NAB President Calls for Cable Indecency Rules

Oct 4, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The top exec of the National of Association of Broadcasters today suggested that cable companies’ free-service offers raise doubts about their exemption from government indecency rules.

“Why is it that cable doesn’t have indecency rules? Because the courts say they are a subscription service,” said NAB President and CEO David Rehr, the former beer industry association exec who took over the NAB post 10 months ago. “But I know in my area and maybe in your area, cable uses free marketing and free subscriptions as a way to gain customers.”

Mr. Rehr also suggested the attention sometimes paid to cable ignores the broadcast industry’s continuing overwhelming ratings dominance. He noted that 235 of the country’s top programs during the last TV season were on broadcast TV and that in the sought-after 18- to 49-year-old age bracket the first 184 programs and 512 of the top 522 were on broadcast TV, not cable.

He also said the broadcast industry was committed to initiating “an aggressive” marketing campaign to explain the benefits of the digital transition to Americans.

In other wide-ranging comments responding to reporters’ questions, Mr. Rehr Suggested that media consolidation opponents who testified at a Los Angeles Federal Communications Commission hearing on Tuesday didn’t “really proportionately represent America,” a country where “most people are satisfied with the media.”

He also questioned the wisdom of letting the FCC fine broadcasters severely for swear words that slip through.

“Broadcasters do everything they can to stop people from swearing, cussing, holding up signs, being indecent. If you are doing everything you can to protect the public interest, is there an incentive in punishing you? I think that is something we are going to have to explore in the months and years ahead.”

In addition, Mr. Rehr warned that various efforts to limit children’s advertising could backfire.

“If we start going through a line of, ‘we shouldn’t be targeting children with advertising,’ you eventually strip most every ad out of this country. I think this is a bad thing for America.”

Rob Stoddard, senior VP for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said the cable industry’s exemption from indecency laws is well founded.

“No matter how you slice it, cable is a subscription service to which customers must make an affirmative decision to subscribe, and which doesn’t use the public airwaves,” he said.

He also noted that the cable industry has undertaken a major effort to educate parents about parental controls and media literacy.