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.

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In defense: The good Facebook can do when used by the right people

First, happy Mother’s Day to everyone to whom that applies. I hope you’re having a great day!

casey frisky mothers day
You’ll have to excuse them. Casey and Frisky are still learning their colors.

Second, today is also the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day. It’s the Hebrew anniversary of when the Israelis recaptured the eastern/holy part of the city in the Six-Day War of 1967. It’s where no Arab country’s leader had visited except Jordan’s King Hussein, who’d “occupied” it 19 years earlier in 1948.

But then it suddenly became so important to them.

There is lots and lots to say about President Trump, but this post isn’t about him. Still, he is making the embassy move from Tel Aviv happen and no other American president has done so, despite being able. So thank you, President Trump.

Trump Jlem Day poster
Picture above and video below, courtesy Nyla

Israelis, naturally, are celebrating.

There’s an article written this weekend by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro (President Obama’s) and publicly supported by current U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (President Trump’s).

Shapiro, who is much more liberal, described the situation with a question:

“Why hasn’t the US ever recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? Some people date it to the controversy that arose in 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the Six-Day War and unified the city, describing it as a US protest against the Israeli ‘occupation’ of East Jerusalem. That’s wrong.

“The truth is that US policy on Jerusalem derives from events 20 years earlier, when the United Nations passed the Partition Plan for Palestine in November 1947.”

The two differ on many things but as my friend Andy, who pointed the article out, published:

“Good to see President Trump’s ambassador positively sharing an article by President Obama’s ambassador. Let’s keep support for Israel bipartisan.”

In the article, Shapiro described a day in the life of a U.S. Ambassador to Israel:

“Jerusalem had always been Israel’s capital, and we have always treated it functionally, if not formally, as such. When I served as the US Ambassador at our embassy in Tel Aviv, nearly every day I would be driven to Jerusalem to conduct affairs of state with the Israeli government at the Prime Minister’s office, the Foreign Ministry, and the Knesset.”

Then, he goes into a brief history of the complicated situation with Jerusalem at the center of it, describes a possible step towards solving an issue that has been delayed too many times over too many decades, and then how the embassy move could help end the century-old conflict. Let’s hope!

Also, Donald Trump’s face is featured on a ceremonial Israeli coin marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s rebirth.

It depicts Trump alongside the biblical King Cyrus of Persia, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem 2,500 years ago, after King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Temple (King Solomon’s) in 586 B.C. and exiled the Jews to Babylon.

Why does the other side try to claim there’s no Jewish history in Jerusalem? Who are they trying to fool? The answer is gullible haters who don’t want to believe it.

And onto the subject at hand, since I rarely write about myself and even more rarely write about personal subjects rather than professional ones.

Last week, I got a message on Facebook from someone I hadn’t seen in at least 30 years, and probably more like 40.

Technically, I’ve seen him on Facebook. We have several mutual friends, so we’ve seen each other commenting on their posts. (I’m speaking for myself, but can’t imagine the opposite not being true.) We were never really friendly growing up, even though we certainly knew each other.

The message went:

“Hi Lenny, I’m not sure of you remember me, but we grew up together. My memory may be off here, but I feel like I wasn’t always the nicest person to you and I really just want to apologize If I ever did or said anything to make you feel bad. You may not even recall this and maybe it’s more in my head. Anyhow, I just wanted to reach out and say hello. I hope you and your family are doing well. I remember your father very well. … He was always a really nice guy. Again, I know this is very random, but I saw your comment on _____’s post and just to reach out and say hello. Regards, _____”

Wow! Takes guts and a good person to write something like that. Very impressive!

I responded with a quick,

“No worries. I only remember good things. Hope you’re well. Thanks for writing!”

And we connected a few more times.old Lenny

The truth, as I remember it, is I was not happy growing up in Florida. Early on, I felt most of the people simply couldn’t make it in civilization, like New York.

You know what Frank Sinatra sang:

“If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere.”

It was almost always too hot and humid. I wanted to stay inside and watch TV. I was a loner until high school.

Meanwhile, more people moved in to die. The area got more spread out and there was still traffic everywhere. Just Thursday, a friend posted this picture. It’s not downtown Miami but west of the airport.

The goal was to move to New York, which luckily – thanks to my parents – I didn’t do during college and never took on debt.

And instead of moving to New York, once I had enough career experience, I lived on both sides of it: almost two years in Connecticut and eight years in Philadelphia.

When I visit Florida, which hasn’t happened in more than a year, I feel even more like an outsider because of the language barrier. It’s a right-to-work state. Wages are low. So are taxes, even for people work in much better places and spend just 183 days a year there. On the other hand, insurance rates are sky high because of hurricanes and the water level will soon be, too.

south beach flood
Looking down from the 5th floor of my South Beach condo, at 11th and Alton, after about an hour of rain.

Plus, having the career I had and never letting up, I’ve become more of a homebody in recent years.

The writer, who was nice enough to contact me on Facebook, was not a jerk or bully or anything like that. There were some people like that and always will be, even though the world has changed and adults are supposed to be looking for more signs, these days.

And count on the politically-correct police, out in force, to make sure nobody ever feels bad, ever:

inclusive cheerleading
A friend found this article from New Jersey, last week, which you can click here to read and watch parts of the meeting.
2006 ncaa tournament chris christie philadelphia
Chris Christie would’ve never put up with that!

People are going to feel bad. That’s a fact of life. It’s not fair. I suggest you fight for what you believe most and try not to sweat the less important stuff. Forget about it, especially if you’re not sure it actually happened decades ago.

And I thank Facebook for the information above. I would not have had it otherwise.

We know the company has had issues – not just recently but for many years.

Yes, our personal information is their asset.

No, the company could’ve done more to protect it.

Yes, it’s trying to get its act together on security and news that gives facts.

No, it won’t be done soon. It’s a long work in progress with decisions still to be made.

Yes, I’ve written a lot on the subject!

But if it helps you reconnect with people from your past, parents see pictures of their kids in college, grandparents see pictures of their grandchildren, and lets people celebrate their moms on Mother’s Day, and see the excitement of Israelis thrilled about their capital city being reunited and what’s to come this week, then get on board and sign up.

You don’t have to use every function or app, or even a few – but you’re missing out if you’re too stubborn to say you won’t miss good things if you’re not on Facebook.

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