CommissionAccording to press reports, the Federal Communications Commission is about to embark on another hearing on "broadcaster's programming obligations to children." William Kennard, late Chairman of the FCC, said that as a Commissioner and as a parent he was concerned with the "sex and violence" aired by the nation's radio and television stations.
Thirty-five years ago, when I was working in broadcasting, there was a similar concern. To address these, I appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee in hearing in connection with license terms for broadcasters. Among my suggestions was one which would address the issue of sex and violence without the government having to venture into the delicate area of censorship.
In brief, I suggested that the FCC create a fee schedule which would be applied to each program that involved mayhem or explicit sexual content. I called it a "Sex and Violence Fee."
Each broadcast licensee would be required to keep a log of all programs which contained, in all or in part, sexual innuendo, lewd and lascivious acts or descriptions, violence, and/or drug use. The FCC would create a fee schedule appropriate to such broadcasts.
At the end of each fiscal year, station operators would forward a list of programs which fit these categories, and remit the appropriate dollar amount to the Commission, to become part of its general fund.
I presented a suggested schedule of fees, with the caveat that it was not complete. "I am sure that the FCC," I said, "with better investigative resources than my own, can come up with a more comprehensive list." For instance, even now I'm not exactly sure how one should categorize some of the more exotic acts of violence, such as one I saw not long ago on Los Angeles TV, in which a woman was shown in the buff, in a shower, being eviscerated by a portable electric drill.
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I listed the following program categories, with suggested fees:
*Class I words would include "damn," "hell," "goddamn," "screw," "dork," "penishead," "pantywaist," etc., and all ethnic slurs.
**Class II words would consist of all the remainder.
Language Sexual innuendo $2,500 Dirty Words (Class I)* $5,000 Dirty Words (Class II)** $10,000 Sex, Nudity Naked body (above the waist) $5,000 Naked body (below the waist) $10,000 Intercourse (Simulated: Oral, etc) $15,000 Intercourse (Actual: Oral, etc.) $20,000 Onanism $30,000 Incest $40,000 Bestiality $50,000 Drug Use Smoking $5,000 Snorting $10,000 Injecting $20,000 Violence Bodily blows with fist or "blunt object" First blow $5,000 Each blow thereafter $3,000 Shooting, knifing, stabbing (without blood) $7,500 Shooting, knifing, stabbing (with blood) $10,000 Bludgeoning, kicking, stomping, garroting, strangling, general mayhem $15,000 Torture: gouging out eyes, eviscerating, beheading, cutting off private parts, etc. $25,000 Bombing National or International: CIA, FBI, ATF, or U. S. Military None National or International: Terrorist $100,000
The merit of this Fee-based Schedule is that it neither contemplates nor requires censorship. It is, rather, a system that depends on the good-will of American broadcasters to report their activities honestly --- in much the same way that they now report income, expenses, and depreciation to the IRS.
Since, according to the FCC's own records, American broadcasters enjoy well over 25% return, annually, on invested dollar (one of the highest of any industry), they should welcome this relatively elegant method of self-regulation which will have the dual advantage of helping to fund their appropriate regulatory commission and, more importantly, stifling the ever increasing, strident demands for censorship.--- L. W. Milam