FCC Faces Heat on DTV Transition, Broadband, Wireless, Indecency…

The FCC was blasted by consumer groups for the agency’s handling of the DTV transition at the agency’s first DTV consumer education workshop yesterday, reports CableFAX.

FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein reiterated his call for a coordinated message between the FCC and NTIA while fellow Democrat and FCC commissioner Michael Copps dismissed the notion that the DTV transition is proceeding as smoothly (not) as Y2K preparations.

Consumer Federation of America head Mark Cooper derided the cable industry’s "awful and disgusting" DTV transition PSAs. "The cable industry is feeding on consumer ignorance with their ads, suggesting they need to get cable in order to" have an easy transition, Cooper said.

Cooper was the sole critic at the event of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s $200 million DTV campaign, which FCC chairman Kevin Martin commended when it launched earlier this month.

Separately, Adelstein and Copps addressed the agency’s need to step up in bringing broadband to the masses and small businesses, in their comments to a Senate Small Business Committee meeting chaired by Sen. John Kerry.

Copps told the committee, "The mindset that we have … to work under [at the FCC] is ‘don’t worry about it, the marketplace will take care of this.’ While we all revere the marketplace, there are some things that cannot get done by themselves."

"We have consolidation, lack of competition [and] prices are shooting up," Adelstein added. "There are no alternatives for small businesses."

Adelstein highlighted the need for national broadband data and maps, saying if cities like Chicago can provide that information locally, "why can’t the federal government do it" nationally? FCC chairman Kevin Martin, Adelstein added, "is committed to ensuring we get better data." (PC Magazine has more.)

Martin, who missed both meetings as he was in his home state of North Carolina yesterday to address the NAB Radio Show, has asked (via the Solicitor General) the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s rejection of FCC profanity rules.

"I am pleased that the solicitor general will be seeking Supreme Court review of the Second Circuit’s decision," Martin said in a statement. "I continue to support the commission’s efforts to protect families from indecent language on television and radio when children are likely to be in the audience." (More in this AP story.)

With TV networks lobbying the FCC to lift indecency restrictions, "One of their justifications is there’s not a restriction on cable channels," Martin told the Charlotte Observer. "Media companies are saying these rules are outdated. … I think there should be some limits on what is put on the public airwaves."

The former student body president at UNC Chapel Hill also told the newspaper he would not rule out returning to his home state of North Carolina and pursuing a political career after his term as FCC chairman expires in 2011. 

The FCC chairman and his fellow commissioners are also being pushed to review product placements on TV. Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey are lobbying the FCC to make sure broadcasters "comply in a meaningful way" with disclosure rules, reports Bloomberg.

And RCR Wireless News reports that eyebrows are being raised followed rumors on the Hill that Martin is seeking to revise the 700 MHz auction’s open-access provisions in response to a Sept. 17 meeting at the FCC with Verizon execs. More in RCR‘s story here.

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