UPDATE: Today’s U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the nomination of Julius Genachowski to become FCC chairman started out with a bang, when both its chairman and ranking Republican issued warnings that things need to change. “Fix the agency or we will fix it for you,” said committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, the West Virgia Democrat. He called the nomination “mammothly important” and accused the FCC of too often acting at the behest of the bottom lines of special interests, rather than regulating them. “Show that it is not battered beyond repair.” The smooth-talking former adviser to Barry Diller took it all in stride. He did say he opposes the Fairness Doctrine, something that some Congressional Democrats want to revive but President Obama opposes. No surprise, Genachowski says he’s against it because “I strongly believe in the First Amendment” and doesn’t think the FCC should be involved in censorship based on political speech and opinion. Of course, Genachowski also did the policy work regarding on this during the Obama campaign and transition and is the guy who told Obama to oppose the Fairness Doctrine.
He had something for everybody in the debate over whether the FCC should clamp down on violent or sexy TV programs. “I share the concerns of parents on indecency,” he said. “The FCC’s job is to enforce the law, and it will enforce the law.” But he added that he wants to “make sure parents are empowered” to block shows. “I have great hope over what technology can do. I’d like to see innovation in this area.” He also side-stepped questions about whether he’d allow more media consolidation by relaxing rules that limit the ability of a company to own a newspaper and TV station in the same market. “My heart is filled with respect for newspapers and the role they play in our democracy,” he said, but added, “it wouldn’t be right for the FCC to ignore the real problems in the marketplace.” With newspapers in such trouble and the FCC rarely encountering a media merger it didn’t like, it’s hard to tell whether or not Genachowski would allow Big Media to keep becoming Behemoth Media with so much power and influence concentrated in the hands of so few.
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