Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Meeting with the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

posted by Nell Minow

Yesterday I attended a meeting with Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to talk about media and family issues. It was arranged by the Parents Television Council, which has been very active on issues of non-family-friendly content and especially on “cable choice,” unbundling of cable channels so that consumers can buy only the channels they want.

Chairman Martin spoke frankly to us about his views and his frustrations. He, too, believes that consumers should not be forced to pay for channels they do not want to watch. But there is so much money at stake that industry is pouring a lot of money into opposition and it is not likely that legislative proposals will get much support. He has some hope that at the local level, as communities select their cable providers, they may be able to insist on unbundling. The Chairman also looks to local communities to oppose the licenses of broadcast stations that do not meet their commitment to the public interest. He pointed out that local complaints led to the largest fine in the Commission’s history, $24 million paid by Univision for claiming that it had three hours of children’s programming when what they were airing was a Spanish language soap opera. He said that what he found even more outrageous was something over which the FCC had no authority. “Sesame Street,” originally created with government funding and broadcast at no charge over PBS stations, will be moving to cable on an exclusive basis when television goes all-digital next year. This also slows down the creation of an all-children’s public television channel because they will not have access to the content. The Chairman feels strongly that programming created with public money should not be able to sell exclusive rights to channels that are not available to everyone.

PTC’s Tim Winter commented on the meeting and the issues he finds important.


PTC has pioneered activism that holds advertisers accountable for the programs they sponsor, and their website has a lot of very useful informtation about television programs and policy initiatives.



  • Big_Dave_T

    Oh, this is so wrong. Thanks for publicizing this. I don’t see much in the mainstream media about corporate media types conspiring like this against the average consumer. Wonder why.
    I’m not so sure the answer is to just kick it down to the local level and figure they will do right by the average joe. Every so often our local government has to “renew” or something the franchise agreement with Comcast cable. I wrote my city once to complain that Comcast had discontinued the local weather service, broadcast continuously and live from a regional national weather service, in favor of “The Weather Channel” which only broadcast local weather “on the eights.” As a youth soccer coach, I depended on a live weather service to decide whether or not to cancel practice because of inclement weather. But The Weather Channel was a poor substitute because of its puff pieces, canned weather programing and lots of commercials.
    The local city council quoted from my letter, railed against Comcast, but complained they were powerless to do anything. Do you think local governments will take on billion dollar corporations when some, like Disney I see, don’t even think the federal government has the legal authority to force cable conglomerates to unbundle?
    Meanwhile, I just upgraded to a digital premium tier of channels and I see NOW that there IS a digital channel dedicated to local live weather coverage (so you have to pay extra to get it). With the monster storms that just devastated the south, I think the public absolutely should have the right to turn on the TV and instantly know if a line of killer tornados is moving their way at 70 miles an hour . . . instead of seeing an ad for antihistamines on The Weather Channel.
    I’m gathering that PTC advocates writing our Congressman and voicing our opinions. Fine, I’ll do that. If MM there has any other ideas–hea, maybe we can somehow nominate you to be on the FCC!–I would appreciate hearing them.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Big Dave. My dad was Chairman of the FCC in the Kennedy Administration, so I think that’s enough for one family! As I said in my post, the PTC has been very effective in getting advertisers to pull out of offensive programs. As Tim Winter, a former network executive says, the networks only care about viewers because that is what they sell to advertisers; their revenues come from advertisers, so that is who they ultimately serve. And the FCC does respond to complaints. Their contact information is here. They have jurisdiction over broadcast station licensing, junk faxes, telemarketing, and obscenity/indecency. I hope you and others will let them know what you think.

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