FCC divided over Hundt’s request for Westinghouse ‘Kid TV’ pledge
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The House panel investigation into whether the FCC pressured Westinghouse Inc. to carry more children’s programming resulted in early November talks between FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and Representative Joe Barton (R-Tex.), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on oversight and investigation. Meanwhile, FCC commissioners informed Hundt they objected to his request that the networks provide children’s programming data to the commission.
In late September, House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Jack Fields (R-Tex.) asked Barton to look into charges that the FCC pressured Westinghouse to agree to broadcast two hours of children’s television each week as a condition for approval of its CBS purchase. Westinghouse says it volunteered to air the programming, which resulted in groups opposing the sale to drop their petitions to deny.
Details surrounding the exchange between Hundt and Barton have not been disclosed.
Barton’s investigation into allegations that White House aide Greg Simon sought to solicit support for children’s television from Westinghouse is still in its early stages, according to a spokesperson for Barton.
In early November, Chairman Hundt’s request that the networks submit information concerning the educational content of their youth- oriented shows drew scrutiny from FCC Commissioners, the Associated Press reported.
In a memo to Hundt, commissioners James Quello, Andrew Barrett, and Rachelle Chong asked him to withdraw his request that ABC, CBS, and NBC provide the agency with the name, amount, and content of educational shows aired on the network and affiliate stations.
According to the commissioners, the information request was made without their knowledge or consent. They argued that the request could burden the broadcasters and delay the agency’s final decision regarding minimum requirements on children’s television, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine. Commissioner Susan Ness did not sign the memo, but sent her own letter to Hundt. Ness wrote that she supported Hundt’s gathering of data, but also objected to not being consulted about the request.
In response, FCC attorneys said that Hundt’s request was a routine procedure that did not require approval of all the commissioners. The networks are not under any legal obligation to submit the information, according to Broadcasting & Cable.