Who can gag the FCC?

Who can gag the FCC?

: Now an FCC commissioner says the commission should investigate the case of Armstrong Williams to see whether laws were violated. Oh, come on. We don’t need the FCC on the case (or on any case!). Williams definitely did a no-no. So did the Department of Education. So have others. What’s the FCC going to do about that? Get airtime, if they possibly can.

: UPDATE: In the comments, Eileen points out:

From the article: “Specifically, Adelstein said the Buffalo case and Williams’ contract could be possible violations of federal telecommunication law that requires disclosure of any payment or gift for airing any material for broadcast, like a radio disc jockey being paid to play a particular recording.”

Well, by that rule, then the starlets who go on Jay Leno’s show to drop plugs for cheese are violating telecom law. Hmmmmm.

Her point is valid. Yes, I’m just sick of the FCC not paying attention to its proper business (though as their own chairman has said, when they do pay attention to something, they kill it). So yes, this is a case for the FCC Anti-Defamation League.

But I do think that this is not the real avenue for investigation. It’s not a telecommunications issue. It is an issue at the Department of Education over the proper and improper use of tax money.

If the FCC did go after Williams himself, I do think there are First Amendment issues: Does his mean that an author can’t appear on a show without a disclaimer on the screen saying she’s making money because of this? Does this mean that we have to end up with disclaimers on the screen every time a company spokesman goes on the air? It’s another game of line-line-where’s-the-line? It’s another instance, then, of the problems you get to when government tries to regulate speech. I should have said all that before. But I also confess I now enjoy sputtering about the FCC for the sheer sport of it.

  • -asx-

    You don’t want possible crimes to be investigated? This is a lot more serious, don’t you think, thank some boob.

  • Del

    I think this may be a little political payback. The right-wingers were using the FCC to go after the ‘liberal’ networks for indecency, so now the democrats are using the FCC for their politcal purposes too. Politics is always where censorship leads and thats why the FCC is so dangerous. Maybe this will be a wake up call to conservatives; they won’t always control the gov’t and the FCC – what happens when democrats get back in power? Fines for political incorrectness? Hate speech?
    I’m surprised you haven’t blogged about the Randy Moss fine by the NFL for pretending to moon the crowd. I think its a huge overreaction that in part is a result of the everyone being nervous about the FCC. It was a Fox announcer that really started the ball rolling by acting all outraged on the air calling it ‘disgusting’. I mean, I look at the tape and wonder what the big deal is. I guess the ‘basketbrawl’ probably had something to do with it too.

  • Eileen

    From the article: “Specifically, Adelstein said the Buffalo case and Williams’ contract could be possible violations of federal telecommunication law that requires disclosure of any payment or gift for airing any material for broadcast, like a radio disc jockey being paid to play a particular recording.”
    Fascinating. You don’t like this law, Jeff? Wonder where one has to disclose ‘any payment or gift’, and how? What a fine kettle of fish.
    I love your facility for finding these reports for all of us. Thanks..
    Is it just your intense hatred for the FCC which causes you to dis anything a Commissioner has to say? Might it be a valid law that needs to be enforced? (Nah….or) I note your ‘nemesis’ MP and the others ‘declined to comment’.
    Adelstein references a law which may be ‘on the books’, but there are a zillion of those that are never enforced. Talk about opening up Pandora’s Box..
    Shhh. It’s going away, quietly now. Just like any other ‘news’ of commentators paid by politicians, and by all levels of government and their agencies for all of ancient as well as modern history.

  • Dishman

    I would think that self-promotion is assumed.
    In the case of the movie/book promo appearances, at least, the promotional angle is generally pretty clear.

  • Chris Williams

    Isn’t it the law? Broadcasters need to disclose when their content is paid advertisement.

  • Eileen

    “But I also confess I now enjoy sputtering about the FCC for the sheer sport of it.” Thanks for my morning chuckle…:) Also, what a fabulous testament to your own ethics of transparency and honesty. Bravo!
    I read this morning that a couple of Senators (Specter and Harkin) are looking into the DOE budget since 2002 for ad monies spent, and “Harkin also plans to introduce a bill requiring federal agencies to report their entire advertising budgets to Congress, and to make clear in their ads that public money was used.”
    http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20050113162009990013
    Wonder where and how agencies currently account for this money in their budgets? If we need a law like this, apparently they just ‘don’t’? What a handy way to obfuscate other federal law (referenced in the above article) which prohibits use of public funds for propaganda. [And I guess my earlier suggestion to go to the GAO – or even the OMB – for such information wouldn’t have yielded much, either.]
    What kind of accounting system are the Feds using, anyway? I don’t think I even want to know.

  • derby

    Del,
    What does the “Randy Moss” fine have to do with this? The FCC had nothing to do with the action taken by NFL.

  • Del

    Derby,
    I think the reaction to what Moss did, the overreaction imo, may be in part the result of what the FCC is doing, to the atmosFEAR they’ve created. The networks and their announcers and even the NFL are so nervous now that they’re self-censoring, which is fine except when it goes too far. I don’t think what Moss did was that big a deal; I think a couple years ago people would have just laughed it off – as they should have. I guess what I’m concerned about is the ‘chilling effect’ where everybody’s too uptight, that will pass though – I hope.
    Also, politics IS playing a role in the Williams thing. The commisioner thats for the investigation is a democrat and I’ll bet the people that sent letters are democrats too. I dunno, even though what Williams did was wrong, that doesn’t seem right. You shouldn’t be using the FCC to play politics. Thats what Bozell is doing and now the democrats are too. Like I said, next they’ll be complaining about ‘hate speech’ as a reaction to republicans complaining about indecency, an on and on and on…

  • h0mi

    I think the reaction to what Moss did, the overreaction imo, may be in part the result of what the FCC is doing,

    I disagree. This had to do with a player acting rudely to fans and (probably, I suppose; I’m not Moss’ union rep) breaking some NFL rules. The NBA didn’t suspend Artest out of fears that the NBA would be fined by the FCC over airing a hockey game when a basketball game was supposed to take place.