The commission will issue a notice of inquiry (NOI) March 2 on how to implement the Child Safe Viewing Act, which requires it to collect data for a report to Congress due Aug. 29 on the most advanced methods for blocking video content, across an array of platforms.
That's according to FCC Media Bureau policy division chief Mary Beth Murphy, who will likely be writing the report, which will pertain to content delivered to cable set-tops, TVs, DVD players, VCRs and wireless handsets. Murphy was a panelist at a Kaiser Family Foundation seminar in Washington today on the impact on kids media issues of a new FCC, White House and Congress.
One of the arguments broadcasters are making in their challenges to FCC indecency actions is that the V-chip/ratings system is an effective content-control tool and, thus, a more narrowly tailored means to the government's end of protecting children. The bill from Sen. Mark Pryor (D. Ark.) asks the FCC to look at technologies that operate independently of any ratings system as well.
Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of the program for the study of media and health, Wednesday characterized presumptive FCC chairman Julius Genachowski as "a little bit of a Rorschact test for media insiders," saying he's variously described as "a consumer watchdog and the ultimate industry insider."
She also suggested that new House Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va) is a bit unknown quantity on kids issues, calling him "someone who doesn't really have a lot of history on kids media policy issues.
Boucher has big shoes to fill. His predecessor was Ed Markey (D-MA), who spearheaded children's TV legislation and was an early champion of the V-chip ratings system as a way for parents to have more control over the TV set.
Pryor, the author of the Child Safe Viewing Act, told the seminar audience he thought Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) chair of the Senate Commerce Committee would have a "very active" committee, saying he had alerted members of the group and subcommittee of that fact. "Whether that is good or bad for this group, I don't know."
Pryor expressed concerned about the constitutionality of issues. He said parents needed a lot of control over media, but that the act's goal was to have the FCC look at new parental control technologies, including "what's out there and what's possible." Pryor said he was very concerned about the Internet, noting that some people are uncomfortable with the issue of restricting content there, But he added that conversations on the topic are needed.
Pryor said he thought it would be great to find ways to allow parents to control content on the Internet. "That is something I will be working on in this Congress." Pryor said Sen. Rockefeller knows of his interest, and he knows of Rockefeller's interest in media violence.
Colin Cromwell, a telecommunications policy analyst for Markey, said that members of the House and Senate are focused on larger economic issues and probably won't be as focused on kids media issues in the first 100 days. "it won't be something that will be a high priority of the Hill until we get past mid-summer," he said, "which may be when the FCC report arrives on the Hill."
He also said Congress' reaction would depend " in large part" on what the Supreme Court decides in Fox's challenge of the FCC's indecency crackdown.
"You might find Congress and the FCC reacting in response to a court case that either gives unfettered freedom perhaps to broadcasters, remands certian things for the FCC to look at again, or affirms the decision that the commission made," he said. "That court case will affect what the FCC and Congress feel needs to be done."