The FCC will get a mess of complaints about the November 10 episode of Fox’s animated Seth MacFarlane comedy Family Guy after Parents Television Council encouraged members today to file broadcast indecency complaints with the commission. PTC says it sprang into action because the episode contained explicit jokes about rape, molestation, sexual exploitation of children — and the “sexualized use of food and perverse ‘internal defrosting’ of frozen hot dogs.” PTC sent out word of the campaign this morning to the media, with a helpful partial transcript of the episode:
- Upset at being threatened by a bully and challenged to a fight, teenage Meg runs into the girl’s restroom. She finds pedophile Quagmire inside.
Meg: “What are you doing in here?”
Quagmire: “This is my base of operations.”
Quagmire’s phone beeps. Voice on phone: “Mr. Quagmire, the girl’s gym class will be in the showers in twenty minutes.”
- Quagmire recounts being bullied by a girl when he was in high school: “That was the beginning of a long, abusive relationship. It’s one thing if you put your penis inside-out in the safety of your own bedroom. But to have it done in the cafeteria? To this day, I can’t have sex with a woman against her will without thinking about rape.” Read More »
This should temporarily quiet those who feared that Tom Wheeler would be in the pocket of the wireless phone industry, which he used to represent. The new FCC chairman sent a letter today to CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade group, saying that “enough time has passed” and it’s time for service providers to unlock their devices “voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate.” He wants a “full unlocking rights policy” to appear in the CTIA Consumer Code “before the December holiday season.” The goal is to clear the way for consumers to use any mobile phone or tablet with any service provider. FCC staff have been working with CTIA to develop a new policy. The letter says the two sides now disagree on one thing: whether service providers should notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, or simply unlock them, without a fee. “Absent the consumer’s right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell,” Wheeler writes.
Related: FCC Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules
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In new Chairman Tom Wheeler’s first open FCC meeting since his confirmation late last month, the commission today eased the rules on foreign ownership of broadcast stations. Dispensing with the old 25% cap, now overseas companies … Read More »
An old Conan promo that simulated the nails-on-chalkboard sounds of the Emergency Alert System looks have cost TBS $25,000. The Federal Communications Commission this week alerted TBS it is slapping the cable network with a fine in that amount over a 2012 Conan promo it telecast that used the well-known sounds intended to warn viewers of national emergencies.
The FCC — the government agency charged with fining those who misuse the distinctive EAS sounds — has given Turner notice of the fine for “the transmission of false distress signals,” unless it can dissuade the commission within 30 days.
The FCC this past February launched an investigation into a viewer complaint about a 2012 promo for TBS’s Conan O’Brien late-night show. Turner admitted, the FCC said, that it produced and distributed a promotion, for use prior to April 26, 2012, that included a “sound effect” in part derived from an online source, which the network insisted was not part of the actual EAS code, but did include a prerecorded “sound burst” followed by a “bars and tone” sound. Turner “admits that the promotion was not made in connection with an actual national, state or local emergency or authorized test of the EAS,” the FCC said. Turner also argued the promo was produced within such a “tight timeframe” that the production team never submitted it for S&P review. Since May of ’12, all promos for Conan’s show have undergone S&P scrutiny, TBS pledged, according to the FCC.
Turner declined comment on Wednesday. Read More »
I’m stunned by some of the appointments Tom Wheeler just announced as part of his plan to “hit the ground running.” He snagged Public Knowledge co-founder and CEO Gigi Sohn — one of the smartest advocates in the public interest community — to be Special Counsel for External Affairs. (Public Knowledge says that VP Michael Weinberg and COO Brooke Hunter will become Acting Co-Presidents.) The corporate community also has a tested ally at the new FCC with Philip Verveer, a longtime communications and antitrust lawyer who’ll be Senior Counsel. Verveer and his wife, Melanne, are long-time pals of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “With critical work to be accomplished for the American people and the Internet becoming ever more important in the lives of consumers and businesses across the nation, this team provides an excellent mix of governmental, private-sector and public-interest expertise,” Wheeler says. “They will join the many talented and dedicated professionals of the FCC, as we work to continue serving the public interest during an era of great technological change.”
Here’s the full list of changes from the FCC: Read More »
The FCC enacted the rules in 1975 to help broadcasters and the NFL: Regulators say that if a sports league requires a TV station to black out a game – usually a football match that isn’t sold out — then cable and satellite distributors can’t offer it in the community either. But that may not serve the public interest “at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games,” Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn says today to explain why she circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to possibly scrap the rules. How much impact would that have? Possibly little. It wouldn’t prevent sports leagues, broadcasters and pay TV providers from “privately negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events,” she says. Indeed, the FCC notes on its website that the rules are “rarely involved in the sports blackouts you may have experienced” because they’re almost all due to contract terms between sports leagues and distributors.
Related: NFL Forcing Orlando TV Viewers To Watch Losing Jaguars
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Just hours after Sen. Ted Cruz pulled his hold on the nomination today, the Senate unanimously confirmed Tom Wheeler as the next chair of the FCC. The GOP senator from Texas had put a hold on the nomination under the premise he objected to Democrat Wheeler’s vague response to questions about whether the FCC should require TV stations and cable operators to disclose the identities of political advertisers. On Tuesday, Cruz said he’s met with Wheeler and discussed the issue to his satisfaction. Nonetheless, it was a confirmation a long time coming. President Obama picked the former cable and mobile phone industry lobbyist in May to replace Julius Genachowski as chairman. At the time Obama said he hoped for “a speedy confirmation process.” He didn’t get that wish but he did eventually get his guy. Read More »
Listen to (and share) episode 55 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. In this special edition of the podcast, Deadline’s executive business editor talks with Harvard Business School Professor Anita Elberse about her new book, Blockbusters: Hitmaking, Risktaking And The Big Business Of Entertainment, and what it means for making movies in Hollywood these days. David also talks with host David Bloom about how much longer the big bull run for media stocks can continue; a sudden hiccup in the confirmation of a new FCC chairman; and where Hulu might be headed under its just-named CEO as it considers taking on Netflix.
Deadline Big Media, Episode 55 (MP3 format)
Deadline Big Media, Episode 55 (MP4a format) Read More »
The Republican senator from Texas has put a hold on the nomination of Tom Wheeler as the new chairman of the FCC, stopping the confirmation process that had been on the fast-track as late as last night. Ted … Read More »
Here’s where media companies will feel the impact of the federal government shutdown most immediately and, for now, acutely. The FCC said this morning that it has suspended the 180-day clock it informally gives itself to determine whether pending … Read More »
Listen to (and share) episode 52 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s executive business editor talks with host David Bloom about a proposed FCC rule that may derail the recent TV station gold rush; the very different rush for Apple’s new gold iPhones and all those other colors; themes and memes out of the big Goldman-Sachs investor conference and Blackberry’s really bad quarter and plans to go private with a buyout from minority shareholder Fairfax Holdings.
Deadline Big Media, Episode 52 (MP3 format)
Deadline Big Media, Episode 52 (MP4a format) Read More »
Anyone who does business with the FCC had better watch out. Most of the agency’s operations will be put on hold Tuesday unless lawmakers can agree on a spending bill for the fiscal year that begins October 1. A deal looks unlikely after the Senate passed a continuing resolution today that stripped out provisions in the House version that seek to defund the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare). House Speaker John Boehner says he won’t accept the Senate’s bill. An impasse would force the government to shut non-essential services, and that would hit the media industry hardest at the FCC. The agency said today that 98% of its 1,754 employees would be furloughed. Depending on how long things drag out, the agency might have to postpone the October 15-29 window for those who want to apply for low power FM radio licenses. Work would also stop to approve TV station deals including Gannett’s $1.5B acquisition of Belo and Tribune’s $2.7B purchase of Local TV.
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UPDATED 5:34 PM: Comcast has issued a statement on the FCC’s decision. “We are disappointed that the FCC failed to constrain the Media Bureau’s overly broad construction of the News Neighborhooding Condition,” says Sena Fitzmaurice, the company’s VP Government Communications. “As it is currently being interpreted, the condition goes well beyond the express language of the FCC’s Comcast-NBCUniversal Order and what is justified by the evidence in that case. The FCC’s interpretation very likely will lead to significant and unwarranted burdens on us, our customers, and other programming networks. We are evaluating our options.”
PREVIOUSLY: Bloomberg TV prevailed on the main points in its multi-year dispute with Comcast, although it didn’t win everything it wanted. Regulators upheld an order from their Media Bureau last year that established Bloomberg’s right to be grouped with other news channels on the dials of Comcast’s cable systems in the 35 largest TV markets. The FCC decision hearkens to an agreement that Comcast made in 2011 when it was eager to win FCC approval for its deal to control NBCUniversal. The cable giant said it wouldn’t discriminate against competitors. Bloomberg TV said that’s exactly what Comcast did when it maintained the business news channel’s position far from CNBC — which Comcast acquired with the NBCU deal. Read More »
Regulators voted today to consider a change in its media ownership rules in a way that has irked station owners, but cheered public interest activists. In a 2-to-1 vote, the FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that might scrap a 30-year-old provision called the UHF discount. It relates to the law Congress passed in 2004 that bars a company from controlling stations that reach more than 39% of all households. For the purpose of that calculation, the discount requires the agency to just count half of the audience reached by UHF stations. The outlets used to transmit weaker signals than other stations on the VHF band, which included channels 2-to-13. That distinction became virtually meaningless after 2009 when stations replaced their analog signals with digital ones. So, a simple change? Nope. Broadcasters including Univision and ION feared that they might find themselves over the 39% cap — or so close that they couldn’t participate in the torrid deal market for TV stations. The FCC appears to have addressed their biggest concerns by grandfathering station groups that might find themselves above the cap, and those that applied to the FCC for approval of a deal before today’s vote. ”The Commission and the television industry have anticipated the elimination of this discount for well over a decade,” Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn says. “It is our task as regulators to ensure that our rules reflect current market realities.” Read More »
Miley Cyrus and her headline-grabbing twerk routine helped the MTV VMAs reach 10.1M viewers on August 25. It also prompted 150 irate official complaint filings over at the … Read More »
The Tennis Channel will not be getting its day in court again, but the ball is still in play. Without explanation, the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Wednesday denied the channel’s dual request for an en banc rehearing or a panel rehearing of a May 28 ruling on anti-competitive tactics by Comcast (read it here). Needless to say, the Tennis Channel isn’t happy. “The U.S. Circuit Court decision today effectively strips the FCC of the ability to perform the role Congress requires,” said the channel in a statement. “We are disappointed with this result and intend to pursue further review.” In the decision this spring, the court overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s July 2012 ruling that Comcast discriminated against the Tennis Channel in favor of the cable giant’s Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. Currently on a tier with around 3 million subscribers, the specialty channel has been trying since 2010 to be placed on Comcast’s basic service and reach over 21 million subscribers. Read More »
UPDATE, 1:15 PM: Reactions are starting to come it to FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn’s warning that she might step in if the stalemate between CBS and Time Warner Cable continues. The cable company says it agrees … Read More »
The long-rumored frontrunner for the Republican-held FCC post left open when Robert McDowell departed in April is now officially the nominee. The White house said today that Michael O’Rielly, a top policy adviser with current Senate Republican Whip … Read More »