Breaking ranks with its trade group, Pappas Telecasting Cos. is calling for federal regulation of violent TV programming that would apply to all mass-media companies except those that do not exercise editorial control over content.
The Federal Communications Commission is considering a TV-violence regime, but the National Association of Broadcasters (of which Pappas is a member), the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and other media trade groups are resisting, claiming that the regulations would violate the First Amendment’s free-speech protections.
But Pappas told the FCC in comments filed Oct. 15, “There is an established link between violent programming and violent and aggressive behavior of children, and Pappas believes steps must be taken to eliminate this problem.”
Pappas called for a so-called safe harbor, “outside of which violent programming, like indecent programming, should not be aired.” The company added that the regulations would not apply to common carriers, like phone companies, because they do not control the content they carry.
Pappas also called for an exemption for National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League games, but not for professional wrestling and reality programming.
Based in Visalia, Calif., Pappas is the largest privately held TV-station group in the United States, controlling 25 stations reaching about 15% of TV households.
The company owns five Fox affiliates and two CBS affiliates. Pappas’ Fox affiliates were just fined $7,000 each by the FCC for the April 2003 airing of Married by America, which the agency said was indecent. But the company’s CBS stations were not fined for airing Janet Jackson’s breast exposure during the Super Bowl halftime show.
Pappas attached to its FCC comments a Dec. 12, 2003, letter to Fox Broadcasting Co. president Tony Vinciquerra that complained about surging profanity and “graphic and disturbing violence” on the network, referring specifically to primetime hit The O.C.
Pappas asked Fox to provide all prerecorded primetime and late-night programming several hours before broadcast to allow its stations to edit “illegal, obscene, profane and otherwise inappropriate content, as it is our right and duty to do.”
Pappas senior executive vice president and chief operating officer Howard Shrier said in an interview Monday that Fox replied but effectively declined to provide early copies of network programming.
Pappas has installed time-delay equipment to delete inappropriate content in a few stations, Shrier added.