Posts from March 23, 2005

Les Moonves speaks

Les Moonves speaks

: Still at the ANA confab and CBS boss Les Moonves is being interviewed by Scott Donatan of AdAge. Asked about the future of CBS News, Moonves said:

Obviously, this has not been a banner year for CBS News… We’re making changes that probably should have happened a long, long tie ago. One of hte problems with being the Tiffany tnetwork was that people at CBS News still thought that Edward R. Murrow was down the hall and still alive….

All the networks have been operating the same way for 25 years in how they do the news and there’s a new thing called cable news… We’re looking at doing something somewhat different… We’re looking at changing the format somewhat, makig it a bit more relevant, faster paced…

We’ve said this before: that single anchor voice of God.. may be over or certainly we should veer away from it.

: On the American Idol voting glitch, Moonves jokes: Do you really think they had a problem or they wanted to stretch it out? “I wish I’d thought of it first for Survivor.”

Fighting for the First Amendment

Fighting for the First Amendment

: I’m at an Association of National Advertisers’ meeting on TV in New York and Bob Corn-Revere, the leading First Amendment attorney (whom I’ll be interviewing at the Freedom to Connect conference) is speaking to the industry:

He is subbing for an FCC speaker and he’s doing so because, he reveals, when Kevin Martin got the chairman’s job at the FCC, people in the agency were told to cancel all speaking engagements.

He lists new content-control initiatives: on violence (see the post below), on children’s TV and ad limits (including even the inclusion of URLs for network promotions), on advertising of food (“the new tobacco?”), on product placement, and, of course, on indecency and profanity.

Media on Media

Media on Media

: Will be on MSNBC at about 9:15a ET on nazi sites (out of the high-school shooting murders); plan to mention the GoogleNews dustup.

The value of aggregation

The value of aggregation

: Tribune, Knight Ridder, and Gannett buy a controlling stake in Topix. Unlike the idiotic Agence France Presse (hey, what do you expect… they’re French), these companies — like The New York Times, which bought promotion on Topix — recognize the need for (a) aggregation of news for consumer convenience, (b) getting audience from such services, and (c) the distributed nature of news and media in the future.

A Saudi blog… aka مدونة

A Saudi blog

: The country that may need blogging more than any other — Saudi Arabia — has a new blogger working in both English and Arabic. See SaudiJeans (Arabic blog here). He says that forums are still big in the Arab world but he bets that blogs will explode. We came across each other in links because he found Spirit of America’s Arabic-language blogging tool. And he points to a story in the local paper about blogs. He says:

I think blogs could make a real difference, especially in the Arab World, where the lack of freedom of expression is a main barrier to progress and development. And to encourage more Arab users to start blogging, I’m glad to announce that I’m ready to give away the design of my Arabic blog…

About another reporter’s story on blogs he reports:

She also said the word “blog” is not translated to Arabic yet, which is wrong because the word “مدونة” (Modawanna) is a perfect translation, coined and approved by Arab bloggers.

Indecent

Indecent

: Lots of news on the indecent indecency front:

: ANOTHER INDECENT BILL… Sens. John D. Rockefeller (a Democrat… for shame) and Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced an indecent indecency bill that is even more constitutionally abhorrent than the House version.

They would extend FCC censorship to violence, not just indecency. How the hell they’re going to define violence is beyond me. So Saving Private Ryan can go on the air even with the F word but it has to go off again because it’s violent? And let’s get rid of the news, of course. Wave as you go down the slippery slope, senators: First, you want to censor indecency. Then profanity. Now violence. Warning: Political speech is not far behind.

And they would extend FCC censorship to cable and satellite. Warning: The internet is not far behind.

They also require full-screen, 30-second warnings every 30 minutes for any “violent and indecent programming… on broadcast, cable, and satellite programming [sic].” Since no one knows what violent and indecent programming is, the warning should just go up on every show.

They require more children’s programming. So they want children to watch more TV, eh?

And they raise fines up to $3 million per day with a provision that appears to allow the FCC to double fines if the violation was scripted or if it occurs on a show with a “viewing or listening audience … substantially larger than usual, such as a national or international championship sporting event or awards program…” Henceforth known as the Jackson Clause.

: IT’S THE CONSTITUTION, DUMMY… Even national nanny and FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein knows that this bill is unconstitutional:

“Right now it’s not in our rules to go after any material that’s broadcast over cable or satellite,” Adelstein said. If Congress were to make such a law, “it would likely be held unconstitutional in the courts. The courts have told us to be very careful about what we say is indecent and they recognize that weíre walking a tightrope between the First Amendment and the need to protect children from hearing this kind of thing.

“If itís a cable system, or a subscription service like satellite or cable, people are paying for it,” Adelstein continued. “Theyíre inviting it into their homes. And the basis for the broadcast restrictions is that itís pervasiveÖ But taking that into cable or satellite, the courts would probably look askance at.”

: CNN NOT FUCKED…. Just yesterday, the FCC turned down a complaint for a dropped F bomb on CNN during convention coverage because… well, duh, the FCC doesn’t censor cable… yet.

Here’s the Washington Post’s take.

: ON TIME… A few notes on Time’s cover story (not really online) on the indecency kerfluffle:

: THE SURVEY SAYS… A poll asks, “Should government ban it from TV?” Note that in no case does a majority say yes:

: Violence? 36 percent yes.

: Cursing and sexual language? 41 percent yes.

: Explicit sexual content, such as nudity? 41 percent yes.

: Drug and alcohol abuse? 33 percent yes.

Well bring on the naked, cursing, drunk ninja ladies!

: OK, then, how about that supposed national consensus of outrate over Janet Jackson’s breast? Asked whether they were offended by the incident, only 31 percent said yes. Well, then, were they offended by the Desperate Housewives promotion on Monday Night Football? Only 24 percent said yes.

Asked whether any of these things were “never suitable” — bare breasts; frontal nudity; bare buttocks; implied sex, no nudity; same-sex couple kissing; advertising for sexual potency drugs — none gained a majority.

: DISNEY IS EVIL… The story drew to my attention the fact that a Disney executive just broke ranks and favored FCC regulation of cable — because it’s preferable (for Disney… to hell with the Constitution and free speech) to the alternative suggestion that cable customers should be able to buy only the channels they want. Says Broacasting & Cable:

Of course, anytime you hear a media company volunteering for tighter government controls, it sets off the old Follow the Money alarm bells. As it happens, some lawmakers are suggesting an alternative to the content restrictions: forcing cable operators to allow ì‡ la carteî channel shopping so that parents can opt not to receive channels they donít want their kids to see. Mostly wholesome Disney doesnít have much to fear there. Ah, but ‡ la carte selection would also allow millions of subscribers who donít like sports but do like cutting expenses to dump ESPNóone of the priciest items on cableís prix fixe menu.

Disgusting Disney.

: DAMN, DAMN, DAMN… Time follows around an “analyst” from the so-called Parents Television Council, Kristine Looney [note my restraint], as she catalogues even uses of the word “damn” in a data base covering the naughty bits in 100,000 hours of TV. Naughty includes “every incident of sexual content, violence, profanity, disrepect for authority, and other negative content.”

Disrespect for authority is now indecent?

: I WISH THEY’D CLEAR OUT OF MY HOUSE… Time says that “almost single-handedly, the PTC has become a national clearinghouse for, an arbiter of, decency.”

Whoa! These bozos appoint themselves to that role and Time swallows it. Even to the FCC, the PTC is not the arbiter of decency; even the FCC turns down many of its prudish yelps.

: DAY IN COURT… A court test of indecency law and enforcement is long, long overdue. Time says that “industry sources tell Time” that broadcasters are considering a court test case. I thought that was already underway with Viacom’s refusal to pay the Janet Jackson tit tax and Fox’s decision to fight the record Married by America fine that led to my FOIA (quoted in Time). Maybe they have another case. Good. More = merrier.

“There are difficulties” that the FCC faces, a broadcast executive tells Time. “One is that extreme [regulatory] positions are going to run into constitutional problems. The second is inconsistent and vague rulings are going to run into contstitutional problems.”