Friday, July 30, 2010

Where is the FCC?

Where is the FCC?

Why are they not controlling the enormous and irritating commercial content of today's broadcast television?

I know that broadcasters must make money selling air time for commercials, but those airwaves belong to the public, not the corporations. Profit for corporations is not the only interest requiring protection here. Every single broadcast license still contains language about broadcasting in the "public interest".

I just stopwatch-timed program vs commercial content for tonight's ABC World News Tonight broadcast. There was 20 minutes and 15 seconds of program content vs 9 minutes and 45 seconds of commercial content, in a 30 minute prime time slot. That is 33% commercial content and 67% program content. Most of the commercials (more than half the air time) were in the second half of the overall program: I timed the first 12 minutes (40% of the time slot) as continuous news.

When I was much younger in the mid 1960's, that ratio was quite different. Prime time program content was around 51 minutes of every hour, while commercials were only 9 minutes. That's 15% commercials in prime time. In those days, we all believed that there were FCC regulations limiting prime time commercial content to those levels.

Apparently, that situation has changed, for commercial content is now a little more than double the 1965-ish value. Not very many years ago, I heard an FCC official claim that there never were any rules about commercial content in prime time. Based on my actual life experiences, I do not believe that statement.

If there are indeed no rules on commercial content now, then the FCC repealed in recent years their own regulations, to favor corporate profits over the public interest. Yet, the rationale for the very existence of the FCC as a government agency is in fact protection of the public interest, with respect to the airwaves owned by that very public.

So, I repeat: where is the FCC, and who are they really working for?

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