually includes as many as 20 broadcast and public service channels, and $8 for a digital set-top decoder.

It seems reasonable to me that Time Warner is giving families with small children a convenient way of ordering cable TV, while at the same time avoiding content that may be inappropriate for the small kids.

« Bozell of the Parents Television Council »

Conservative Brent Bozell doesn’t see things that way:

“It is perfectly obvious Time Warner is deliberately offering a product designed to fail,” Parents Television Council President L. Brent Bozell said in a statement. “According to Time Warner, no family should want to watch sports. According to Time Warner, no family should want to receive any news channel other than Time Warner’s CNN. According to Time Warner, classic movies are not appropriate for families. And neither is religious programming.”

At the PTC website, Brent Bozell lists channels he thinks Time Warner should have included in the package, but didn’t. The following AREN’T in the family tier package:

History Channel, QVC, Turner Classic Movies, Home Shopping Network, TVLand, Biography Channel, Animal Planet, The Learning Channel, Hallmark Channel, Game Show Network, ESPN, MSNBC, ESPN2, Fox News Channel, ESPN Classics, CNBC, Outdoor Life, WORD Network, Golf Network, Eternal Word Television Network, Speed Network,Trinity Broadcasting Network, Travel Channel, Inspiration Network, CMT, Sprout, and GAC.

Bozell implies that the family tier lineup is entirely Time Warner’s decision. In reality, Time Warner has to negotiate with the content providers on these issues. I assume that the Sprout channel, which shows a lot of cartoons for small children, wasn’t included for contractual reasons.

Regarding Fox News and MSNBC, there is discussion of pornography on both channels. They don’t meet the G-rated criteria of Time Warner for the family tier.

Regarding sports channels, some athletes curse. (Expletives aren’t a big deal to me, but they are to the PTC.) Also, the two biggest “indecency” controversies of the past two years involved football: Janet Jackson exposed a breast during the Super Bowl half-time show; and during a promo for “Desperate Housewives” at a Monday Night Football broadcast, DH star Nicolette Sheridan pretended to come onto then-Philadelphia Eagle Terrell Owens.

Regarding classic movies, the “classic” movies broadcast on Turner Classic Movies aren’t necessarily appropriate for small children. TCM is showing “He Walked by Night” tomorrow morning at 7AM Central. “He Walked by Night” is a 1948 noir film about a serial killer, and it was the basis for the TV series “Dragnet.” The PTC has often complained about the crime-heavy plot lines (plots as well as imagery) of current-day television shows like CSI and NCIS.

Regarding the TVLand channel, which shows sitcoms, one of their shows is “Night Court.” The prosecutors on the show likes soliciting prostitutes. TVLand has also aired “Three’s Company,” the sex-com from the late 70s and early 80s about a man who lives with two women. These shows aren’t necessarily appropriate for small children.

« It’s not all or nothing »

A family with small children, in which the parents want to subscribe to channels different from those offered in family-tier, can order “basic cable” and easily block channels they don’t want.

All major cable and satellite providers offer such blocking technologies. Information on how to configure channel blockers is available at ControlYourTV.org.




Another Seattle Critic on the Imperfection of the “a la Carte” Model

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 16, 2005 @ 2:24 pm
Filed under: PTC, Cable/Satellite

Meanwhile, another Seattle critic explores the problems inherent in the “a la carte” cable programming model being advocated by the PTC and others.

Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer echoes my feelings; a la carte may look like the perfect solution to the indecency fanfaronade conducted by Brent Bozell, but it’s not.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission, the entity that regulates over-the-air broadcast content (including ABC’s programs), reversed itself on its opinion regarding a la carte cable, which is the ability to offer consumers cable channels piecemeal versus forcing them to buy them bundled.

While a previous study had found the idea to be financially untenable, an idea backed up by the Government Accountability Office, new FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said it was flawed. (His office’s revised report is due within weeks.) The FCC, by the way, does not regulate cable content because it is part of a paid subscription service you invite into your home. You choose whether it should be there, in other words.

But Congress is facing mounting pressure from groups such as the Parents Television Council, the group responsible for the majority of complaints filed with the FCC, and Concerned Women of America. They want to sanitize the content on MTV, FX, Comedy Central and other basic cable networks. They also insist that the V-chip, that device built into most TV sets that enables parents to block objectionable content, doesn’t work because the technology is dependent on television ratings, which aren’t consistent.

The PTC and CWA have a knack for rallying the ultra-conservative political base so dear to these legislators, many of whom are gearing up to plea for their votes in 2006.

Of course, they wouldn’t say that. From their view, they would at least prefer not to subsidize channels they don’t like or watch via other cable channels. Hence the push for a la carte pricing. If we can buy only the channels we want — all of us — we’d be guaranteed to get exactly the kind of programming we want and, ideally, our cable bills would go down.

Sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? We’re transitioning into an entertainment on demand universe; surely, entire cable channels should get onboard, and offering more than just single programs.

But a la carte doesn’t take into account the cable industry’s present economic model.

Let’s say, for example, that I rarely watch TNT. Why should I pay for it? Well, because with TNT comes the rest of the Turner cable family. And TNT commands higher licensing fees and ad rates, so without it, I’d be endangering Cartoon Network, a channel I watch all the time.

Anyway, cable companies, including Comcast, have admitted they’re thinking about offering a family tier to placate people who don’t want their MTV. What can families, average or PTC-sanctified, agree to be all-ages appropriate?

The whole business brings us back to our Lady Larken dilemma. ABC Family airs “Wildfire,” a show with adult themes. Toddler-friendly Noggin transforms into The N, which features randy teenagers. Cartoon Network has a fave of mine, “Adult Swim,” every late night but Fridays. Martin and Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican and Commerce Committee chairman lighting this fire, seem to be receptive. Even the Rev. Jerry Falwell is behind it, and doesn’t support a la carte for fear it could kill a number of religious channels. The PTC and CWA, not surprisingly, aren’t pleased because they prefer a la carte.

Nor were they thrilled at the family tier Time Warner unveiled Thursday, which includes 15 channels: Boomerang; C-SPAN 2 and C-SPAN 3; CNN Headline News; The Science Channel; Discovery Kids; Disney Channel; DIY Network; FIT-TV, Food Network; HGTV; La Familia; Nick Games & Sports; The Weather Channel and Toon Disney.

“No Animal Planet! No History Channel! No Biography or TLC!” a PTC press release wailed.

Another solution exists. Parents fed up with cable television vulgarity could simply refrain from subscribing to cable at all. Read books. Rent DVDs. Watch “Once Upon a Mattress.” Save themselves money and worry, and spare us the fear of sending everyone’s entertainment back to the ’50s.

I couldn’t care less about cable companies’ profits. I find it hard to shed tears over the prospect of TimeWarner or Comcast losing a teeny bit of money by adding a new dimension to their economic model. (The cable industry had revenues of $47 billion in 2003. Boo hoo.)

I do care about my pocketbook, though, and a la carte programming simply wouldn’t work for me.

What still would work best for everyone: Parental responsibility. And as McFarland points out, maybe we should relegate television to a less important role in our lives.

Isn’t that part of the problem?

[And as an interesting aside, Melanie McFarland first made SpeakSpeak’s radar — and we hers — when she openly questioned our decision to join the TV Watch coalition.]




Howard Stern “Reborn, Rejuvenated”

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 16, 2005 @ 1:38 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Radio, Howard

Howard Stern is looking forward to his new digs at Sirius radio, a move he’ll make in early January.

From the New york Daily News (reprinted in the Arizona Daily Star):

“You get the old Howard back,” Stern said, sitting in his still-under-construction new studio. “For those who are aficionados of the show, they would say, ‘Howard, you stopped doing a lot of things you used to do.’ And they’re right. My personal standards have been reduced. . . . You get the same guy who comes on the radio and flashes you — he opens up his brain and lets you hear everything, the ugly stuff too, the horrible stuff, the real stuff, but you’ll get that now in a way that I haven’t been able to provide since 1987.

“I feel reborn, rejuvenated.”

Stern, 51, said he left over-the-air radio because escalating FCC fines forced everyone in broadcasting to pull out of edgy content. He no longer felt he could be creative.

“What happened was the total erosion of what it is that I do,” Stern said. “I used to wake up so excited. I’d plan out my show the night before, and I’d have four or five killer (obscenity) bits, but then I’d turn it off.”

Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl didn’t help. Soon afterward, Stern was told he couldn’t air tapes of past shows — even shows that didn’t generate any complaints — because management worried they would lead to new fines.

[…]

But there is no censorship on satellite radio. And Stern plans to revisit some old material.
“What I’m going to do is go back and find everything I’ve been fined for and to make sure to do it in the first week. It will be phenomenal. You’ll see it will be so lame, you’ll see, you’ll go, ‘Who cares . . .’ It’s so ridiculous with everything going on in the world.”

[…]

[O]ne of his main concerns is, well, audience shrinkage.

The minute he ends his broadcast show today, his potential audience drops by millions, and Stern is trying to deal with the fact that not all of his audience will make the shift to Sirius.

“I’m the guy who can’t stand to give up one person in the audience,” he said. “In a way, I have such a childish view of this. I want everyone to come with me, and if they don’t, my world is wrecked. . . .

“That’s an unrealistic view — not everyone is ready to pay for radio yet, just like they weren’t ready to pay for television or bottled water.”

Projections are that Sirius Satellite Radio will have 3 million subscribers paying $12.95 a month when Stern launches.

That’s about 7 million listeners short of his audience estimates now.




FCC Commissioner: Fight Indecency with More Legislation!

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 15, 2005 @ 10:11 am
Filed under: FCC, Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Opinion, TV

A big trend in entertainment for the past few years has been increased options and control for consumers.

« Recent developments »

Families with children who subscribe to Comcast Digital Cable, for example, can use “parental locks” to block out specific programs. They can also block all programs with a certain rating.

For people who choose not to subscribe to cable or satellite at all, there are more options:

* Entire seasons of certain TV shows are available in DVD sets, not long after they aired.

* People can rent DVDs both in person and over the internet (via NetFlix and other services).

* Some TV shows can be legally downloaded over the internet.

« The near future »

Some cable providers will voluntarily offer a family tier as early as March 2006 (the details are unclear, but depending on how it’s implemented it may be valuable to some families).

Other cable providers, such as Cablevision and AT&T, may voluntarily offer a la carte programming.

« What this means »

All this suggests that now is a good time for Congress to be hands-off regarding TV content.

But an FCC commissioner doesn’t see things that way:

FCC member Michael Copps is urging Congress to move forward with measures that would curtail sexually explicit and violent material on cable TV. Appearing before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that is considering his reappointment to the commission, Copps, a Democrat, appeared decidedly unimpressed with Monday’s proposal by several cable companies, including the two largest, Time Warner and Comcast, that they provide a “family tier” of cable channels. “We’ve got to define what a family tier is. We’ve got to figure out how much it’s going to cost,” Copps told the Senate panel. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where we can say we don’t need legislation. … Let’s keep pushing. … We got a long way to go.”

If Copps means that Congress needs to pass legislation defining a “family tier,” he is wrong. The cable companies offering a family tier will define it by what channels they offer and how. Congress should focus on other things in the near future as the cable TV industry develops.

« Action »

Please tell your Senators and Congressperson to vote against any indecency bill that should come up for a vote. Free speech is more important than regulation.

There is Congressional contact information at vote-smart.org.




AdAge on the Pitfalls of the “a la Carte” Proposition

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 14, 2005 @ 1:53 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite

With the recent announcement by the cable industry that it will begin to offer subscribers a “family friendly” packaging bundle, the prospect of true “a la carte” programming is receiving lots of lip time.

Here’s Ad Age’s Media Guy on why a-la-carte, a seemingly perfect solution on paper is, at best, imperfect.

Last year, when the FCC (under Martin’s predecessor) issued a report effectively condemning a la carte, even a lot of non-liberals concurred. Republican Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, for instance, told the press that a la carte “would only result in limiting choices and driving up costs for all consumers. The United States has the most robust and diversified programming anywhere in the world and there’s a good reason for that — our government does not mandate programming choice. It’s a bad idea.”

But other conservatives freaked out — particularly Parents Television Council Executive Director Tim Winter, who declared that “the prime reason that so many people want cable choice: Cable is completely awash in raunch.”

Now, the idea that the only way to give parents choice is to restrict choice for all viewers is a classic bit of doublethink. It’s a lot like the parents of fat kids insisting that potato chips and Snickers bars be banned so that they might have the “choice” of feeding their pudgy offspring more nutritious fare. The even scarier thing is that Martin has publicly flirted with wanting to get decency laws applied to cable and satellite programming, not just broadcast.

Now, of course, I’m exercised about all this because I’m a grown man living in a free country, and I’m mortified by the idea of my government forcing Tony Soprano to say “darn” and “fudge.” But I’m also disturbed by the prospect of the further Balkanization of media.

This already happens, to a large extent, in the way that people consume news: As Kurt Andersen recently noted in New York Magazine, “Public discourse now takes place in echo chambers, each side preaching to its own choir.”

But what happens when that sort of self-selecting media consumption moves beyond politics to basic programming? Let’s not forget that the diversity of viewpoints and lifestyles shown on TV — the medium that still dominates our collective national mind share — has arguably been the most important catalyst for social progress in this country.

For instance, millions of white Americans, of course, were educated about civil rights through TV news coverage of the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., but they also learned to respect and even love black people in the form of pop-cultural figures like Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey.

It’s telling that Burns invoked national pride in praising our “robust and diversified programming,” because that’s what this debate is really about: Pushing for a la carte cable means pushing for monochromatic, undiversified culture. Even as red-state sensibilities have saturated TV — witness the rise of squeaky-clean fare like “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars,” not to mention those recent Pope John Paul II bio-pics on both ABC and CBS — the Kevin Martins of the world would seek to prevent children and adults from getting exposed to any more of that nasty blue-state degeneracy. (The PTC, for starters, seems to be very, very afraid of gay TV characters.)

A final irony of the conservative a la carte crusade is that conservative-favorite Fox News could never have gotten off the ground in an a la carte world. (Everybody would have said, “I already have one 24-hour news channel; why would I pay for another?”) Same thing with Pax (now known as “i”), and countless others.

Of course, if Kevin Martin really is serious about wanting to extend the FCC’s powers of censorship over cable, there’d be one upside: He won’t have to hire nearly as many censors to monitor the ever dwindling number of cable offerings.




A Family Tier for Cable TV: Will It Be Enough to Calm Things Down?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 13, 2005 @ 6:51 pm
Filed under: Action, Cable/Satellite, Government, Opinion, TV, Indecency

« Update of December 16, 2005 »

It turn out that people who order the family tier won’t get MTV and similar channels. Details here.

« Original Main »

A group of cable channels intended for families with small children could be a good idea. But it depends on the details.

From David Ranii for The News & Observer of North Carolina:

Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith Cocozza confirmed that the company will introduce a family-friendly package soon.

“The family tier we are considering would be offered as an addition to basic-only service,” he said. Because the basic tier is the minimum level of service subscribers can receive, such a tier would be available at additional cost to all subscribers.

Does Keith Cocozza mean that families who just want “The Disney Channel” and other G-rated channels would still pay for racier channels such as MTV and FX?

If so, this announcement will just delay the “indecency” controversy (what should Congress do about indecency, if anything?) until the day the service is offered. (The packages could materialize “as early as March,” says Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.)

The family tier, as described, won’t satisfy critics a bit. Groups like the Parents Television Council regard having to pay for MTV to get other cable channels as a big issue.

« The family-tier should be stand-alone and low-priced »

I believe that the cable industry should say that people who only want “The Disney Channel” (and similarly G-rated channels) can get just those channels for a low-price.

Offering G-rated channels alone for a low-price would calm things down. It would stop Congress from trying to extend “indecency” regulations to cable and from mandating a la carte programming.

I don’t want Congress to pass an indecency bill. A family tier that is only available to people who subscribe to basic cable may not be enough to stop Congress from passing an indecency bill.

« Update of December 16, 2005 »

It turn out that people who order the family tier won’t get MTV and similar channels. Details here.




Bob Dylan, Disc Jockey

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 13, 2005 @ 5:12 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Media Watch, Radio

There are two satellite radio companies in the US.

Sirius has signed talk-show host Howard Stern, who starts on January 9, 2006.

XM has liberal talk network Air America Radio and has signed musician Bob Dylan, who will start in March.

Dylan is a singer-songwriter-guitarist. For one hour per week, he’ll be playing the music of other musicians.

Some of Dylan’s own songs are political, including this song about war and peace released in 1963:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.




Salon on Family Tiering

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 13, 2005 @ 12:55 pm
Filed under: FCC, Cable/Satellite

Salon.com joins just about every other major publication today in discussing the cable industry’s announcement that it will begin offering family-friendly programming packages.

Kevin Martin took the helm of the Federal Communications Commission this March with a clear mission: to crack down on basic cable’s most violent, vulgar and scantily clad programs. Time and again, he warned the industry that the status quo would not stand. Americans should not have to pay for ribald skits on Comedy Central or MTV, he argued, if all they wanted was to watch the Iraq war on CNN or penguins on the Discovery Channel. The cable industry, for its part, fought back against his threats, warning of protracted lawsuits and spiraling cable costs. Until Monday, no one knew who would blink first.

At a morning hearing, some of the nation’s biggest cable providers caved to Martin’s demands. Starting next year, they will offer a “family-choice” plan of basic cable programming to consumers. No longer will households be forced to pay for Jon Stewart and “South Park” in order to get access to Anderson Cooper and SpongeBob SquarePants. Cable companies have volunteered to make the changes, removing from the table a possible legal challenge on First Amendment grounds. But industry observers say the new pricing system is the direct result of government pressure. “There is an element of regulatory extortion at work here,” says Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation. “Everybody in town knows that.”

[NCTA President] Kyle McSlarrow… made it clear that the industry still strongly opposes any direct government regulation of cable content. “These individual decisions made by cable operators were not easy decisions,” McSlarrow explained. In the past, the industry has argued that the economic model of basic cable, which provides dozens of channels at one price, depended on giving some households channels they would not watch. From his downtown office, FCC chairman Martin quickly offered his blessing for the deal. “I am pleased,” he said in a statement. “Offering a family-friendly package has always been one of the options I supported.”

[…]

However, Dan Isett, director of government affairs for the Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog group with ties to the religious right, said PTC is still not satisfied with the cable industry’s peace offering. “It’s a good step, but it doesn’t do anything about the fundamental problem,” said Isett, noting that there are still many shows filled with mature content. He also worries about how family-friendly programming will be defined. For instance, Isett said cable providers’ family plans should not include channels like ABC Family, which shows PG-13 movies, Cartoon Network, which has late-night adult-themed cartoons, and TBS, which shows edited reruns of the HBO hit “Sex and the City.”

If the new family plans catch on, the biggest loser in the new deal is likely to be Viacom, which operates several of the cable stations with the raciest content, including MTV, BET, Comedy Central, VH1 and Logo, a nascent channel that targets the gay and lesbian market. Family groups have also assailed original shows like “Nip/Tuck” and “The Shield” on F/X, which is owned by News Corp., as well as weekly WWE wrestling programs, which are shown on several different basic cable networks. The new family plans could pressure those cable channels into censoring some of their shows, or risk the loss of cable fees and viewers.

But it remains unclear how popular the new family option will be. Though violence and sex on television has long been a hot topic in Congress, consumers have shown little interest in taking advantage of available channel-blocking technology, like the V-chip. A few years ago, satellite provider DirecTV offered a family-choice tier of about 10 channels for just $5 each month. The program was folded after a short time because there was little consumer interest. “We didn’t hear anything from our subscribers that they missed in any way the stand-alone tier,” a DirecTV spokesman told the trade publication Satellite Business News. In fact, no one seemed to notice the change.

« Readers and consumers respond »

The most interesting aspect of the Salon piece is the response it’s garnered from readers. Here’s a selection.

Why don’t you stop on it and post your own?

Dear Parents Television Council,

I cannot thank you enough for your tireless efforts to keep the television sanitized and pure for my nonexistant children. When my 26-54 year old girlfriend and myself sit down to watch television, it is a great comfort to note that one day, there will be no chance that we might inadvertantly select a program that could endanger a child who might happen to wander in through our locked front door.

It is comforting to reflect on this future – we will be able to flip the dial at ease, completely safe from the possibility that a stray nipple might offend a passer by who is peering intently into our living room from the sidewalk outside. We will not have to worry about becoming accidentally aroused by a racy image, or cringing at the sight of blood (unless Fox News is talking about what a bad man Saddam was).

It is, in short, reassuring to know that you fight for a world in which my childfree household will be perfectly safe for children. Only by sacrificing our options as adults can we create a world that is fit for raising children - regardless of whether we have any children to raise!

Sincerely,

Rich Pizor

* * * * *

If I could get rid of ESPN and all its siblings and get BBC and many of the upper tier stations, I would be a happier cable customer.

I don’t understand why parents need the cable companies to do the job of parenting, with blocking of stations available parents already have some control. There are also the words “NO, you can’t watch that.”

– redtabby

* * * * *

My cable company allows me to block stations. My daughter is only 2, so when she’s old enough to work a remote control, I’ll block MTV. I blocked Fox “News”. It felt pretty good to do so. I don’t want or need Fox “News” or the other 25 “news” stations. I‘d drop the “religious” networks, too. (I wouldn’t doubt it if the FCC imposed a higher fee for not carrying these networks) I wouldn’t doubt it if the FCC goes after the Discovery and Science channels because they have programming on (gasp!) dinosaurs and cavemen, which didn’t really exist because they’re not in the Bible.

– blonde0727

* * * * *

Nothing against people with kids, but why can’t I demand the same thing? Why can’t I cut the channels I find offensive? The hunting/fishing channels. The evangelical nutbag channels. Fox News. The YES Network.

Offensive is in the eye of the beholder. And those of us without children also have legitimate preferences and tastes. Why are we not similarly catered to?

– LaurieNY

* * * * *

I can think of a lot of channels I’d rather not pay for.

TBN, for one. This is the main reason Pat Robertson and his ilk are against ala-carte, because people like me click through on my way to Spike TV to watch dubbed Japanese game shows. Like many people, Pat Robertson gives me the jibblies.

What might fly though, is a system where you pay by the minute, like a phone plan. Call it “universal Pay-Per-View.” You get access to EVERYTHING, HBO, the Playboy channel, EVERYTHING included, and you vote with your subscriber dollars for quality TV. Nothing on? Turn the damn thing off and quit wasting money. People might get really interested in that interactive program guide you get with digital cable.

So what would be a reasonable rate per hour? I’d suggest the following:

Commercial-supported channels, plus PBS: $0.10/hr., $1.00/day max.

Commercial-free channels: $0.20/hr to $0.50/hr, depending on content. “Hey, you’ve seen that stupid Dodgeball movie ten times already? How about giving me a break?”

Think of the savings in bandwidth!

– djansing

* * * * *

Religious Conservative Reasoning

Fundamentalists and many of the deeply conservative types DO want to control what everyone else watches/does.

Their reasoning: they believe ANY access to sex, bad language, porn, violence, whatnot and so on will damage the community as a whole…essentially, that ANYONE being able to watch (or do)anything ‘inappropriate’ hurts community morals and affects everyone’s life.

What they really want is the kind of totally policed community that the delightful Puritans enforced so merrily. They won’t stop pushing for their ‘real’ aim - that of sanitizing and censoring everything in sight.

– Cynthia Montgomery




Here Comes the Family

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 13, 2005 @ 11:51 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite

Cable giants Time Warner and Comcast announced yesterday that they will begin to offer a “family friendly” programming package to their customers. National Cable Television Association president Kyle McSlarrow says the effort is intended, in part, to fend off government intervention in cable and satellite content.

The Associated Press quotes McSlarrow: “I really hope that we can take mandates off the table. If the government intrudes into this space, it will get it wrong.”

The Wall Street Journal explained the move and added that it seems to have temporarily satisfied Senate Commerce chair Ted Stevens:

This package of programming would allow consumers to get a basic package of channels that doesn’t force them to pay for channels such as MTV that are now standard fare with a cable subscription and can carry risque programming, a major objection of parent-advocacy groups and some politicians.

It is the cable operators’ way of offering a compromise that they hope will avoid a congressional mandate to sell service a la carte, with consumers picking and choosing individual channels. While popular with consumers and advocacy groups, a la carte has been vehemently opposed by some cable operators and programmers that say it would hurt their revenue.

Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a hawk on indecency issues, has long advocated a family-friendly tier of channels and applauded the cable operators’ announcement yesterday. The powerful chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, also approved of the move and hinted it would help alleviate the need for any indecency legislation next year.

“Well, I’d say [there’s] no need for legislation now. We have to give it a chance to work and see if it works,” Mr. Stevens told reporters.

Brent Bozell, who’s been agitating for family-friendly programming all along, is not impressed. “It’s not going to work. It’s not the right answer,” he told the Journal. “The only solution is to let parents decide what family-friendly programming is. I don’t think Hollywood should decide for parents what [their] family should see.”

YES! He finally admits it: The ultimate solution to the “indecency” problem (which, by the way, Bozell had a large hand in creating) is parental responsibility and intervention.

It’s about freakin’ time.

But seriously, what exactly does Bozell want, anyway? (Except to keep his cherished media spotlight shining bright….) Who else ought to decide which channels comprise a family-friendly package? The government? Politicians trying to keep the Party (and their big donors) happy? Brent Bozell or Don Wildmon or Pat Robertson?

The cable companies are making a big step towards shutting down (and shutting up) the constant whinging coming from folks like Bozell. Though it’s a concession, it’s also a good-faith effort to keep a certain part of the market happy.

Bozell should just shut his mouth already and say “thank you.”

More in the New York Times, USA Today, LA Times, and Washington Post.




“Now Is One of Your Last Chances to Hear Him Bleeped”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 11, 2005 @ 7:06 pm
Filed under: Action, FCC, Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Government, TV, Indecency, Radio, Howard

This title is the slogan that cable channel Comedy Central is using to advertise Howard Stern’s interview with Jon Stewart on Tuesday’s “The Daily Show.”

Comedian Howard Stern is moving from broadcast radio, in which indecency is illegal, to satellite radio, where it’s legal to say almost anything.

Indecency is vaguely defined as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

Please let your Congressperson and Senators know that you DON’T want indecency regulations applied to satellite radio (or satellite television or cable television). In other words, please ask Congress to maintain free speech on those systems.

You can find contact information for Congress at
www.vote-smart.org.




Cable Capo on Government Regulation: “If You Let the Government in Now, Ten Years from Now You’re Going to be Screwed”

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 8, 2005 @ 11:34 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite

Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable Television Association, spoke at a media conference yesterday. McSlarrow stated plainly what he thinks of the push for regulating content on cable and satellite TV, and of the plan — supported by the Parents Television Council — to force broadcasters to offer a la carte programming.

“A la carte is just such an extreme, Big Government micromanagement of the public sector,” McSlarrow said. Rather than go down that path, McSlarrow said he believes that cable’s menu of parental controls options should continue to be pushed by operators, an idea that has found favor with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Ala.), who called together the Senate hearing last week that pushed the issue back into the headlines.

Should the federal government wedge itself into the decency fray in any further regulatory capacity, the cable industry faces the prospect of having an uninvited guest in its house for the foreseeable future, McSlarrow warned. “When the government comes into something, they never leave,” he said.

Of the three options FCC chairman Kevin Martin has proposed as the means to manage the decency question — enforced content standards, the creation of a family tier and a la carte — none are exactly being embraced by the NCTA. McSlarrow was skeptical about developing a mandated family tier, saying he was confident that “if Congress got into the business of tiering, they would get it exactly wrong.” Instead, McSlarrow is pushing for a more laissez-faire approach: “I’ve never seen the government do anything well. The marketplace gets things right all the time.”

While it has been reported that Comcast and Time Warner Cable are both looking into offering their subscribers a separate kids’ tier, McSlarrow was quick to remind investors that the cable industry has yet to hit on any kind of unified tiering decision. “The individual providers are weighing their options, but I don’t get into the middle of programming and distribution agreements.”

Other issues McSlarrow addressed on Thursday were retransmission consent (”I have a badly divided organization on that issue”) and the FCC’s revisitation of the 30 percent ownership cap for cable operators, which Comcast will brush against once its joint acquisition of Adelphia is completed next year.

No matter how the debate begins to shape up in the coming months, McSlarrow suggested that the political climate in Washington made it difficult to envision any major communications legislation getting passed in 2006. The NCTA also tempered his assessment of the nation’s policy makers somewhat, saying that he was confident that Sen. Stevens and his confreres will “ensure a fair regulatory environment” for all comers when the time comes to reassess the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

More at MediaWeek.




PTC Backs Off Cable Indecency Regulation, Offers “Compromise”

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 7, 2005 @ 12:17 pm
Filed under: FCC, Cable/Satellite, Indecency

Parents Television Council gadfly-in-chief Brent Bozell has offered to drop his push for indecency regulation of cable/satellite channels, provided that Congress “quickly” passes legislation increasing indecency fines to $500,000 per incident. Bozell’s “compromise” also asks the Feds to require cable and satellite providers to offer a la carte programming.

From Broadcasting & Cable:

In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, Bozell urged Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) to “quickly” pass legislation to boost indecency fines to $500,000 per incident (it is now $32,500 per) and to require cable to provide channels a la carte so that viewers can reject unwanted content.

If they will do that, he says, then “if the industry wants to air this indecent programming, it can do so on cable television, which is not governed by federal indecency regulations. The top-six media companies own two-thirds of the networks on cable, so they have innumerable delivery vehicles on which they can air this material. Thus, their artistic freedom is insured.”

Does anyone really believe that Bozell and his lapdogs are dropping this bone? Picture Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown.

The PTC may back off their immediate campaign to rid cable TV of programming intended for adults. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the issue is moot for them.

And does Bozell really think he’s important and powerful enough to give the government an ultimatum? (Yes, unfortunately, he does.)




Video Director Upset about MTV Edits

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 7, 2005 @ 11:26 am
Filed under: Obscene!, Cable/Satellite

MTV — though in the news most often for airing lots of content (i.e., bikini-ed boobs) not necessarily inherent in its name (i.e., Music Television) — is now taking heat for requiring a video director to leave the mammaries on the cutting room floor.

Michael Palmieri, director of a video for music group The Strokes, is railing against MTV execs.

From Aversion:

Apparently forgetting he was crafting a promotional video for a network known for blurring out gang signs, bleeping casual drug references and avoiding controversy like Jerry Garcia avoided sobriety, director Michael Palmieri posted a lengthy complaint list about MTV’s forced cuts of The Strokes’ “Juicebox” video. The video, which revolves around seminaughty encounters between couples of all shapes, sizes and sexual orientations, was chopped out at 40 places to make it to the air, according to Palmieri’s statement.

“RCA wants to censor the first version because they think it’s too violent and won’t even show it to the band,” he wrote. “MTV wants to censor an approved version because it’s so unsettling. I suggest using censors as a way of getting around the problem like ‘scene deleted.’ The band doesn’t want to use censors on the censored version as it censors their own air time. To be fair, the band didn’t want to use censors for another reason:They were tired of going up against MTV and losing the battle. They’ve been doing that for five years.”

No worries, though. The cleaned-up version of the “Juicebox” video can be viewed at MTV’s website. Though it’s boob-free, it does feature kissing lesbians; a vomiting man; two men stealing away into a bathroom stall; and a bizarre series of scenes involving a wealthy dowager scrubbing her floor with champagne while her panting Great Dane looks on. (You’re on your own there. I’m not nearly weird enough to read into that one.)




Producer of ‘Howard Stern On Demand’ Searches for Racy Material

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 7, 2005 @ 7:08 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, TV, Radio, Howard

Howard Stern is a controversial talk-radio host.

Videos of his radio show are now available to digital cable subscribers, via pay-per-view. Comcast is one of the companies selling these video viewings.

Doug Goodstein has the job of combing through material that may have been censored (like pixilated breasts) on Howard Stern’s E! Show to present it uncensored for pay-per-view consumers. (E! is a “basic” cable channel, meaning that like CNN and MTV, it is part of a package that most cable TV subscribers receive. Legally, “basic cable” channels have as much right to show bare breasts as pay-per-view, but traditionally, bare breasts aren’t shown on “basic cable.” )

Goodstein is profiled in the Wall Street Journal, “Stern’s ‘Anti-Censor’ Combs for Controversy” by Joe Flint.




Right-Wing Bias at C-Span

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 5, 2005 @ 6:53 pm
Filed under: Action, Cable/Satellite, Media Watch, TV

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), publisher of “Extra!,” conducted a study of C-Span’s “Washington Journal”:

To test C-SPAN’s claims of fairness, Extra! studied Washington Journal’s guestlist, tabulating all 663 guests that appeared on the show in the six-month period from November 1, 2004 to April 30, 2005.

…Despite its declaration of balance, the Washington Journal hosted journalists from right-leaning opinion magazines more often than it did those from the left. For instance, the conservative Weekly Standard furnished three guests, as did the like-minded National Review (including National Review Online). Only two guests from the liberal American Prospect were invited on the Journal, and only one guest from the left-leaning Nation.

When opinion journalists from all outlets were included, the right-leaning bias was nearly as strong: 32 right-of-center journalists appeared, vs. 19 left-of-center reporters (even counting editor Peter Beinart, the New Republic’s pro-war editor, as being on the left). Perhaps this tilt to the right could be rationalized if right-wing magazines were distinctly more popular than their counterparts on the left, but the reverse seems to be true; Mother Jones and The Nation both best National Review’s circulation numbers by a wide margin, and The Progressive outsells the Weekly Standard and American Spectator.

If you are concerned about right-wing bias, please mention the FAIR study to C-Span by emailing: .