Broadcast TV and Cable TV

The NYTimes comes out this morning on ending free speech restrictions on broadcast TV.  Of course the Times gets it half right and misses the great point.  Let me explain.

All the restrictions that govern program content in the US are placed on broadcast television. What is broadcast TV you might ask?  Simply if you unhook your cable wire from the wall and put the old rabbit ear antennas up (with the high def. converter box) the only stations you would get would be "broadcast" - the transmission towers and all "broadly cast".  These are TV stations.  On the otherhand, when you put that cable wire back into your set and subtract out all the broadcast stations, you are left with cable "networks" - MSNBC, CNN, ESPN and the like and there are 400 or so of them.

About 88% of households in the US get their television by cable or dish satellite. < 10% only by broadcast and a few percent don't have a TV at all.  The point is there are no regulations on cable networks as to content, language, anything...they fall outside the FCC's rules.  Right now this pertains to "decency" issues like language, nudity, etc..  It used to apply to the "fairness doctrine" which was mostly political and if the station ran an editorial that targeted a candidate the candidate would be given "equal time" to counter.  Reagan/Bush took that out for political advantage and the stations were loath to give up airtime anyway 'for free' so it was win win for the politicians and the stations but loose loose for us.

The larger point is that cable networks are unregulated. One of the things which you might not believe but is true is that the broadcast networks, particularly in informational programming, try and get things right because of the ethics of the fairness doctrine still exists there.  More important broadcast stations are "licensed" and up for review every year. Those licenses can be revoked. Cable networks are under no such obligation or check and balance.  If  a station constantly reports that right is left and up is down as part of their news/informational requirement,  it costs them or can. That threat of pulling what might be a 500 million dollar license, keeps them in line. That is the bigger point.  Either you regulated the cable networks and pull their ability to be on cable or you let the broadcast stations go unregulated. That the Times got right.

Anyway, that is the landscape of things. Just so you know.