O.U. Calls for Tough FCC Boss
By Gabriel Sanders
As published in The Forward. February 11, 2005
On the eve of the first anniversary of Janet Jackson’s breast-baring “wardrobe malfunction,” the Orthodox Union added its name to a letter urging President Bush to name a new Federal Communications Commission chief “committed to enforcing decency laws.”
The letter comes after the recent resignation of FCC Chairman Michael Powell. In signing the statement, O.U. Executive Vice President Tzvi Hersh Weinreb put himself among the country’s leading decency watchdogs, including L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. It was signed by a total of more than 40 organizational leaders.
“Years ago, TV broadcasters had a strong industrywide code and self-imposed internal standards that generally reflected community standards,” the letter read. “This is no longer the case.”
While the letter praised recent moves by the FCC to promote compliance with decency regulations, such as the levying of fines against disc jockeys like New York’s Howard Stern, it ultimately called for a harder line.
“These were steps forward for the FCC, but if there is to be a lasting impact, these steps must be repeated and expanded upon until broadcasters understand that they are not above the law,” it read.
The joint letter is composed in language far milder than what its signatories will often employ in writings of their own.
In a January 21 press release, the Parents Television Council referred to Powell’s tenure at the FCC as a failure.
“Michael Powell has brought us four years of failed leadership at the FCC,” Bozell was quoted as saying in the press release. “His reluctance to enforce broadcast decency laws have [sic] led to confusion and uncertainty. During his term, bestiality, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and pedophilia became FCC-sanctioned topics on prime-time network television.”
For its part, the O.U. sounded a more moderate note.
“I think [Powell] is regarded as someone who came a long way, who brought the agency a long way from where it was when he took over,” said Nathan Diament, director of the O.U.’s Institute for Public Affairs.
A group of about 30 Republican members of the House of the Representatives sent their own letter underscoring similar themes.
“The next FCC chairman will oversee an important time in our nation’s history,” the letter read, “and they [sic] must be ready to aggressively enforce the laws that Congress has passed. We encourage you to nominate an individual of boldness, strength and vision, who will continue the work already begun. We must not let immorality become normalized, nor federal laws ignored.”
Perhaps expecting that any choice he will make will leave some unsatisfied, the president, in an interview with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, said that policing the airwaves is primarily a parent’s responsibility and not that of the government.
“They put an off button on the TV for a reason,” Bush said.
As published in The Forward