Steven Bochco

We are very sorry to hear that Steven Bochco, a giant in television, and a good friend to Creative Voices, died this week. Steven was a strong and consistent voice for free expression in media. His work expanded the boundaries of what the then three television networks permitted, even to the point that some network affiliates refused to carry his shows — until their local audiences demanded that they be able to watch, for example, NYPD Blue. Creative Voices filed briefs in the NYPD Blue “indecency” case, where the FCC fined ABC $1.4 million for airing a brief glimpse of an actress’s rear end (horror of horrors!), and was gratified when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judgment, finding the FCC’s indecency rules unconstitutionally vague. Our post on that important precedent is here. That decision brought to an almost complete halt the FCC’s use of those vague rules to censor television.

We made an interesting and popular podcast with Steven several years ago, but it’s still timely and worth a listen. Find a link to it on our Podcast webpage, here.

Steven will be missed. His obituary is here, and a thoughtful appreciation of Bochco’s work as ahead of his time in paving the way for the explosive growth of cable television limited series is here.

Net Neutrality Explained by — BURGER KING????

Kudos to Burger King, Home of the Whopper, for this terrific video explaining what Net Neutrality is and why it is so important for the Internet. Check out their video, below:

“We’re going to let you consolidate further than anyone had imagined”

The Trump Administration, through Ajit Pai, the new FCC Chair, is prepping to toss out most if not all rules limiting the number of media outlets that one company can control in any one local market, and across the nation.  Those rules were instituted to make sure there were multiple and diverse viewpoints available to the public, something the President agitates for — and Tweets about — regularly.

“We’re going to let you consolidate further than anyone had imagined,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG, referring to Big Media.

If the Trump Administration is sincere about wanting more and different voices heard from those of the mainstream media, they may want to rethink this.

More here.

The Swamp’s Attack on Net Neutrality

As Tim Wu points out in this excellent column, Net Neutrality — the rule that Internet Service Providers have to treat all websites and web services alike and not favor their own — has been one of the “most effective economic policies of the 21st century.” The Golden Age of streaming television series, the advent of “skinny bundles” of cable channels, etc. And so, when the populace benefits from this policy, what does the so-called “populist” President’s FCC Chair do?  He tries to eliminate Net Neutrality.  This radical change in policy will only benefit Big Cable and Big Telecom and hurt the populace that supported the “populist.” This is the Swamp rising up to steal the Internet that belongs to all of the people. Get mad. Take action. The Populace must be heard.  Read Tim Wu’s excellent piece, here.

Hollywood Needs — and must fight to Preserve — Net Neutrality

Excellent op-ed by Art Brodsky in the LA Times on the need for all segments that make up Hollywood and the Creative Community to preserve Net Neutrality in the face of the efforts of the House and FCC Chair Ajit Pai to roll it back.  Here.

We’ve Moved!

We’ve Moved!  Our new address is:

3905 Fish Pond Ln

Glen Allen, VA 23060

Hacked!

Was it something we said? Did? Didn’t say or do? Did we piss off the Russians? Whatever the cause, our site and email have been hacked, for which we apologize if it has inconvenienced anyone but ourselves. We’ve got a lot of posts and material missing, which we’re trying to restore. We’ll be back when the site is secure. Thanks for your understanding.

Comcast — TW Cable Merger Bad for Creatives

At a public forum in LA on April 14, the CA Public Utilities Commission heard speaker after speaker, including Shawn Ryan, creator of “The Shield,” who spoke on behalf of the Writers Guild, criticize the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable as bad for creative media artists, bad for diversity on television, bad for content creators, bad for Internet users, bad for the Internet in general — the bottom line was, it’s bad all around. One PUC Commissioner, Mike Florio, has already publicly opposed the merger.

Interestingly, a number of minority groups and local organizations spoke in favor of Comcast. Prepare to be shocked — they’ve all received money or support from Comcast — no such thing as a free lunch!

A report on the roasting of Comcast is here.

Net Neutrality and Muni Broadband – My Interview

Coy Barefoot, host of Inside Charlottesville with Coy Barefoot on 107.5 FM, interviewed me on the day of the momentous FCC decisions in favor of Net Neutrality and promoting local broadband.  It’s a 15 minute interview, the link is here.

Net Neut or Preemption? Which Huge FCC Decision is Huge-er?

Today’s FCC decision in favor of Net Neutrality was huge. But in a lesser noticed decision, the FCC also preempted state laws, bought and paid for by the cable and telco lobbies, that prevented local governments from establishing publicly-owned Internet service providers where phone and cable company Internet access was absent or abysmal. It’s an equally momentous decision designed to bring some semblance of real competition to the business of providing Internet access. FCC, you’ve done a good day’s work, you can have the rest of the day off!

Don’t know about preemption? Here’s an excellent article from WaPo.

Peggy Charren

Yesterday’s news of the death of Peggy Charren is a huge loss to Creative Voices and the nation. We have all lost a great friend and fighter for children, free speech, and better speech in our national media.  As a member of CV’s Board of Advisors, Peggy — our sole Advisor ever awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — gave generously of her time and organizing skills to forward our battles against censorship.

Our relationship with Peggy did not get off to an auspicious start.  I was in a Las Vegas casino during a break at the NAB’s national convention, where we had planned a presentation to tell the assembled broadcasters that their efforts to merge into a few giant conglomerates were hurting the diversity of voices and viewpoints, and localism, on the American airwaves, and thus harming free speech and reducing to only a few powerful corporations the number of viewpoints in the media widely available to the public.  As you can imagine, this was not a popular position at the convention, and, in fact, the number of broadcasters who actually attended our presentation could be counted on two fingers. So, I was a little down, and I wandered over to the casino to watch a friend play at the craps table.  Then, my Palm Pilot rang:

ME:  Hello, Jon Rintels.

PEGGY: Hi, Jon Rintels. It’s Peggy.

ME: Who? Please speak up, it’s loud in here.

PEGGY:  IT’S PEGGY!

ME: Peggy who? I don’t know a Peggy.

PEGGY:  PEGGY CHARREN!

ME: WHO? WAIT, I’M WALKING TO A QUIET PLACE.

PEGGY:  PEGGY CHARREN!  PEG-GY CHAR-REN!  PEG-GY CHAR-REN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thus began a beautiful friendship and mentorship.

If you don’t recognize the name Peggy Charren, do yourself a favor and read her Boston Globe obit, here.  See how one person can change society for the better.

She will be greatly missed.

 

WE’VE MOVED — OUR NEW ADDRESS

Please update your records to note our new address:

Center for Creative Voices in Media

1575 Newcastle Ct.

Charlottesville, VA 22911

Phone: 202.903.4081

Thanks!

Obama Demands Real Net Neutrality

In a strongly worded statement notable for its uncharacteristic boldness, President Obama today Big Footed his Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler by demanding that the Commission impose strict Net Neutrality regulations on Internet Service Providers.  Why such an unprecedented intrusion into a rulemaking by the FCC, an independent government agency?  Speculation is that Obama lost confidence in Wheeler, his hand-picked FCC Chair and former top fundraiser, to support real NN protections, despite Obama’s prior statements in favor of them.  Instead, Wheeler, once a top lobbyist for the cable industry, had peddled a false Net Neutrality “compromise” to almost universal disapproval, including, as is now obvious, the disapproval of the President of the United States who appointed him. With the cable and telecom industries now screaming bloody murder for a turn of events they never saw coming, will Wheeler now abandon his own proposal and follow his President?  Good coverage is here and here.

Writers Guild Net Neutrality Comments to FCC Feature Net Series Writers

The Writers Guild of America, west, filed an interesting brief at the deadline of the FCC’s Net Neutrality comment period, focusing on original series for the Internet written by WGA members.  As our readers may recall from a decade ago, former FCC Chair Michael Powell famously claimed that the Internet solved any concerns about media consolidation and concentration for creative media artists — they could use it to compete with broadcast and cable networks because, well, of course everyone had really great and fast broadband Internet to see video, and so all you grumpy, grousing creative media artists should go grab a video camera, put your stuff up on the Net, and compete with CBS. He then led the FCC to throw out many media ownership rules, an action that later was reversed by a federal court for being “arbitrary and capricious.”

Flash forward ten years later, and fast broadband that will support high quality video viewing via the Internet is still a rumor in many parts of the country. And now, if there is no Net Neutrality, the idea of independent, small creative media artists able to get the same quality of video performance over the Internet pipes owned by a Comcast or other Internet service provider as a Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime becomes just as ludicrous as it was ten years ago.  Not only will those small, indie Net series not be able to compete with CBS, they won’t even be able to compete with CBS.com. Because CBS.com will be able to Pay Up for quality transmission by Internet service providers, but the Little Guy won’t.

It’s a very interesting filing, well worth reading. A good Broadcasting & Cable article is here. The WGA filing and press release can be found here.

President Warns Against What His FCC Chairman Proposes

Yesterday, President Obama warned “big, wealthy media companies” that control Internet access could stifle innovation if they restrict the openness that has been its hallmark. We hope the President’s hand-picked Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission was listening.  Because Chairman Wheeler’s net neutrality initiative proposes to do precisely what the President decries: create fast lanes on the Internet that will make some websites run faster than others, if they buy faster access from Internet Service Providers — the “big, wealthy media companies.”  This, of course, will have a massive negative impact on the Internet’s openness, as it degrades the service to those websites that won’t or can’t afford to pay — likely those that are the new disruptive innovators.  To paraphrase Orwell in his classic Animal Farm after the farm’s government was overthrown by the Bad Guys: “All websites are created equal. Some are more equal than others.”

Perhaps, in a play on the old Verizon commercial — Verizon being one of those “big, wealthy media companies” — the President can call Chairman Wheeler and ask, “Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?”

John Eggerton’s article in Broadcasting and Cable is here.

FOX – Time Warner Merger Threatens Free Speech, Expression in Big Media

James Stewart of the NY Times cogently captures the real dangers to the public interest of the potential merger between FOX and Time Warner in this terrific analysis. Far more than economic power is at stake here; rather, control by one company of so many powerful mass media outlets threatens the vibrant “marketplace of ideas” — the multiplicity of differing and competing views, opinions, sources of news and entertainment, etc. that speak to the public via the mass media.  Would Bill Maher and John Oliver, stars on Time Warner’s HBO and frequent critics of Rupert Murdoch of Fox, survive if Murdoch were suddenly to become their boss?  Would there be more subtle ways that other Time Warner “voices” that Murdoch disagrees with might get squelched were he to become the boss?  Would future shows like Maher’s and Oliver’s, and all the compelling HBO documentaries that take on the Powers That Be, still be commissioned by HBO or other Time Warner outlets if Murdoch was the boss?  Take a look at FOX News — is that a forum where, in Justice Hugo Black’s famous phrase, “diverse and antagonistic sources” of news and opinion are welcomed?  Hardly.  Would that hugely profitable FOX News model become the template for this huge merger?  Why not?

Black’s full and ringing declaration was that ““The widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.” There can be little doubt that a Fox – Time Warner merger would significantly reduce that dissemination. If the “widest possible dissemination” is “essential to the welfare of the public,” it clearly should not be approved.

Fox – Time Warner Combo Will F**k Media Makers

Welcome back Nikki Finke.  Today, in an article on her new website which she demurely calls, “Here We Go Again: How Rupert Murdoch/Time Warner Merger Would Fuck You In Hollywood,” she nails the calamitous effects of a Fox — Time Warner merger on the people who make the content — the writers, actors, directors, and producers —  that is today so desired by media conglomerates.  With one fewer powerful buyer at the negotiating table, and other mergers sure to reduce the number of buyers/players even further, it’s gonna be a tough time for independent media artists.  While the media has been focusing on the “clout” that the merger would create in terms of negotiating better terms from cable and satellite operators for the merger company’s valuable portfolio of cable channels — CNN, TNT, TBS, FOX News, FX, FS1, FOX Broadcasting — there has been almost no attention paid to the colossal clout that will be beating up the creative talent and their guilds at the negotiating table.  Even more shocking, there has been no mention at all of one fewer “voice” in the mass media arena, where only a few corporate “voices” drown out almost everyone else, especially the voices of independent media artists.  Yeah, but no worries say the analysts, they can always post their stuff on the Internet — the only problem is that without Net Neutrality, which the FCC is on the verge of gutting, they may not have access to the Internet either. Only a few years ago, there would have been a huge outcry.  Today — silence.  Thanks again, Nikki Finke, for writing the real story here.

ATT/DirecTV Merger Opposed by Writers

Chris Keyser, the President of the Writers Guild of America, west, will testify to Congress today about the harm to independent and diverse TV programming from the ongoing wave of consolidation in the TV, cable, and Internet distribution marketplace. He takes special aim at the ATT/DirecTV and Comcast/Time Warner Cable mergers as bad for writers (as well as other independent media artists) and consumers, and that no conditions that could be attached to these mergers would mitigate their overwhelming harm. John Eggerton’s article in Broadcasting and Cable is well worth reading, here.

John Oliver Explains Net Neutrality and Why You Must Care

On his new HBO show, John Oliver took a few minutes to do what few other “newsmen” have bothered to do: Explain Net Neutrality and why you must care. In a hilarious and compelling segment. Check it out here.

Net Neutrality and the Idea of America

Tim Wu in The New Yorker analogizes the battle over Net Neutrality and keeping the Internet open to the closing of the American western frontier; that the Internet today is a sort of cyber-frontier where people live or die by their wits, talents, and energy, just as their predecessors did while settling the great American West.  And when that physical western frontier closed, as described by the brilliant historian Frederick Jackson Turner, American democracy, innovation, character, and energy was diminished. Now, asks Wu, will we keep the Internet a level playing field open to all, or will we let it be controlled by a few large corporations who pay for priority, and thus are able to exclude or handicap others?  And will America be impacted negatively, as it was when the western frontier closed? In many ways, as Wu notes, this is a battle for a vision of America’s future. A brilliant analysis that rang very true.

The End of Net Neutrality

Under Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC is embarking on a rewrite of its Net Neutrality rules, as required by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, that rewrite, per reports, permits Internet Service Providers to charge websites and content producers — Netflix, Google, etc. — for priority service. Why is this bad? Because it leaves everyone else in the non-priority lanes, where service is slower and poorer quality. Internet service is a zero-sum game; if some services in the pipe get priority because they pay an extra fee or toll, then everyone else’s service will be degraded. Thus, smaller upstarts, independent artists and producers, the non-established — they will be squeezed out. The large, wealthy incumbents will rule the day, and the Internet becomes their cable TV system.  Think of the Internet we have today, all websites are created equal, and compare that to cable television. In cable TV, it’s your cable provider and channel operators who choose what channels (websites) they will serve you. On the Internet, you, the consumer, have that power. Cable TV is what the Internet will increasingly resemble if the current FCC proposal becomes law.

What is shocking here is how this is an absolute betrayal by one of President Obama’s appointees of a key Obama campaign promise in both 2008 and 2012. Obama’s campaign platform had it exactly right: “pay for play” discrimination is antithetical to our idea of an open and free Internet.  Favoring one company’s content over another is the very definition of discrimination; it is Orwellian to say it does not end “neutrality.”  Chairman Wheeler would be well served re-reading the campaign platform of his boss. Tim Wu has an excellent article on this issue in The New Yorker, here.

Net Neutrality Vital to Indie Filmmakers

Excellent article by Jordan Zakarin  in The Wrap about Net Neutrality and how vital the doctrine is to independent filmmakers. More and more, indie films are reaching their audience via the Internet. While the tolls and gates that the big Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable (soon to merge??????!!!!) may not be a matter of life and death to powerful Big Media content creators, for indie filmers it’s an entirely different story.  They may not be able to pay the tolls, they may have to make some kind of unfavorable distribution deal with one of the ISPs, or they may to make an unfavorable deal with Big Media to get enough clout to get favorable carriage on the Net. If you’re an indie film fan, you’ll want to write your congressman or the FCC in support of Net Neutrality, which may be dying a slow and painful death under the relentless lobbying onslaught of the Internet Service Providers.

Comcast to Buy Time Warner Cable — it’s Comcastic!

In our advocacy, we strive to find an “on the other hand” on almost any issue, and then point out why we believe it’s flawed, and why our point of view should prevail. But in the case of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV and Internet Service Provider, buying Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second largest — there is no “on the other hand.” There simply is no credible argument that this transaction is, as Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts claims, “pro-competitive” and “pro-consumer.” Comcast’s size today already gives it monopolistic gatekeeper power over our nation’s cable TV and Internet access, which are increasingly viewed as necessities by Americans. These already stubbornly uncompetitive markets, where rates only go up and service never improves, will only grow more uncompetitive with this massive consolidation; thus it can in no way be considered in the public interest.

For independent creative media artists, unfettered access to cable TV and, most importantly, the Internet are vital to reaching their audiences. This combination creates a behemoth that has the power to restrict that access even more, particularly with no Net Neutrality rules in place (although Comcast is bound until 2018 by a Net Neutrality condition in its last giant takeover of NBC-Universal).

Comcast’s legendarily low-rated customer service and satisfaction managed to turn their “It’s Comcastic!” slogan into a derisive jeer (wasn’t the cable repair guy s’posed to show up three days ago? Comcastic! My car just hit a giant pothole and needs an alignment — Comcastic!).  What can you say about Comcast’s latest takeover? Yep, it’s Comcastic! And we trust that the regulators will agree and stop it as contrary to the public interest.

Tim Wu writes an excellent article in The New Yorker arguing along similar lines, here.

FCC’s Net Neutrality Rule Tossed Out

Your right to access the websites you choose was thrown out by a federal court today.  The DC Circuit of the US Court of Appeals reversed the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order, which protected “Net Neutrality,” a citizen’s right to access any legal website on the Internet without interference from their Internet Service Provider (ISP).  Now, the ISP that provides wired broadband service to a citizen, say a Verizon, Comcast, or other (usually) phone or cable company, does not have to remain “neutral” and simply do what you ask; rather, the ISP now has the unfettered right to divert a consumer looking for a particular website — say an independent bookstore — to a competing bookstore or other website that pays a fee or toll to that ISP.  Even more chilling, the ISP has the right, according to the court, to degrade or even completely block a consumer’s access to a website for any reason such as, say, the ISP doesn’t agree with that website’s politics.  This decision puts at risk the Internet as we know it, threatening to turn it into something akin to cable television, where smaller, less well-funded independent voices, innovators, businesses, and creative artists are relegated to a second-tier Net, while well-established and -funded businesses pay ISPs to drive traffic to them.

The only piece of good news in this ruling is that the court recognized that the FCC does have the statutory authority to reissue its Open Internet Order, but under a different legal rationale.  Whether the FCC under new Chairman Tom Wheeler has the desire and political muscle to issue such a new order is debatable.  But after the court decision, Wheeler did issue a lengthy and thoughtful statement that is his strongest commitment yet in support of an preserving an open Internet.  The ball is now squarely in his court to make good on this commitment.

Creative Voices Exec. Director Jonathan Rintels discussed the court’s Net Neutrality decision on Inside Cville with Coy Barefoot, audio here.

Duck Dynasty, Media Concentration, and Net Neutrality

Harold Feld of Public Knowledge writes very thoughtfully on his excellent blog about the connection between the free speech controversy over A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson for his anti-gay comments, and the FCC’s policies against media consolidation/concentration and Internet neutrality.  When conservatives decry Robertson’s suspension as an abridgment of his free, conservative speech, and demand that he be reinstated so that “balance” is promoted on the otherwise “liberal” airwaves, they should be careful what they wish for — which appears to sound very much like a modern-day application of the FCC’s long-repealed Fairness Doctrine, hated by conservatives for suppressing THEIR free speech and deep-sixed by a conservative FCC back in the 1980′s. That repeal launched conservative talk radio, and conservatives ever since have warned that liberals were plotting to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, without any evidence, in order to somehow “balance” out Rush Limbaugh & Co.  Now the winds have changed, the shoe is on the other foot, the pot is calling the kettle, etc., etc.  Instead of heading into this intellectual trap, Feld argues that conservatives and liberals should join in promoting FCC policies that protect diversity of viewpoints in media, specifically media ownership limits in broadcast media, and Net Neutrality on the Internet.  Rather than regulate content itself, the FCC should rather ensure that there are enough different voices on the air and the Net so that a wide diversity of viewpoints can be heard.  Hear, hear.

FCC Halts Proceeding to Ease Media Ownership Limits

New FCC Chair Tom Wheeler apparently has a few ideas of his own on whether the Commission should ease its ownership limits on radio, tv, and newspaper outlets within local markets. Former Chair Julius Genachowski had put forward a liberalized rule for comment, but had (fortunately) slow-tracked it. Wheeler, who has said little about media ownership limits prior to becoming FCC Chair, now wants to revisit the topic and put his own stamp on the issue. Stay tuned. Details here.

Star Writers Discuss Writing, Censorship, Janet Jackson’s Breast

Superstar scribes George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Julie Delpy, Nicole Holofcener, John Ridley, Danny Strong and Jonas Cuaron tell The Hollywood Reporter the secrets of how they work, the public figures they really want to write about and how Janet Jackson’s breast impacted their work.

Of how the famed Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime “wardrobe malfunction” impacted his work, Clooney said: Grant [Heslov} and I have been writing for over 30 years together, and we've been through [studio and network] processes. Good Night, and Good Luck began as a live television show, and everything was going great, and then Janet Jackson took her breast out on live TV and CBS goes, “You’re out!” And we were sitting in the office like, “What happened?”

Think we didn’t all lose something by the fact that Good Night, and Good Luck was not broadcast on live TV? The then- FCC’s crusade against so-called “indecency” was not “victimless.”  In fact, the American public was the victim.

 

Welcome New FCC Chair Tom Wheeler

We welcome new FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to their new posts.  Chairman Wheeler posted a lengthy and interesting blog post on the FCC website that we commend to all.  It nicely balances many interests and imperatives, adding in smart touches of modern wonkishness and 19th Century history.  He’s a good writer, and a smart guy, and his view of his road ahead is well worth reading.

Putting the Public Back into the Public Interest

Come see an excellent media policy documentary, and not just because we’re interviewed in it: Sue Wilson’s award winning documentary film BROADCAST BLUES that is sparking a national grassroots broadcast media reform movement.  Find out what media activists across the country are doing to hold broadcasters, Congress, and the FCC accountable to the public interest. Panelists will discuss specific areas of concern and successful media reform strategies which can be employed in local communities throughout the country. Hosted by New America Foundation in collaboration with Common Cause, Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the Media Action Center. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 3:00pm- 6:00pm
New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Net Neutrality Argument Today

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear today the Verizon challenge of the FCC’s net neutrality regulations.  It will be interesting to see what this court, which is often hostile to any government regulations, particularly from the FCC, will do. Verizon and other internet ISPs argue that the Net content they carry is their own constitutionally protected “speech” in the net neutrality context, while they also argue that it is not their own speech in terms of copyright, libel, or other liability for the content itself. This LA Times editorial puts the issues and this inconsistency nicely, here.

“It’s the Creatives, Stupid”

Kudos to Kevin Spacey for that memorable line in his keynote speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Wrote Georg Szalai in The Hollywood Reporter, Spacey “criticized ‘network people,’ Hollywood’s TV ratings obsession and the traditional U.S. TV pilot system, saying that the TV industry was at risk of losing its recent momentum unless it adjusts to new consumer habits in the digital age, takes more creative risks and puts creatives and content first.”

Bravo, Kevin!  The Reporter story is here.

Writers Guild Files Helpful Indecency Comments to FCC

With the FCC now reconsidering its standards for indecency enforcement to focus only on “egregious” violations, the Writers Guild of America, west, filed comments calling for the eventual phasing out of all indecency regulations, particularly in primetime.  The WGA correctly noted that the “contemporary community” standard for judging “indecency” is inherently subjective and “ripe for abuse.”  When the Parents Television Council and similar groups can conjure up thousands of immediate indecency complaints to the FCC with a single email to its activist and highly motivated members, who likely as not never saw the offending incident, using these complaints as evidence of the broader standards of the contemporary community of all TV viewers is not valid and amounts to a “heckler’s veto,” where a small but determined minority can dictate the standards for free expression for the broader community.  Well said.

The WGA’s comments are here:  WGA Comments Indecency 080213.

The Death of Media “Synergy”

Brian Lowry of Variety writes that the Tribune Co’s spin-off of its newspapers from its TV stations and operations is the “death knell” for the concept of “synergy” — the idea that somehow merging these two news sources in one local market after another would somehow “improve” news coverage for local communities while at the same time increasing profits for these supposedly “synergistic” media companies.  Or, in simpler terms, that one and one would equal three or four or five.

Of course, synergy didn’t end up equaling anything.  For Tribune, it equaled bankruptcy.  Even Rupert Murdoch, the great crusader for synergy, has now split News Corp. so that the video assets including TV are separate from the newspaper and print operations.

We hate to say we told you so.  But we told you and the FCC so back in 2002, and continuously since then.  Bigger would not equal better, it would equal worse.  And it did.  We take no joy in this; lots of great people lost jobs and lots of communities lost better news than they otherwise would have had.

McCain Intros Cable + Broadcast Bill

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a far-reaching Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 that would force cable operators to offer cable channels “a la carte” and also make it financially impossible for broadcasters to move to cable in response to new disrupter Aereo, as some have threatened. As this smart article on Deadline notes, the bill will never pass since it manages the almost impossible feat of uniting the powerful and usually-warring cable and broadcast lobbies in a desperate effort to kill it.  Nevertheless, it’s not a futile gesture. It’s clear that emerging technology, colossal cable bills, cord-cutting, outrage about so-called “indecency”, and other factors are causing all players in the business to reconsider the cable channel “bundle” that consumers are forced to swallow every month whether they want it or not. With consumers choking on the bundle, McCain’s bill gets the conversation started.

Economics of Media Business Under Siege

David Carr of the NY Times pens an excellent primer on the economics of the “bundle” in all facets of the media business — forcing people to buy what they don’t want to get what they want — and how that model is under assault in the disruptive age of the Internet, where consumers are gaining the power to pick and choose what they want.

FCC’s New Indecency Standard

On April 1, just before he exits, as he cleans off his desk, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski dismissed over a million indecency complaints pending before the Commission because they were invalid (most complaining about cable, which is not subject to FCC rules) or stale.  Then, on his own and without public comment, it was also revealed that several months ago he instituted a new “egregious” standard to focus FCC indecency enforcement action, which only now will be open to public comment.  As Harry Cole writes in the CommLawBlog, it’s all very “bizarre” and could have made for a good April Fool’s Day joke, but it wasn’t. Still, if the Parents Television Council calls Genachowski’s action “an outrage,” maybe it’s a good thing after all?

Amazing Case of Prior Restraint

A court in NY has prohibited Lifetime network from airing or promoting its Saturday movie about convicted parent killer Chris Porco based on Porco’s complaint that the movie exploits his name without his permission.  This is a classic case of prior restraint of protected speech and Lifetime’s immediate appeal for relief surely will be granted, we hope.  Story is here.

Verizon Joins Cablevision’s Challenge to Cable Bundling

With Verizon now publicly weighing in against the rampant bundling used by cable channel owners to stuff unwanted channels into consumers’ cable bundles, it appears the battle between cable distribution companies and cable channel owners is now on. Terrific article by Cecilia Kang in WaPo explains all.

Elephants Square Off on A La Carte Cable

Finally, a cable company has screamed Enough to a media conglomerate bundling puny never-watched cable channels with its popular channels.  Cablevision, no saint BTW, has sued Viacom over being compelled to carry channels you’ve never heard of, with their costs being passed on to the consumer, in order to keep carrying Viacom’s popular channels like Nick.  We’ll see if this is a negotiating tactic or not, and whether there’s a quick settlement.  But if it goes to trial, it threatens the entire business model of the cable channel owners in bundling unpopular channels with their popular ones in order to get more prime real estate on the cable companies’ menu, and also threatens to do what the FCC has been unable or unwilling to do: break up this cozy oligopoly that causes cable bills to spiral ever higher far faster than the rate of inflation.

Butts, Balls and the C-Word: What You Can and Can’t Say on TV

The Hollywood Reporter tries to figure out the FCC’s rules on broadcast “indecency.” And demonstrates just how confusing and arbitrary those rules are.

Butts, Balls and the C-Word: What You Can and Can’t Say on TV – Hollywood Reporter.

Creative Voices’ Statement on Today’s Supreme Court Indecency Ruling

While we welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling that the FCC’s findings of indecency against Fox and ABC could not stand, the Court’s narrow decision means that creative media artists and the American public are in many more years of uncertainty as to what precisely is or is not “indecent” under FCC policy, and whether that policy violates the First Amendment, as we believe. Our full statement is at this link:

Center Creative Voices in Media: News.

Tennis Channel Aces Comcast

Huge victory for independent cable channels. An FCC Administrative Law Judge found that Comcast discriminated against independent Tennis Channel by carrying it on a far less attractive tier/location than similar Comcast-owned channels Golf Channel and Versus.

Tennis Channel Wins Program Carriage Complaint Against Comcast – 2011-12-20 21:09:42 | Broadcasting & Cable.

Distinguished Ex-FCCers Pan Commission’s ‘Victorian Crusade’

A bipartisan who’s who of former FCC Chairs and officials tell the Supreme Court to overturn the Commission’s indecency policy as unconstitutional.

Former FCC Chairs Slam Commission’s ‘Victorian Crusade’ – Broadcasting & Cable.

Janet Jackson Fine Overturned — Again!

The eternal battle over Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction,” now in its 8th year(!), continues, with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling for the second time that the FCC’s decision to fine CBS for “indecency” was “arbitrary and capricious.” The ball is now in the FCC’s court on whether to appeal to SCOTUS or reconsider its decision. Center for Creative Voices in Media: News.

CV Files Brief with Supreme Court in FOX v FCC

Creative Voices filed its brief with the Supreme Court in Fox v FCC, the case where the Commission found that fleeting epithets by Bono, Cher, and Nicole Ritchie uttered on live television were “indecent.” Last year, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with us, ruling that the Commission’s decision violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court now has the case and will likely hear oral argument in January. A copy of our brief is available here: Center for Creative Voices in Media: News.

Diller: Cash Keeps Hollywood Quiet On Net Neutrality

Always interesting Barry Diller weighs in on what keeps Big Hollywood from speaking out on Net Neutrality when it poses such a potential threat to them — cash money. Diller: Cash Keeps Hollywood Quiet On Net Neutrality – Broadcasting & Cable.

DOJ Disconnects AT&T/T-Mobile

Susan Crawford expertly analyzes why the AT&T/T Mobile merger was such a threat to the open internet, one of the reasons among many that the DOJ today sued to block it on antitrust grounds. AT&T/T-Mobile | Susan Crawford blog.

See You in SCOTUS

The Dept. of Justice appealed the Second Circuit’s decision that the FCC’s indecency regulations are unconstitutional to the Supreme Court. Creative Voices is a party in those cases and we look forward to participating. WSJ report here.

FCC Fines of NYPD Blue Held Unconstitutional

We win again. The FCC’s fines against NYPD Blue were found unconstitutional by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, based on its recent decision in Fox v. FCC. The Court agreed with CV, an amicus curiae in the case, that the Commission’s arbitrary and capricious indecency policy put creative, challenging, controversial, non-homogenized broadcast television programming at risk.

The Court’s decision is here. Our discussion of the case and its principles are at Center for Creative Voices in Media: News.

FCC Indecency Policy Unconstitutional, Court Rules

CV applauds the ruling of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Fox v FCC that the FCC policy on broadcast indecency is unconstitutional and harms not only creative media artists, but the American public. In its well-reasoned decision, the Court cited several examples found in CV’s Big Chill white paper of the “chilling effect” of the FCC’s actions. We fully expect the Supreme Court to uphold this decision should the FCC choose to appeal it. The history of the case, our filings, and earlier commentary can be found here.

CV Discusses the National Broadband Plan and Indecency – Podcast

1070 WINA – Charlottesville Right Now: 3-31-10 Jonathan Rintels.
Jonathan Rintels of Creative Voices in Media joins Coy Barefoot on WINA 1070-AM in Charlottesville, VA to discuss the National Broadband Plan.

Indie Producers Squeezed Out of TV, GAO Confirms

TV broadcast networks and major cable operators with ownership stakes in cable channels continue to squeeze independent TV producers and channels off the air, the Government Accountability Office reports. Creative Voices was pleased to have worked with GAO to document in this important report the chokehold that Big Media has over access to television. In particular, GAO found “major broadcasters produced about 76 to 84 percent of prime time programming hours.

Full article and links to the GAO Report are here.

National Broadband Plan

The FCC gets a standing ovation from independent media artists for its visionary National Broadband Plan. The economic, social, and cultural benefits of this critical 21st century investment in networking all our nation’s communities together via the Internet will vastly outweigh its cost, connecting artists directly with their audience and enabling more high quality media choices at lower cost. Add universal broadband’s proven benefits of economic development, improved health care, greater access to education, energy conservation, homeland security, and government transparency, and it’s clear that implementing the National Broadband Plan will significantly improve the lives of Americans for generations to come.

We’re particularly gratified that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan incorporates many of the goals, rationales, and strategies contained in two reports we’ve authored: AN ACTION PLAN FOR AMERICA: Using Technology and Innovation to Address Our Nation’s Critical Challenges, for the Benton Foundation, and The Case for Universal Broadband in America: Now! Both reports are available at our website.

Read more about our view of the National Broadband Plan here.

The Censorship Chronicles — Interviews with Leading Creative Voices

Creative Voices presents The Censorship Chronicles, a series of informative, humorous, and wide-ranging interviews with prominent creative artists about the impact of the FCC’s indecency decisions, hosted by Jonathan Rintels, Executive Director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media. The first three in the series are:

Steven Bochco, Emmy, Peabody, and Humanitas-award winning creator and producer of NYPD Blue, LA Law, Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, Hooperman, and many other television series, discusses the FCC’s finding that NYPD Blue was indecent, as well as the impact of censorship on creative artists, available here.

Peggy Charren, the founder of Action for Children’s Television and the “Mother of Quality Children’s Television,” has been awarded both a Peabody Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A firm believer that government censorship does not help children, but harms them, Ms. Charren discusses the impact of the FCC’s indecency decisions on children, parents, television, culture, and democracy, here.

Vin Di Bona, Emmy and Peabody-award winning creator and producer of America’s Funniest Videos on ABC, discusses the FCC’s handling of a complaint against that show, as well as the impact of the FCC’s indecency decisions on independent creative artists, television, culture, and democracy, here.

These interviews were conducted in 2006. With our podcasting page shuttered due to cost constraints, we brought them over here to our blog.

Creative Voices Discusses Supreme Court Indecency Decision

Jonathan Rintels, Executive Director of Creative Voices, discusses the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s fining of Fox Television for airing Cher and Nicole Richie’s “fleeting expletives” at the 2004 American Music Awards on Charlottesville Now, WINA-AM, on May 6, 2009, here.

Creative Voices Discusses DTV Transition, Broadband Stimulus

On Thursday, January 29th, 2009, Jonathan Rintels, President and Executive Director of Center For Creative Voices In Media joined Charlottesville Right Now to discuss the switch from analog television to digital television on February 17th, 2009. Rintels also discusses what the stimulus package could mean for broadband infrastructure jobs. Charlottesville Podcasting Network – Blog Archive – Charlottesville-Right Now: Jonathan Rintels.

Creative Voices Applauds Genachowski as new FCC Chair

We’re thrilled that President-Elect Obama has reportedly chosen Julius Genachowski as the next FCC Chairman. Genachowski is one of the principal authors of the Obama campaign’s Technology and Innovation Policy platform, which we have heartily endorsed for its support of several critical issues:
Encourage diversity in media and limit consolidation and concentration.
Robust broadband Internet access for all Americans that is open to all content (Net Neutrality)
Respect for the First Amendment
Allowing parents, not government, to decide what content is appropriate for their children. Technology and better information are the ways to deal with inappropriate content, not censorship.
We eagerly look forward to working with Mr. Genachowski at the FCC.
Obama’s Pick for FCC Signals Change – WSJ.com.

AN ACTION PLAN FOR AMERICA: Using Technology and Innovation to Address Our Nation’s Critical Challenges

In a visionary blueprint for the use of technology and innovation, AN ACTION PLAN FOR AMERICA: Using Technology and Innovation to Address Our Nation’s Critical Challenges proposes that President-Elect Barack Obama take immediate action to connect the nation to broadband, which will unleash billions of dollars in economic development, create over a million jobs, enhance America’s global competitiveness, deliver superior health care and education, reduce energy consumption and environmental degradation, improve public safety and homeland security, and reinvigorate democracy.

The Center for Creative Voices in Media was pleased to author this 62 page ACTION PLAN for The Benton Foundation.

“On January 20, 2009, Americans will turn to President Barack Obama to make good on the promises he made during the 2008 election,” said Charles Benton, Chairman, CEO and Trustee of the Benton Foundation. “One clear goal articulated by candidate Obama is that every American should have the highest speed broadband access – no matter where they live, or how much money they have. This goal is not achievable overnight nor with the simple stroke of a pen. However, President Obama can immediately exercise strong leadership to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy by acting to craft a National Broadband Strategy.”

“In this time of economic hardship, the Obama Administration should undertake a concerted national effort to deploy universal, robust, open, and affordable broadband Internet access that will unleash billions of dollars of economic development and create over a million jobs,” said ACTION PLAN author Jonathan Rintels, Executive Director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media. “The economic, social, and cultural benefits of this critical 21st century investment in broadband will vastly outweigh its cost, delivering better health care, education, energy conservation, homeland security, and government transparency for generations to come.”

The ACTION PLAN includes a draft Executive Order that President Obama should sign immediately upon taking office to establish and implement a National Broadband Strategy that will achieve the goal of universal, robust, open, and affordable broadband, as well as enhance our nation’s global competitiveness, as quickly as possible. The ACTION PLAN builds on our work in last year’s report, The Case for Universal Broadband in America: Now!

Read more about the ACTION PLAN here.

Media Ownership Challenge Moved To Third Circuit

The appeal of the FCC’s latest attempt to lift reasonable limits on ownership of media will be heard in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, the same court which found the FCC’s prior attempt to lift media ownership limits “arbitrary and capricious” and contrary to law. While Kevin Martin’s latest iteration of media deregulation is less sweeping than his predecessor Michael Powell’s, it still would allow far more cross-ownership of local media, including joint ownership of large newspapers and TV stations, the two primary sources for local community news. Media Ownership Challenge Moved To Third Circuit – 11/4/2008 3:00:00 PM – Broadcasting & Cable.

Supreme Court Hears Fox Profanity Case

Alas, the Supreme Court skedded our indecency case on, wouldn’t you know it, Election Day. Choosing between Voter Protection in Virginia and the Supremes, we chose Voter Protection and thus can’t give our own eyewitness report on the oral argument. But John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable writes that, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia raised some tough questions about whether the FCC had really changed its policy, and whether, in fact, it had sufficiently justified that policy. When Fox argued that society had become more tolerant of language in the 30 years since the Pacifica decision on broadcast profanities, Scalia asked whether the network might have had something to do with that. “Justice Ginsburg appeared to be squarely in our camp,” said the representative. “Scalia, probably on the other side.” Ginsburg said there was no “ryhme or reason” behind the FCC finding swearing in a documentary about the blues indecent, but not finding it indecent in WWII film Saving Private Ryan.

We hear the Supremes were more comfortable avoiding the large Constitutional First Amendment questions that the networks raised about ANY government regulation of broadcast content and were looking to the more narrow question of whether the FCC had been “arbitrary and capricious,” as the Second Circuit had found, in its suddenly sweeping expansion of indecency regulation that had been narrow and restrained for decades. Our expert SCOTUS handicapper predicts it’ll be a 5-4 decision, one way or the other. Supreme Court Hears Fox Profanity Case – 11/4/2008 12:11:00 PM – Broadcasting & Cable.

C-SPAN Will Broadcast Same Bad Words That Got Fox Fined

C-SPAN has asked the Supreme Court for permission to air tapes of the oral argument in Fox v. FCC after the argument concludes on Nov. 4. If the Court grants permission, C-SPAN will air those tapes as soon as possible, and air them “as it was said in the court,” full expletives and all. The tapes will also air on C-SPAN’s FM radio station in Washington. Which means C-SPAN would likely broadcast the very same “indecent” language that Nicole Ritchie and Cher uttered that got Fox fined by the FCC in the first place and set the stage for this critical case. John Eggerton writes that “C-SPAN almost certainly would not run into any trouble itself from the FCC if it aired the tapes on C-SPAN radio.” Which begs the question why does the FCC consider the very same words indecent when uttered by Cher and Nicole, but okay when uttered by Supreme Court justices and attorneys arguing before the court, even though children will likely then be in the listening audience? C-SPAN Seeks Oral Argument Tapes in Fox Swearing Case – Broadcasting & Cable.

Creative Voices 3Q Newsletter

The Presidential election, our upcoming Supreme Court “indecency” argument, opportunity knocking on media consolidation, and a key Net Neutrality victory — read all about it in our 3Q newsletter. Center for Creative Voices in Media: News.

Leahy Lays Into FCC Over Indecency Enforcement

Kudos to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for remarks last night at The Media Institute: “The media should be…bringing vibrant and interesting voices and views into our homes,’ not worrying that “an inadvertent slip is going to land them in trouble with regulators.” Leahy said that while he does not want ‘TV screens and radio shows filled with offensive and innapropriate words and images,” he also said he had discovered that “there is an on/off switch,” and suggested that was an important content contol technology. He also put in a plug for the V-chip/ratings system. The senator said he believed “Strongly” that it was the role of parents, not government regulators, “to determine what is appropriate for children to see and hear.” “Good lord, where are we in this country,” Leahy said after recounting the story of NBC affiliates afraid to show an episode of ER about breast cancer because they feared a brief depiction of a woman’s breast would get them in trouble with the FCC. Leahy Lays Into FCC Over Indecency Enforcement – Broadcasting & Cable.

PTC Uses Kids as Human Shields

Josef Adalian in Television Week does a wonderful job of calling out the Parents Television Council. Couldn’t be timelier, with the Supreme Court about to hear the crucial Fox v. FCC case, a case ginned up by the PTC banging on its email lists to flood the FCC with comments, most from people who never saw the show they were complaining about.

Unfortunately, the PTC’s actions and words too often have indicated that its real mission includes pushing for government-sanctioned censorship of the media and the elimination of any and all programming that conflicts with its far-right social and political philosophies. … The PTC doesn’t want to make TV safe for kids. It wants to make it safe only for those shows that fit into its narrowly constructed worldview of what constitutes acceptable TV. And when it identifies programming that doesn’t mesh with its agenda, the PTC goes into overdrive whipping up its base to take action. “All they’re about is fund raising and court cases,” said one network executive who, like everyone interviewed for this column, spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “They would rather curse the darkness than light a candle.” Adalian Column: PTC Uses Kids as Human Shields – TVWeek – News.

Former FCC Chair Powell Regrets Pro-Indecency Vote

Now former FCC Michael Powell tells us he regrets having approved the decision to declare Bono’s comments indecent. “It was a terrible mistake and I voted for it,” Powell said at a forum on the Commission held in mid-September. Supreme Court to hear FCC f-bomb appeal on Election Day . Recall when that decision, and the Janet Jackson furor, broke out — in 2004, as President Bush was “basing” his reelection campaign on his appeal to the conservative “base.” Powell, as FCC Commish, reversed his former vocal opposition to expansive FCC “indecency” enforcement, and instead launched the Commission on a virtual crusade against it. As we pointed out at the time, Powell was simply using the FCC to inflame (energize?) the base and turn the 2004 election in a “culture war” referendum. Now, apparently, his principles and conscience have returned. Unfortunately, creative media artists and the public have been saddled with his legacy: arbitrary and capricious FCC decisions that make a mockery of the First Amendment. That’s what the Second and Third Courts of Appeal have found, and why we’re a party to upholding the Second Circuit in Fox v. FCC, to be heard by the Supreme Court on November 4.

Television Tools for Parents 101 – Check It Out!

Television Watch has created “Television Tools for Parents 101″, an excellent tool for concerned parents to take control of television content. Let’s let parents make the decisions on what their children can watch, not the federal government Let’s let consumers decide what should be on television, not unelected FCC Commissioners. Check out “Television Tools for Parents 101″.

“TV Needs to Join Net Neutrality Fight”

Harry Jessell, the influential editor of TV Newsday, writes that broadcast television stations should enter the fight for open access Net Neutrality regulations to ensure that they are able to reach their audiences over the Internet. Extremely interesting development in the fight to preserve a level playing field on the Internet since the MPAA is on record as opposing Net Neutrality, and most of the major television networks are members of the MPAA following their consolidation with major film studios. Says Jessell:

The question is, is this the NAB’s fight? I think it is. The last thing that a station needs to discover is that its Web site is not loading as quickly or looking as good as that of the local Yellow Pages publisher because the directory publisher cut some kind of deal with the cable company. Or worse, the station Web site is functioning slower because the local cable company has its own competitive site. TVNEWSDAY – TV Needs to Join Net Neutrality Fight.

Why Net Neutrality Matters to Creatives – and Everyone Else

WGA member Michael Janover pens a terrific op-ed about why creative artists — and everyone else — needs to take action to protect Net Neutrality. Writes Janover: “Net Neutrality” basically means “Leave the Internet alone,” and it’s the battle cry for those who think handing over management and control of information to a few mega-corporations is the worst possible idea. Net neutrality: Why you should give a damn : Speakout : The Rocky Mountain News.

UPDATED – “Dismayed” Bipartisan FCC Chairs, Commissioners, and Officials Denounce FCC Indecency Decisions as “Victorian crusade”

Former FCC Chairs Newton Minow and Mark Fowler, joined by other former FCC Commissioners and officials, have added their respected — and “dismayed” — voice to that of Creative Voices in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Second Circuit’s decision in Fox v. FCC. In their brief, they write:

… we have been dismayed by a series of recent [FCC] decisions that have transformed a hitherto moderate policy of policing only the most extreme cases of indecent broadcast programming into a campaign of regulatory surveillance that will chill the production of all but the blandest of broadcast programming.

The FCC’s policy towards broadcast indecency has evolved from a restrained effort to regulate clear, flagrant instances of indecent language by a handful of broadcast licensees and performers into an ever-expanding campaign against ordinary radio and television programming. In pursuit of a policy of protecting children against exposure to extremely offensive language, the Commission has embarked on an enforcement program that has all the earmarks of a Victorian crusade. To effectuate its new clean-up-the-airwaves policy, the Commission has radically expanded the definition of indecency beyond its original conception; magnified the penalties for even minor, ephemeral images or objectionable language; and targeted respected television programs, movies, and even noncommercial documentaries.

These officials also want the Supremes to strip away entirely the FCC’s indecency enforcement authority. This is extremely powerful. The brief is at QuelloFCCFox.pdf. An excellent Broadcasting & Cable article is here.

UPDATED. Bill Triplett in Variety reports reaction to the brief from Ex-FCC Chairs and Commissioners:

“They do listen to the voice of experience,” says Patricia Millett, an attorney in the Supreme Court practice of the bluechip firm Akin Gump. “And the fact that it’s bipartisan will carry more weight because it looks less political. … The court does pay attention when a brief is written in terms of day-to-day work and how a policy is workable or not.”

“They make a very compelling argument,” says a veteran Supreme Court observer of the ex-chiefs’ point. “They understand and are sympathetic to the FCC’s task on indecency but experience shows that the commission can’t handle the political pressure.”

More on the Death of Synergy

Nearly six years ago, we hailed Jeff Bewkes, now the CEO of Time Warner, for honestly saying the claimed benefits of “synergy” — using Big Media’s chokehold over distribution to consolidate its grip over creative production — were B.S. and would turn even greater control over creative decisions to “the suits,” thus ruining “the business.” Said Bewkes then, ““Horizontal integration can be useful if you don’t let it ‘factory-ize’ creative production. … But where people got fouled up was in vertical integration. Saying you need to buy something to provide content for your network is bullshit — you can get product from anywhere.”

Bewkes had it right back then. Yet as he eventually ascended to the top job at Time Warner, replacing Dick Parsons, he did relatively nothing about it. Time Warner kept its magazines, cable operations and catastrophic AOL Internet distribution, all the time hunting for that elusive magical “synergy” that would make the sum of the parts greater than the whole, when reality and the plummeting stock price proved it was less. According to the NY Times, that’s about to change. In an effort to focus more sharply on “content creation” (or what nonsuits still like to call movies and television shows), Jeffrey L. Bewkes, who became chief executive of Time Warner in January, is whittling down the company’s many branches. It’s a makeover that will unravel about two decades’ worth of mergers that created the company in its current form. We’ll see, as this is the third or fourth one of these articles we’ve seen over the years previewing the breakup of the company and the return to its roots as a content creator. Holy Cash Cow, Batman! Content Is Back at Time Warner – NYTimes.com.

Artists to SCOTUS: FCC fleeting expletives policy is f*ed up

Matthew Lasar wrote on ars technica an excellent article on Creative Voices’ brief to the United States Supreme Court to “send the Federal Communications Commission’s tortured “fleeting expletive” rules to the shredder.” He nicely puts our brief in the context of the history of indecency enforcement and litigation — very interesting piece. Artists to SCOTUS: FCC fleeting expletives policy is f*ed up.

Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman on Media Consolidation and Net Neutrality — Hilarious!

Inspired YouTube lunacy on the dangers of media consolidation and the need for net neutrality from legendary Lloyd Kaufman, producer of such great Troma pics as The Toxic Avenger, and chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance. The last line: If Media Conglomerates Grow, Independent Art Will Not. We agree! YouTube – Lloyd Kaufman Defines Media Consolidation.

Creative Voices Tells Supreme Court to Uphold Reversal of Flawed FCC Indecency Decisions

Creative Voices today filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold last year’s well-reasoned Second Circuit reversal of the FCC’s flawed indecency decisions in Fox v. FCC — the Cher, Nicole Ritchie, and Bono “fleeting expletives” case. CV is an intervening party in the case, arguing that the FCC’s arbitrary enforcement of its indecency rules has created a “chilling effect” that harms creative artists and the general public. Big Chill: How the FCC’s Indecency Decisions Stifle Free Expression, Threaten Quality Television, and Harm America’s Children, our report documenting numerous incidents of censorship and the insidious harm of the “chilling effect,” was attached to the Supreme Court brief as an appendix. The Big Chill report is available here. Center for Creative Voices in Media: News.

CV Applauds FCC Decision to Sanction Comcast and Promote Open Internet for All

Creative Voices applauds today’s FCC decision to protect and promote an open Internet where consumers have the freedom to access the lawful Internet content of their choice and use the lawful applications of their choice. The FCC decision today marked an important victory in the battle over whether consumers will have the freedom to enjoy the full Internet, or whether they will they be restricted to visiting sites approved by – or in business with – the cable, telephone, or media conglomerate “gatekeeper” that provides broadband Internet access.

Because extreme media consolidation and concentration have eliminated so many independent voices and visions from America’s mainstream media, a growing number of creative artists now share their video, music, and creative visions directly with their audience over the Internet. Today’s FCC decision protects these artists from discrimination by broadband providers, promoting more independent and diverse voices in our media. That benefits creative artists and the American public. Read our full statement at Center for Creative Voices in Media: News.

Creative Voices Podcast on Janet Jackson, Net Neutrality

CV Executive Director Jonathan Rintels was interviewed by WINA-AM 1070 host Coy Barefoot for half an hour about the Third Circuit’s overturning of the FCC’s decision to fine CBS $550,000 for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. They also discussed the FCC’s decision to sanction Comcast for blocking and discriminating against Internet traffic. Link here.

Top Aide to ex-FCC Chair Powell Applauds Court’s Reversal of Powell’s Janet Jackson Fine

Of all the encomiums for the 3rd Circuit’s overturning of the FCC’s CBS/Janet Jackson Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” fine, perhaps the most unexpected is this:

“Perhaps it is time to read the handwriting on the wall: the guardians of our First Amendment freedoms in the courts are not going to allow the FCC to play the role of media supernanny,” said Ken Ferree, president of the libertarian Progress & Freedom Foundation. “A free and vibrant, even if occasionally coarse, marketplace of speech is the cornerstone of a free society. We allow government to meddle in that marketplace at our peril.”

As many will recall, then FCC Chair Michael Powell pushed hard for the Janet Jackson fine, making the rounds of all the talk shows to express how outraged he was, attempting to turn the incident, it appeared to many, into a defining moment in the “Culture Wars” and a campaign issue for President George W. Bush’s reelection. Ken Ferree, of course, was FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s top aide and close friend at the FCC, running the Media Bureau. Welcome to the fight, Ken! Court tosses FCC Super Bowl fine – Variety.com.

Martin Wants FCC Yellow Card Against Comcast for Violating Net Neutrality

Props to FCC Chair Kevin Martin for putting some very small enforcement teeth into the FCC’s four Net Neutrality principles, which he had said at the time of adoption were “unenforceable.” He proposes no fine against Comcast for throttling BitTorrent peer-to-peer traffic, but that the cable ISP ‘fess up and not do it anymore. Should Martin get the other FCC Commissioners to go along with his proposal, it could create an extremely important and valuable precedent, as well as a giant battle over what constitutes “discrimination” versus “reasonable network management,” which is how Comcast defines its actions. “The commission has never before provided any guidance on what it means by ‘reasonable network management,” said Comcast. Martin Throws P2P Penalty Flag At Comcast – Multichannel News.