FCC’s Powell wants to rethink communications policy

July 19, 2004

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has called for a complete rethinking of the nation’s communications policies.

Speaking last week at the Innovation Summit in Palo Alto, CA, Powell said it has become impossible to enforce ancient media rules in a drastically changed communications environment, CNET News said.

While avoiding a question of whether the FCC would do anything about "indecent" comments spoken by Oprah Winfrey, the chairman lamented the commission’s task of enforcing decency rules handed down in 1962, when television signals were a scarce commodity.

Those rules still apply to broadcast channels today, he noted, even though 80 percent of U.S. homes get their TV from cable or satellite systems that also offer hundred of relatively uncensored channels.

Leveling out the treatment broadcast and cable channels receive would require significant changes in the law, however, and that’s unlikely to happen any time soon, Powell said.

Powell said several federal communications policies need to be rethought. Existing laws are meant largely to regulate single-purpose networks, such as broadcast and phone lines. With voice, video and other traffic merging on broadband, cable and other networks, that perspective doesn’t work anymore, Powell said.

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