From Energycommerce.house.govBroadcast Decency Enforcement By A Buffy Producer
Monday 5 April 2004, by cally
The Broadcast Decency Enforcement 2004 Act
Ms. Gail Berman President of Entertainment Fox Broadcasting Company 10201 West Pico Boulevard Los Angeles, CA, 90035
Chairman Upton, Ranking Member Markey, and Members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to talk about the very difficult and complex issue of broadcast indecency. And before proceeding further with my statement, let me say that we have heard you and we are already taking steps to demonstrate that we understand the importance of this issue.
I approach this subject wearing two hats: one as the President of Entertainment for the Fox Broadcasting Company, and one as the parent of eleven-year-old twins. As a network President I have heard, and as a parent I understand, the concerns being expressed by the American public and by this Subcommittee that television content can at times be inappropriate for children, particularly during live events that are widely viewed as "family friendly." At the same time, I think we all recognize that the First Amendment requires us as a society to tread lightly when it comes to translating concerns about television content into government regulation.
In the first instance, these competing concerns can best be addressed by the voluntary efforts of the broadcast industry. Last week, FOX announced the adoption of an aggressive four-part plan (attached to this testimony) designed to ensure our content on television is both appropriate, and appropriately viewed. This plan recognizes, first and foremost, that we have a responsibility to our viewers to air programming that complies with the law, and takes into account the sensibilities of the viewing public. Thus, we have taken steps to improve our broadcast standards procedures for live and scripted programming, to educate our creative executives, producers and writers, and to better inform parents about the tools available to control what their children watch.
Under the first part of this plan, FOX has adopted new procedures for preventing inappropriate content on live entertainment programming. We are all aware of the now infamous incidents of the use of inappropriate words or actions by talent appearing on awards shows and during the Super Bowl half-time. Unfortunately, we have experienced incidents of this nature on the FOX network during the Billboard Music Awards. All of us at FOX regret that the procedures we had in place did not prevent the live broadcast of inappropriate language, and we have now implemented improved procedures to help ensure that it does not happen again. These include:
Adding personnel and equipment to our delay process for live shows to permit review by multiple teams, each of which has the authority to remove audio or video content that is deemed inappropriate for broadcast television; Investing in additional equipment to ensure that the time-delay system includes redundant hardware to protect against equipment failure during live events; and Adding a time delay to all live syndicated programming produced by Twentieth Television. A second step under the FOX plan is improvement of our Broadcast Standards and Practices Department to address non-live programming. These efforts include:
All shows must now be delivered to FOX in a timely manner to allow for adequate standards review; The creative executives and producers of all FOX shows are advised that broadcast standards is the single greatest priority for the network; and Additional personnel have been hired to ensure on site supervision of each and every unscripted program. To educate our creative executives, producers and writers of non-live programming on the sensitivities surrounding the indecency issue, we have undertaken the following:
FOX conducted an unprecedented, half-day seminar to provoke thoughtful discussion of the many complex issues surrounding indecent and violent programming, including the First Amendment. This seminar, which was held on February 5, 2004 in Los Angeles, was attended by virtually every creative executive in FOX’s television, cable, television studio, and motion picture divisions; and FOX is entering into a consultative relationship with the Kaiser Family Foundation, whereby twice a year, Kaiser will brief me and other top creative executives at the network to discuss how FOX can best incorporate sexual health messages into story lines in a responsible way. The third piece of FOX’s content plan is an educational campaign designed to provide information about the V-Chip and ratings system, which can help parents control what their children watch on television. I think we can all agree that, while the V-Chip and ratings system in concept makes a lot of sense, it is being underutilized. In order to make information about this system more widely available, we are undertaking the following initiatives:
Partnering with Thomson/RCA to launch a national print advertising campaign targeting parents. That campaign was launched this week with ads in the Washington Post, USA Today, and Newsweek; Aggressively airing FOX’s V-Chip/ratings public service announcement on the network during prime time, on all 35 FOX owned stations, and on Fox Sports Networks’ 12 owned-and-operated regional sports networks, FX, The National Geographic Channel, Fox Movie Channel, Speed Channel, Fox Sports World, FUEL, and the TV Guide Channel; The Fox News Channel will be producing a news special that examines all sides of the indecency issue, including information about the V-Chip and ratings system, for airing on the Fox News Channel and for distribution to other FOX programming entities; and Redesigning the FOX on-screen ratings depicter so that it is much more prominent during the 15 seconds it is on screen at the start of every rated show on FOX, and making sure ratings are prominently displayed on the fox.com website. Fourth, the FOX content plan reaffirms that our affiliates have an unequivocal right to reject network programming that they reasonably believe is "unsatisfactory, unsuitable or contrary to the public interest." FOX hopes that this reaffirmation of the contractual rights of FOX affiliates removes any remaining impediment to working cooperatively with our affiliates and other broadcasters at the All-Industry Summit being hosted by the National Association of Broadcasters.
I am proud of the program FOX has put together. We feel it strikes the right balance between the responsibilities of FOX as a broadcaster, the rights of parents to decide what programming is appropriate for their children, and the very important First Amendment considerations at stake. Parental choice is crucial, given that the views of individual parents about what is appropriate for their particular child to watch at any given age may vary widely, depending on the maturity of the child, the family’s values, or a parent’s views about the quality of a particular show. We feel that educating parents about the V-Chip/ratings system is the most respectful way of ensuring that parents have the tools to make wise decisions for their children.
In closing, I would like to affirm that we at FOX have heard your concerns loud and clear. We sincerely regret that a few incidents of inappropriate programming have overshadowed the good shows we proudly air on FOX every week. It is for this reason that we have responded aggressively to address concerns about indecency.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today, and I welcome your questions.
FOX Four-Part Content Plan
1. New Procedures for Ensuring Appropriate Content on Live Entertainment Programming. With the immediacy of live television comes the possibility that performers will spontaneously deviate from the script and do or say something that is offensive to some viewers. In an effort to reduce the risks associated with live entertainment broadcasts, FOX has invested significant time and resources in order to implement several compelling enhancements to its pre-existing time-delay system and operational protocols.
FOX is adding personnel to permit simultaneous but parallel and separate review of live programming by up to four separate teams. Each team will have their own set of equipment that will allow them to independently remove audio and video that is deemed inappropriate. FOX is undertaking extensive training of team members to ensure the highest possible level of performance in this important function. FOX has invested in additional equipment to ensure that the entire time-delay system includes redundant hardware to protect against equipment failure during live events. FOX is adding a time delay to all live syndicated programming produced by Twentieth Television, including Good Day Live and On Air With Ryan Seacrest. FOX will continue to monitor and improve its procedures for live programming as developments occur. 2. New Procedures for Ensuring Appropriate Content on Scripted and Unscripted Programming. Significant changes have been made to FOX’s Broadcast Standards and Practices Department ("BSP") to improve the robustness of its implementation of FOX’s internal broadcast standards. These changes include:
Taking steps to ensure timely delivery of all shows for review by FOX’s BSP; Ensuring the presence of a BSP person on site to supervise each and every unscripted program; Providing guidelines to creative executives and producers for all programs, conducting a preliminary production meeting with them to discuss various standards issues, and advising them that broadcast standards is the single greatest priority for the network; Changing the reporting of the BSP to the President and CEO of FOX Networks Group; Hiring additional BSP personnel to ensure maximal implementation of these changes. FOX Content Seminar. On February 5, 2004, Fox Entertainment Group conducted an unprecedented, half-day seminar for FOX executives designed to provoke thoughtful discussion on the issues surrounding indecent and violent programming on television. This seminar was attended by virtually every creative executive in Fox’s television, cable, television studios, and motion picture division. Enclosed is a copy of the agenda for that program. Consultative Relationship with Kaiser Family Foundation. At least twice a year, Kaiser will brief the top creative executives at FOX to discuss the results of ongoing research by Kaiser, and on how FOX programs can best incorporate health-related messages into story lines in a responsible and accurate way. In addition, FOX will consult with Kaiser on a periodic basis to ensure that its treatment of sensitive health-related issues in Fox programming is done responsibly. 3. V-Chip/Ratings Educational Campaign. In addition to ensuring the appropriateness of live and scripted programming for its audience, FOX believes it is vital to provide parents with the knowledge and tools they need to help them regulate and control the images and words their children are exposed to on television. This education is necessary where different parents have different ideas about what programming content is appropriate for their individual children. The campaign will educate parents on how to use the V-chip and ratings system to assist them in making decisions about responsible television viewing. The campaign will include the following components:
FOX/Thomson Partnership. Thomson/RCA, an electronics manufacturer with a leading market share of TV sets in the United States, will partner with FOX to launch a national print advertising campaign, with buys in daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines targeted at parents. Enclosed is a copy of the advertisement that will be used in that campaign. In addition, Thomson/RCA and FOX will work together on other projects to improve the visibility of the V-Chip with consumers and in retail stores. FOX’s V-Chip/Ratings Public Service Announcement ("PSA"). Will be aggressively aired on Fox’s 35 owned and operated television stations, and during prime time on the FOX network. Enclosed with this letter is a videocassette copy of this PSA. In addition, FOX’s V-Chip/ratings PSA will be more prominently displayed on the fox.com website. Finally, this PSA will run on Fox Sports Networks’ 12 owned-and-operated regional sports networks, and on FX, The National Geographic Channel, Fox Movie Channel, Speed Channel, Fox Sports World, FUEL, and the TV Guide Channel. Fox News Channel Program on V-Chip/Ratings. Given the significant news value of the program content issue, the Fox News Channel has decided to produce a special one-hour news program devoted to the issue of indecency. After airing on the Fox News Channel, this program will be made available to other Fox programming entities for wider distribution. In addition, this program will be distributed to parent/teacher groups and will be available on the fox.com website. Increased Prominence of FOX Ratings Information. FOX will redesign its on-screen ratings depicter so that it is more prominent to viewers. These ratings, which appear on air for 15 seconds, will be more accessible to parents who may be in the process of deciding at the beginning of a show whether it is appropriate for their children. The ratings for individual FOX programs will also be prominently displayed on the fox.com website. Finally, the FOX website will include a prominently displayed guide for parents that contains basic and easy-to-understand information on the V-Chip/TV ratings system. 4. Ongoing Efforts. FOX clarifies and reaffirms the unequivocal contractual right of FOX affiliates to reject network programming that it reasonably believes to be "unsatisfactory, unsuitable or contrary to the public interest." FOX hopes this clarification removes any remaining impediment to working cooperatively with its affiliates and other broadcasters at the National Association of Broadcaster’s All-Industry Summit, to pursue additional voluntary avenues for promoting programming responsibility. In addition, FOX will continue to consider improvements to its broadcast standards efforts, and additional initiatives related to the program content issue.