Fcc Essay, Research Paper
The 1st Amendment forbids Congress from enacting laws that would regulate speech or press before publication or punish after publication. At various times many states passed laws in contradiction to the freedoms guaranteed in the 1st Amendment. However broadcast has always been considered a special exemption to free speech laws for two reasons. 1) the most important reasons is the scarcity of spectrum and the 2) is the persuasiveness of the medium. Because radio and TV come into the house, and may be heard or seen by unsupervised children, the government feels a special responsibility to protect the American people. As Herbert Hoover said to, “doublegaurd them.”
This is the main reason why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) independent agency of the United States government was created in 1934. The function of the commission is to regulate interstate and foreign radio, television, wire, and cable communications. To provide for orderly development and operation of broadcasting services, to provide for rapid, efficient nationwide and worldwide telegraph and telephone service.
Individual radio and TV stations are responsible for selecting everything they broadcast. Stations are responsible for choosing their entertainment programming, as well as their programs concerning local issues, news, public affairs, religion, sports events, and other subjects. They also decide how their programs will be conducted and whether to edit or reschedule material for broadcasting.
In 1987, the FCC responded to public complaints by adopting measures to restrict the use of explicit language about sex and bodily functions from the broadcasting media. Station operators voluntarily adhere to a code, designed by the National Association of Broadcasters.
On February 8, 1996, United States President Bill Clinton signed into law the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This new law will change the rules for competition and regulation in the communications industry.
Some the rules and regulations that they do enforce are;
· Retention of Material Broadcast
· Station Identification
· Broadcasts by Candidates for Public Office.
· Political Editorials
· Children’s Television Programming.
· Commercial TV Airing / Amount of Advertising
· Obscenity and Indecency
· Broadcast Hoaxes
· Requirement to Maintain a Public Inspection File
Retention of Material Broadcast
The FCCC generally do not require stations to keep the material they broadcast except on the policy for personal attacks and political editorials.
Personal attacks occur when, during broadcast on a controversial issue, when someone attacks the honesty, character, or integrity of a person or group. The rule states that no more than a week after the personal attack. The station must send out the following three things to the person or group attacked: (1) notification of the date, time, and identification of the broadcast; (2) a tape, script or accurate summary of the attack; and (3) an offer of a reasonable opportunity to respond on the air.
Stations must make identification announcements when they sign on and off for the day. They must also make the announcements hourly, as close to the hour as possible, or at a natural programming break. Official station identification includes the station’s call letters followed by the community or communities specified in its license as the station’s location. Between the call letters and its community, the station may insert the name of the licensee, the stations channel number, and/or its frequency. The FCC does not allow any other insertion.
Broadcasts by Candidates for Public Office.
When a candidate for public office has been permitted to use a station, the Communications Act requires the station to “afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office.” The Act also states that the station “shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast” by the candidate. However the FCC does not consider either of the these two categories as a “use” that is covered by this rule:
· An appearance by a legally qualified candidate on a bona fide newscast, interview or documentary (if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to the presentation of the subject covered by the documentary); or
· on-the-spot coverage of a bona fide news event (including political conventions and related incidental activities).
A political editorial is when a station endorses or opposes legally qualified candidates during a broadcast of its own opinion. Within 24 hours after the editorial, the station must send out the following three things to the other candidates running for the same office: (1) notification of the date and time of the editorial; (2) a script or tape of the editorial; and (3) an offer of a reasonable opportunity for the candidate or a spokesperson for the candidate to respond on the air.
Children’s Television Programming.
Every TV station must perform the educational and informational needs of children. Through its overall programming and through programming that is specifically designed to serve those needs.
· Educational and Informational. Is programming to be educational and informational if it in any respect furthers the educational and informational needs of children 16 years old and under
· Specifically Designed to Serve These Needs. A program is considered “specifically designed to serve educational and information needs of children” if: (1) that is its significant purpose; (2) it is aired between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; (3) it is a regularly scheduled weekly program; and (4) it is at least 30 minutes in length.
On a side note Commercial TV stations must identify programs specifically designed to educate and inform children at the beginning of the program and must provide information identifying such programs to publishers of program guides.
Commercial TV Airing / Amount of Advertising
The only thing they can regulate is in TV programs aimed at children 12 and under, advertising may not exceed 10.5 minutes an hour on weekends and 12 minutes an hour on weekdays.
They also do not allow False or Misleading Advertising, Subliminal Programming, and Tobacco commercials. Federal law prohibits advertising for cigarettes, little cigars, smokeless tobacco, or chewing tobacco on radio, TV
Obscenity and Indecency
Federal law prohibits the broadcasting of obscene programming and regulates the broadcasting of “indecent” language. The Courts use the same test that was developed in the 1973 Miller v California case. Obscenity can not be broadcasted at any time. With Indecency the courts have upheld Congress’s prohibition of the broadcast of indecent speech during times of the day when there is a risk that children may be in the audience. Programs that fall within the definition of indecency and that are aired between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. are subject to indecency enforcement action by the FCC. Profanity that does not fall under one of the above two categories is fully protected by the First Amendment and cannot be regulated.
Congress passed a law in 1996 to require TV sets with screens 13 inches or larger to be equipped with “v-chip technology.” A device that allows parents to program their TV sets to block display of TV programming that carries a certain rating. The FCC has established rules requiring that by July 1, 1999, half of televisions with screens 13 inches and larger have the v-chip, and that by January 1, 2000, all such televisions have the v-chip.
Broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a disaster violates the FCC’s rules if:
· the station knew the information was false;
· broadcasting the false information directly caused substantial public harm; and
· it was foreseeable that broadcasting the false information would cause substantial public harm.
In this situation, “Public harm” must begin immediately; it must cause direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.
Requirement to Maintain a Public Inspection File
FCC rules require all TV and radio stations and applicants for new stations to maintain a file available for public inspection containing documents pertinent to the station’s operation.
For Americans the right to speak out is a treasured one. Americans are not hesitant to criticize public officials as important as the president and as commonplace as the garbage collector. A free press, as guaranteed in the First Amendment, plays a watchdog function in a democratic society: bringing people the information they need to exercise independent judgment in electing public officials. A free press is than an important part of a democratic society; it enables the people to make informed choices. However, when interests clash as they often do, when the message is hateful or insulting or embarrassing, when one person’s freedom of expression begins to affect the rights of others, it becomes a most difficult right to deliver judgment. The FCC has a very precarious position between violating the First Amendment and protecting the citizens of the United States.