Wednesday, December 08, 2004

UCC Ad Update

The Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA issued the following statement regarding the "controversial" television ad by the United Church of Christ:
The controversial issue here is not the content of the ad, but the arbitrary standards of the network gatekeepers. Church doors are open to all who would come; but broadcast channels are increasingly closed to all but the wealthy and well-connected.

It is important to note that the broadcast networks are not being asked to give free time to the United Church of Christ to express its message - the church is ready to pay dearly for that privilege, even though the networks do not pay for their highly profitable use of the broadcast spectrum.

The Federal Communications Commission, in giving free access to the public's airwaves to commercial corporations - with virtually no strings attached - has handed them powerful control over America's media "public square." The for-profit keepers of that square are all too willing to promulgate messages laced with sexual innuendo, greed, violence, and the politics of personal destruction, but a message of openness and welcome that merely says "church doors are open to all" is being silenced as too controversial!

Advocacy advertising abounds on TV: agribusinesses, drug manufacturers, gambling casinos, oil companies, even some government agencies regularly expose viewers to messages advocating their products and programs, in the interest of shaping public attitudes and building support for their points of view.

Are only the ideas and attitudes of faith groups now off limits? Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of speech, not to mention common fairness, beg for leadership by the FCC to assure that America's faith community has full and equal access to the nation's airwaves, to deliver positive messages that seek to build and enrich the quality of life.
As for things which "beg for leadership by the FCC," there are reasons to raise serious questions about its leadership these days. FCC chairman Michael Powell has become fond of quoting some very dubious statistics lately:
The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”

What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.
That means that the FCC received around 500 legitimate complaints aside from the mass spammings by the PTC, and Mr. Powell is nevertheless promoting the agenda of this organization as though it is a mandate of the 300 million citizens of the U.S. So I wouldn't hold my breath for the quality of leadership by the FCC that the National Council of Churches is looking for, but I doubt they are either.


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