Entries in FCC (3)


Supreme Court Rules Against FCC Indecency Rules

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the Federal Communications Commission's standards on indecency, ruling in favor of broadcasters who had complained the standards were unconstitutionally vague.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a unanimous court said, "The Commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent."

The case stems from celebrities-such as Cher and Nicole Richie uttering swear words during live television in primetime, as well as an episode of ABC's show NYPD Blue that depicted partial nudity.

The FCC -- charged with regulating the public airwaves -- found that the incidents violated its prohibitions against the broadcast of indecent material before 10 p.m.

But lawyers for broadcasters including Fox Television and ABC, Inc., argued that the FCC's policy is unconstitutionally vague and chills free speech.  Facing daunting fines, the broadcasters argued that the government should no longer treat broadcast speech more restrictively than other media when it comes to the regulation of indecency over the airwaves.

Although the broadcasters had also argued the standards violated the First Amendment, Justice Kennedy did not address the claim.

"Because the Court, resolves these cases on fair notice grounds under the Due Process Clause, it need not address the First Amendment implications of the Commissions indecency policy," he said.

Kennedy said that Thursday's opinion "leaves the Commission free to modify its current indecency policy in light of its determination of the public interest and applicable legal requirements."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was recused from Thursday's decision because she dealt with the issue at the lower court.

Anticipated court rulings on the president's health reform law and an Arizona immigration policy were held off until at least next week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FCC Requires Local TV Stations to Disclose Political Ads

Ingram Publishing(WASHINGTON) -- Local TV stations will be required to post information on the political ads they run, including rates, to a public database, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Friday.

How will this work? The FCC will host an online database making available information about political ads running on local affiliates of the four major TV networks in the top 50 markets, according to the FCC. The database will be available 30 days after the Office of Management and Budget approves the new policy.

“The new rule covers about 60 percent of all expected 2012 political advertising on local spot TV, where the vast majority of televised political ads air. The remaining 40 percent will occur in smaller media markets and thus remain offline this year, disclosed in the public files made available at stations,” the Kantar Media Group’s CMAG ad-tracking service wrote in an executive summary of Friday’s ruling.

The newly public information is notoriously difficult to access. Local TV affiliates already make it publicly available, but only in paper copies at the stations themselves. For years, reporters and watchdog groups have had to travel to TV stations and examine records in person when seeking detailed information.

Broadcasters opposed the ruling, citing costs of disclosure and competition with other media forms. Television stations under federal law are required to offer political candidates the lowest available advertising rates.

The FCC is made up of three commissioners, two of which were appointed by President Obama. Robert McDowell, the lone Republican appointee who was originally appointed by George W. Bush and reappointed by Obama in 2009, dissented from the decision.

Broadcasters will have to disclose the rates they charge for political ads, which are often lower than the rates charged to other advertisers. CMAG speculated that this was a major reason broadcasters opposed the move.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had called for the online disclosure.

The FCC’s move will give the public a far more granular picture of where and how political money is being spent.

Currently, it’s very difficult to tell when and how political campaigns are spending money on advertisements. Outside groups–including super PACs and 501(c)4s–are subject to greater transparency. Those groups disclose ad spending to the FEC within 48 hours of purchasing air time, and the FEC reports it online almost immediately.

Campaigns, however, only disclose spending once a month -- meaning that candidates themselves largely evade scrutiny on how much they’re spending at any given time. By the time the public finds out, the data is already a month old. Still, with this new FCC ruling, that will change.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FCC Passes Rules to End Loud Commercials

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Pretty soon there'll be no need to reach for the volume-control button on the remote the next time a commercial interrupts a favorite TV show.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved new rules that require cable and broadcast stations to play commercials at the same volume as the TV shows they break into.

The new FCC order is a step in carrying out the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM Act, which President Obama signed in 2010. The CALM Act required television stations to turn down the volume on disruptively loud ads.

Come December 2012, when the CALM Act takes effect, those commercials that blare at a much louder volume than the shows will be history.

The act requires television stations to maintain the same average volume for both programming and ads, so consumers don't have to adjust the levels at each commercial break.

Members of the commission praised the act for addressing a problem that had plagued consumers for decades.

The CALM Act requires stations to buy equipment that regulates these sound levels, ensuring the mean volume of the advertisements is no louder than that of the programming. It will be regulated with different check systems, depending on a station's size.

William Lake, chief of the FCC's Media Bureau, pointed out that such regulations had not been possible in the past because of limitations on analog television.

Televisions across the country switched to digital signals in June 2009.

The original CALM act signed last December gave the FCC the power to grant a one-year exemption to those stations that show they would incur "financial hardship" if forced to comply with these standards. After that time, they can apply to renew that exemption for another year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio