FCC Does A Bit Of
Extortion Horse-Trading With Univision On Indecent Programming
from the hmm,-it-smells-like-fish-in-here dept
It's no secret that one of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's pet issues is indecent TV programming, and he's not afraid to use some questionable tactics to try and get what he wants. For instance, he led the FCC to reverse a long-standing position and say that a-la-carte programming was a great idea, which was basically an implied threat to cable operators that if they didn't offer so-called "family tiers" of inoffensive channels, he'd force them to offer it -- since, of course, the FCC doesn't have the power to regulate material on cable channels. Now, the FCC has gotten Univision to agree to pay a $24 million fine for not showing enough educational programming (and, in part, claiming that a soap opera about twin 11-year-old girls qualified as educational). In exchange, the FCC will sign off Univision's $12.3 billion sale to some private-equity companies -- making this look more like enforcement by ransom than anything else. While Martin and his cronies are certainly free to determine their own regulatory priorities (and we're free to disagree with them), things get a little sketchy when he tries to advance them by what could pretty easily be mistaken for extortion. If he thinks indecent programming is a significant issue, that's fair enough. But using it as the basis by which a wide range of largely unrelated regulatory decisions are made is taking things a bit too far. This decision also doesn't bode well for XM and Sirius, who should expect to have to make some concessions on indecency to get their merger through Martin's FCC.