The FCC’s war on American children, adults

The Federal Communications Commission has a very important mission, but it’s not being fulfilled.girl watching tv

In fact, the opposite has been happening over the past few days and it’ll likely lead to less children’s programming – and less attention when you complain about your TV, phone company or internet service provider.

The FCC says its mission is to regulate

“interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the Commission is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.”

But the amount of regulation looks to be receding faster than cars in a race.

Do you have kids, or know anyone who puts their kids in front of the TV?

trump quotes

Axios reports the FCC is starting to loosen broadcasters’ requirements for children’s TV programming. You know, those stations that are licensed by the government to use the public airwaves for the public interest.

schoolhouse rockYou probably watched Saturday morning cartoons. They weren’t just fun but also carried a message or lesson. Even breaks in programming like ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock! were educational. I’d go as far as to credit NBC’s The More You Know.

Cartoons were on all three networks when there were only three commercial broadcast networks, plus Fox may have even gotten into the act before the end. The new kid on the block did carry weekday afternoon cartoons, early on, when it had weaker stations that didn’t carry news.

smurfs
Common Sense Media

News. That’s the magic word. It’s cheaper to produce and stations can pretty much put as many commercials in as they want.

NBC was first with Weekend Today. Then CBS and ABC came up with weekend editions of their weekday morning shows. (CBS did have Sunday Morning before the Saturday cartoon era ended.) And eventually, local stations followed. The news looked a lot like the previous night’s 11:00 news, just with different people!

It wasn’t like there was much going on most of the time.

OK, so I did produce newscasts with JFK Jr.’s deadly plane crash and Elián González’s capture from his Miami relatives’ closet on weekend mornings while at WCAU in Philadelphia. I had the morning off from KYW-TV when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas while returning to Earth, killing all seven crew members.

But the new newscasts didn’t have to be good back then. It was the same when TV stations started putting local news on, weekday mornings. The TV station just had to let viewers know the world hadn’t ended, we weren’t at war and what the weather would be like.

Now, the FCC says the old rules aren’t needed because kids these days have apps and streaming services just for them! (Do they all have access? Really?)

Axios reports Nielsen data says the prime target of the rules — kids between 2 and 11 – are watching about 22 percent less regular TV between 2014 and 2017. Any wonder, when there’s nothing on for them? Put the youngsters in front of Fox News Channel and Days of Our Lives.

sesame street muppet wikia
http://muppet.wikia.com

Instead, they’re using “apps like YouTube Kids, 24/7 kid-friendly cable channels like Nickelodeon and Disney Junior, on-demand shows like Sesame Street on HBO, and over-the-top kids programming on Netflix.”

FCC commissioners who want to lessen the kid rules refer to them as among the many “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome” ones on the books, according to Deadline magazine.

They say TV broadcasters have too many rules to follow, while tech companies don’t have any, so this would just make things fairer. But I say that’s because tech companies don’t use the public’s airwaves!

What are those rules and how burdensome are they?

Axios says,

“In 1990, Congress passed the Children’s Television Act, which requires broadcasters to air three hours of educational programming per week (with limited advertising) in order to maintain their license. Children’s programming must also meet certain ‘Kid Vid’ requirements with respect to educational purpose, length and the time of day it is aired.”

My heart goes out to them.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse peewee wikia
peewwee.wikia.com

Nobody is saying the three hours of educational programming per week has to be original. The networks, or syndication companies, or companies that own more than 100 TV stations can come up with it!

Captain Kangaroo Bob Keeshan 1977 wikipediaOn the other hand, back in the day, it seemed every TV station had its own locally-produced children’s programming with live studio audiences, and I’m not referring to Captain Kangaroo which aired on CBS. Of course, back then, they also took news seriously, too!

Coming up next (using a TV phrase), it’s up to us – the public – to comment on the proposal. Then, the FCC will vote on final changes, later this year. If they succeed, Deadline says

“broadcasters could be able to satisfy government requirements that they produce appropriate children’s far by ‘relying in part on special sponsorship efforts and/or special non-broadcast efforts.’”

fcc commissioners 2018Speaking of the public telling the FCC what we think, that federal agency will probably soon start forcing us to pay $225 to file – and for them to review – a formal complaint against a telecom company! That means broadband, TV, and phone companies.

Yes, it’s hard to believe. No, I’m not making this up. This is America, 2018.

Thursday, according to Ars Technica, the FCC voted 3-1 to stop reviewing informal consumer complaints.

The fifth seat – to be held by a Democrat – has not been filled since Mignon Clyburn resigned last month. (As if that vote would’ve changed things!)

You’d still have to pay the $225 even if your internet service provider, which you pay every month, doesn’t respond to your informal complaint.

What would cause the FCC to make this move? I was wondering the same thing.

Turns out, Ars Technica reports the biggest change will be “the text of the FCC’s rule about informal complaints.”

In other words, this is how things have been!

“Nothing is substantively changing in the way that the FCC handles informal complaints,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “We’re simply codifying the practices that have been in place since 1986.”

That’s when Ronald Reagan was president.

But the commission’s only Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, remembered things differently.

Ars Technica reports she said the FCC has reviewed informal complaints in the past.

“This is bonkers,” she said at Thursday’s meeting. “No one should be asked to pay $225 for this agency to do its job. No one should see this agency close its doors to everyday consumers looking for assistance in a marketplace that can be bewildering to navigate. There are so many people who think Washington is not listening to them and that the rules at agencies like this one are rigged against them – and today’s decision only proves that point.”

Rosenworcel said the FCC gets 25,000 to 30,000 informal complaints a month.

“After they are filed, the agency studies the complaint, determines what happened, and then works with providers to fix consumer problems,” Rosenworcel said. “For decades, this has been the longstanding practice of this agency. But for reasons I do not understand, today’s order cuts the FCC out of the process. Instead of working to fix problems, the agency reduces itself to merely a conduit for the exchange of letters between consumers and their carriers. Then, following the exchange of letters, consumers who remain unsatisfied will be asked to pay a $225 fee to file a formal complaint just to have the FCC take an interest.”

On top of the formal complaint process being expensive, it’s also complicated.

“Parties filing formal complaints usually are represented by lawyers or experts in communications law and the FCC’s procedural rules,”

the FCC says.

If the change becomes final, two references to the commission’s review and “disposition” of each informal complaint will be removed from the FCC complaints rule.

Then, even if you get no response, you’ll have to file a formal complaint – and pay.

FCC headquarters, Ser Amantio di Nicolao-Wikipedia
FCC headquarters, Ser Amantio di Nicolao-Wikipedia

This comes as part of a larger rulemaking aimed at ‘streamlining’ the formal complaint process.

According to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, “Today’s decision is another win for good government.”

I wonder what we did to deserve that!

Click here for my post containing Schoolhouse Rock! clips.

Please, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Advertisements

The Big Bang Theory’s wedding episode succeeded where Publix failed

Most of us strive for perfection. Some of us do it too hard, and it can affect our well-being.

On the other hand, there are people who just don’t know any better, or worse, don’t care.

devil clip art

I don’t watch TV nearly as much as I used to, especially newer shows, shows not on network TV, etc. One day, I’ll be asking you for advice on being a cord-cutter.

(Unless any of you in the Philadelphia area are experts on watching by streaming over the internet. But how do you get the internet without Comcast in a high-rise when Comcast is the only option?)

the big bang theory logo
CBS

Anyway, I was writing a blog when Sheldon and Amy got married on The Big Bang Theory but watched it on demand over the weekend.

I’ll quote this website to catch you up.

“Leonard is getting emotional helping his buddy get ready. Leonard is happy for Sheldon and that he will be officially and legally Amy’s problem. Ahh. Sheldon adds that he will always be Leonard’s problem.”

Then, Mary Cooper comes in and asks for a moment with her son, Sheldon.

After that, Sheldon describes to Amy,

“how her comments about imperfection in his bow tie makes him want to add the imperfections of the real world into his string theory calculations. Amy then calls his work super asymmetry and he likes that.”

Obviously, the importance of perfection depends what you’re doing.

None of us will be perfect in life, or in any particular part of it. That’s what makes us human. We can and should strive to improve in areas we particularly need it.

Which is why regular readers know I get angry when I see fellow journalists messing up or unwilling to fix their mistakes — especially former colleagues who know better.

Publix logo exterior

That said, look at the Publix bakery. Publix is a big Florida supermarket and expanded into other southeastern states, where fed-up Floridians went when they became former Floridians.

The Miami Herald reports Publix decided “to censor a high school student’s graduation cake” when a South Carolina mom “said she ordered a Publix cake online for her son, Jacob, 18, last weekend to celebrate his summa cum laude designation. She intended the frosting to read: ‘Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.’”

Wow! Ordering a cake online!

Come to think of it, The Herald reports that was the problem!

Mom had gone out of her way when ordering the cake to make sure everything would go right and Publix would accomplish just a tiny fraction of what her son did – reading, baking and spelling.

But…

“A computerized Publix algorithm that trolls cake inscription requests for naughty words didn’t like the Latin word ‘cum’ — pronounced coom — which means ‘with.’

“The centuries-old phrase translates to ‘with the highest distinction’ or ‘praise.’ So the cake maker followed the computer’s instruction — despite (proud Mom’s) explanation of the Latin phrase in the ‘special instructions’ column of the order form — and instead decorated the cake with ‘Congrats Jacob! Summa — Laude class of 2018.’

“The Latin preposition for ‘with’ was replaced by dashes.”

Instead, she “went on Facebook to tell everyone how embarrassing it was to have to explain to her son and 70-year-old mom the other meaning of that preposition when used as English slang.”

cum cake Facebook

Brilliant Jacob may not be as brilliant as credited, or it may say a lot about his graduating class, if he looked at the actual word by itself and had no idea it may have an alternative meaning.

Come to think of it (I couldn’t resist using that phrase a second time and I’m able to), The Washington Post reported Jacob attended a Christian-based home-school program and earned a 4.89 grade point average.

Last night, Stephen Colbert went off on Publix on “The Late Show” and was able to present “another graduation treat made for Jacob — cupcakes with the offending (to Publix) word as decorative frosting,” as The Herald put it.

Blame CBS, not me, if you see a commercial.

I’ll bet he didn’t have to travel to Times Square — a few blocks south of the Ed Sullivan Theater — to have them made, either.

According to The Post, Mom called Publix and the assistant manager offered to remake the cake.

“No,” the paper reported she said. “You only graduate once.”

But she may have ended up smiling financially.

Publix refunded $70 for the cake and gave her a store gift card.

Just don’t try it with Publix, yourself.

The Post wrote it “replicated her experience and got the same result.”

publix cake form
The Washington Post

So the tie Sheldon wore at his wedding in The Big Bang Theory may not have been tied perfectly. That’s not a big deal in the scheme of things. Besides, by the time anyone important (besides Mark Hamill) would see him close-up, there would’ve been plenty of time and movement for the perfect tie to become imperfect. So he gets away with it while dressed better than most of the guys on the show, most of the time, anyway. (And it would probably have been corrected for pictures.)

But as Jacob’s mom said, “You only graduate once,” and she said she explained the situation to the Publix assistant manager because she didn’t want this to happen to anyone else in the future.

Unfortunately,

“as The Washington Post test revealed, that particular ‘c’ word remains profane by Publix standards.”

So nothing was learned. Try putting it on your next license plate instead.

P.S. I have another reward for reading all the way!

In an exclusive, unaired clip from The Big Bang Theory Season 11 finale, the happy couple gets one last wedding present from the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Hawking died in March. I posted a Facebook article with thoughts then.

hawking
https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/stephen-hawking-s-complicated-relationship-with-israel-1.5906160

Also, I’ll give you these two articles on how the scientist was so misguided on that topic.

And from the same day:

Stephen Hawking reaffirms support of Israel boycott: Hawking sends letter to President’s Conference organizers saying he faced pressure to withdraw from Palestinian academics (Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2013)

Please, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish.

P.S. Just wanted to make sure no connection between words in Summa Cum Laude and The Big Bang Theory was implied.