Tate Ends Reign of Praise

With the Jan. 5 departure of Republican FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, a reliable fount of kind words for several industries has left the government.

During her tenure, Internet providers won praise for their initiatives to protect child safety. She saw a nation of open networks and vibrant competition in various sectors. And she consistently championed the principle of corporations reaching solutions among themselves without government intervention.

Late in 2008, she made pitches for digital-rights management, angering some by using long-contested data about the costs of Internet piracy.

But a steady stream of praise went to companies not normally thought of as under the FCC’s purview—junk-food giants, mainly for their initiatives to fight child obesity.

Sworn into office in January 2006, Tate waited seven months before her first written missive praising a corporation. That October, Disney got applause for issuing children’s nutritional guidelines.

In the summer of 2007, she first issued a statement praising the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Industry, a group of major food companies that has offered a series of voluntary measures to reduce the advertising of junk food to children, although some watchdog groups have blasted the group for whitewashing its marketing campaigns and fighting related regulations. Later, the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon gained her blessing for vowing to restrict their cartoon characters’ endorsements to only healthy foods.

In May 2008, she praised qubo, a kids’ channel from Ion Media Networks, for its nutrition guidelines.

In July 2008 and onward, Tate upped her output of praise, again commending the CFBAI. Sept. 23, she praised Dannon Co. for promising to pitch only healthy foods to kids. In October, the NFL Network got her attention with its “Keep Gym in School” initiative. And Oct. 20, she praised Yum! brands for posting nutritional information in its restaurants including KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

In November, she tagged Nestle for agreeing to forego advertising certain products.

In October, Campbell’s Soup Co. got her nod in a press release for pledging to reduce sodium in children’s soups.

Not all profit-making enterprises have garnered praise. In a move that irked the especially tech-savvy community of online gamers, she claimed—with no apparent evidence—that the fantasy game “World of Warcraft” was the leading cause of college dropouts in the country.

What’s next for the Tennessean? In her final statement as commissioner, she said she was excited about launching a formal mediation practice “that will utilize the skills I have practiced daily at the Commission to develop resolution, consensus and collaboration in the communications sector and beyond. Finally, I hope to be engaged in a dialogue to fully engage the Information, Communications and Technologies (ICT) sectors more collaboratively with our energy providers to positively impact our nation’s goal of true energy independence.”