Ch. 5 – Public Trustee Obligations
• FCC view – Broadcasters should operate as “public trustees” – sacrifice financial gain to service the interest of the viewing and listening public.
1.2 The Fairness Doctrine and Related Obligations
• The Fairness Doctrine – required broadcasters to present issues that are important to the public in an honest and balanced way reflecting both opposing views, regardless of how controversial the topic.
o Introduced in 1949
o Challenged by Red Lion 1969, Supreme Court upheld that the fairness doctrine was constitutional (See Red Lion case brief)
o Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo (1974) Print did not have to abide by a fairness doctrine, did not have to let someone respond to a challenge
o FCC Abolished the doctrine in 1987 (vote 4-0)
• The Personal Attack and Political Editorial Rules
o Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) petitioned to have the rules appealed after the fairness doctrine was abolished, petition was denied.
o FCC attempted to repeal the rules in 1998 but the decision was split in a 2-2 vote. DC court of appeals ordered the rules Repealed in 2000. FCC could not provide adequate justification to keep the rules without the fairness doctrine.
• Political Broadcasting – “Equal Time” Rule Section 315 Radio Act of 1927
o If a broadcaster allows airtime for one candidate, he must offer opposing political candidates reasonable opportunity to respond using the broadcaster’s facilities
o If the first candidate is given free air time, the opposing candidate must be given free air time. If the air time was originally purchased at a low price, the opposing candidate should be able to purchase the same block of time at the same price.
o Candidate must be legally qualified (announced intention to run for office, is able to hold office)
o Section 315 amended by congress to exempt both on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events and bona fide newscasts such as interviews from the equal time constraints.
• The Scarcity Rule in Other Media
o Satellite - Each Direct Broadcast Service provider must “reserve a portion of its channel capacity, equal to not less than 4 percent no more than 7 percent, exclusively for noncommercial programming of an educational or informational nature. – Section 25 of the Cable Act of 1992.
o Time Warner Entertainment Co. V FCC 1996, Time Warner challenged that Section 25 violated the first amendment, that DBS technology should be analyzed under the same relaxed standards of scrutiny as traditional broadcast media.
o DC circuit court upheld the provision and denied Time Warner a retrial in banc
1.3 Indecent Broadcasts
• Obscene language must appeal to prurient interest and lack serious value
• Indecent language refers to nonconformance with accepted standards of morality
• FCC v. Pacific Foundation (See case) George Carlin’s Filthy Words monologue
o Not obscene only indecent
o Start of ‘Safe Harbor’ concept
• Action for Children’s Television ACT v FCC (ACT III) (see case)
o Prohibit broadcasting indecent public radio or television between 6AM and 10PM for a station that goes off the air at midnight, or 6AM and 12PM for stations that go off later or not at all.
1.4 Televised Violence
• Section 551 of Telecommunications act of 1996 – Parental Choice in television Programming. Required programming providers to create a ratings system and implement it, also required tv manufacturers to include V-Chip
• December 96 created TV Parental Guidelines to rate by age, but not content
• V-chip reported very low use rates and has since been abandoned
1.5 Children’s Television
• 96 FCC 2d 634 (1983) Public interest should be measured by the performance of entire market, not just broadcast services. Children’s broadcast should focus on quality not quantity.
• Children’s Television Act of 1991
o Has the licensee served “educational and informational needs of children through its overall programming?” Broadcasters are to program to all ages or each subset of children within the under 16 range. Assess needs based on what is available in the community.
• Children’s Television Act of 1996
o Created to Strengthen the 91 Act by providing better information to the public about educational shows being broadcasted, adequately define children’s or “core” programming, set guidelines for how broadcasters should comply with the core programming efforts.
Must air between 7AM and 10PM to qualify as Core children’s programming, 30 minutes in length
Must be catered to the below 16 crowd, and be of significant purpose; both educational and entertaining, so kids actually watch the stuff and get value from it
Fines for non-compliance
1.6 Commercialization, Ascertainment, and Other Rules
• Deregulation of commercial television 1984 – Market incentives will drive the presentation of material catered to community needs and keep commercialization well below guidelines already in place. FCC decided they no longer needed to routinely review programming for these reasons. Citizen complaints and petitions to deny will still function to help monitor
• Licensees no longer need to adhere to ascertainment procedures (constantly consult with public groups in order to find out what is needed in the community), broadcasters must remain aware of issues or risk losing its audience
o Eliminating this will result in annual savings of 67,000 work hours to the industry and 761.5 to the FCC
• Quarterly logging of issues and list of programs instated
Ch. 5 – Public Trustee Obligations