Electronics World articles Popular Electronics articles QST articles Radio & TV News articles Radio-Craft articles Radio-Electronics articles Short Wave Craft articles Wireless World articles Google Search of RF Cafe website Sitemap Electronics Equations Mathematics Equations Equations physics Manufacturers & distributors Engineer Jobs LinkedIn Crosswords Engineering Humor Kirt's Cogitations RF Engineering Quizzes Notable Quotes Calculators Education Engineering Magazine Articles Engineering software RF Cafe Archives RF Cascade Workbook 2018 RF Symbols for Visio - Word Advertising Magazine Sponsor RF Cafe RF Electronics Symbols for Visio RF Electronics Symbols for Office Word RF Electronics Stencils for Visio Sponsor Links Saturday Evening Post NEETS EW Radar Handbook Microwave Museum About RF Cafe Aegis Power Systems Anritsu Alliance Test Equipment Amplifier Solutions Anatech Electronics Axiom Test Equipment Berkeley Nucleonics Bittele Centric RF Conduct RF Copper Mountain Technologies Empower RF everything RF Exodus Advanced Communications Innovative Power Products ISOTEC KR Filters Lotus Systems PCB Directory Rigol San Francisco Circuits Reactel RFCT TotalTemp Technologies Triad RF Systems Windfreak Technologies Withwave LadyBug Technologies Wireless Telecom Group Sponsorship Rates RF Cafe Software Resources Vintage Magazines Thank you for visiting RF Cafe!

Showdown for the FCC?
May 1960 Popular Electronics

May 1960 Popular Electronics

May 1960 Popular Electronics Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Electronics, published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

My, how times have changed. In 1960 when this article entitled "Showdown for the FCC?" appeared in Popular Electronics magazine, the Federal Communications Commission was being criticized for its failure to properly regulate, monitor, and police broadcasters who were granted licenses to occupy commercial airwaves. The FCC faces similar issues today covering a much wider assortment of spectrum bands, but this particular piece was triggered by a "whistleblower" (a popular term in today's news) who discovered outcome rigging by the producers of CBS's "Dotto" television quiz show in 1958. The public, feeling violated by the Columbia Broadcasting System, used it as a springboard for protesting the FCC's general lack of ignoring other responsibilities like preventing dishonest and/or misleading and/or "offensive" advertisement. To demonstrate how far decency standards have fallen in half a century, one of the products deemed not proper for airing during family programming time was Preparation H (hemorrhoid cream). Now, just about anything goes for program or advertising content.

Showdown for the FCC?

Could it be that the recent investigations of radio and TV are leading to a ... Showdown for the FCC?

After Class: The Language of Vectors, May 1960 Popular Electronics - RF Cafe

By Ken Gilmore

When the Federal Communications sat down last December to decide what it should do about quiz scandals, payola, and fraudulent advertising, John C. Doerfer, Chairman at that time, said: "This is an important moment in American history. These hearings may well determine the future course of our system of broadcasting." He did not say - although it is equally true - that the FCC's decisions might also determine the future of the FCC itself.

While no one so far has publicly suggested that the FCC be scrapped, there has been a flood of bitterly critical statements from lawmakers, educators, business and civic leaders, and the general public. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin has asked for drastic revisions in the Commission and its operations. Even the conservative New York Times has called for "vigorous, creative new leadership at the FCC." Attorney General William Rogers, in a May, 1960 sharply worded special report to President Eisenhower, said that the Commission has been sitting on its hands instead of doing its job. Television critic Jack Gould summed up the FCC's endless delays and hearings as "government by vigorous postponement."

Has the FCC fallen down on the job? Here are the facts behind the FCC's latest nightmare, the quiz scandals.

Rigged Quiz Shows

On July 31, 1958, the Commission received an affidavit from a former contestant stating that the "Dotto" quiz show had been rigged. The Commission wrote a letter to CBS asking if the charge were true. CBS replied that it was looking into the matter, and promised to root out any rigging practices it found. On this evidence, the Commission dropped the case. It didn't even bother to question the former contestant who had signed the affidavit.

Charles Van Doren's dramatic confession of being involved in fixed quizzes - RF Cafe

Charles Van Doren's dramatic confession of being involved in fixed quizzes sparked country-wide criticism of shady broadcasting practices and of the FCC.

In September - two months later - a grand jury in New York set out to investigate quiz shows. The jury asked the FCC for copies of the affidavit, and requested that an FCC official appear before the jury to help with the investigation. The Commission told the jury it was busy making a general study of broadcast practices at the time, and could not comply with either request while this study was under way. With all this smoke, the Commission saw no reason to suspect fire.

In the fall of 1959 - a year later - the Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight held its spectacular hearings, highlighted by Charles Van Doren's dramatic confession. Finally, in the face of mounting public indignation and criticism, the FCC opened its own hearings on December 7th to see what, if anything, it could do.

But the quiz scandal was merely the fuse that set off the explosion of public anger. One witness after another blasted the FCC for allowing: too much crime and violence; untruthful, offensive, excessive advertising; and generally shoddy programing on radio and TV. The Commission was besieged from every quarter for its alleged sins.

How did this situation develop? And what is the FCC really responsible for, by law?

The Public Interest

Back in the early days of radio, anyone could throw together a few tubes and wires and become a radio station operator. Soon, the air was so full of squeals, squawks, and interference that something had to be done to bring some order into the chaos.

Congress created the FCC to act as a sort of traffic cop - to assign frequencies and set up minimum standards of operation. One of the principles it set down: the airwaves belong to the public, not to the broadcasters who use them. Consequently, broadcasters would have to operate in the "public convenience, interest, or necessity." Anyone who failed to do so might have his license revoked.

How well has the FCC done the job of seeing that broadcasters operate in the public interest? Under present practice, the Commission is extremely careful when issuing new licenses. It holds lengthy hearings to compare the promises of all contenders as to how they will serve the public. It finally picks the one whose promises seem best, and issues the license. From that day on, it virtually ignores the licensee - his past promises are forgotten.

According to Commissioner Doerfer in a speech last November before the Television Bureau of Advertising, the Commission has been "most liberal" in its interpretation of what constitutes public service. In fact, the Commission has not refused to renew a license since 1932. (It did revoke one license in 1946 for fraud.) When Doerfer was asked recently what policy the Commission used for deciding whether a station's operation had been in the public interest, he admitted that "there isn't much policy."

With this attitude on the part of the FCC, it is not surprising that the public periodically gets fed up with broadcasting practices. During World War II, for example, there was widespread criticism that the FCC did not make stations fulfill their pre-licensing pledges. After its usual study, the Commission issued a publication which came to be called the "Blue Book." Its main point was that stations must live up to their pre-licensing promises about public service. If they had not met those promises when renewal time came around, they would be required to explain why.

The ensuing uproar shook Washington. Some supporters of the book were publicly accused of being Communist sympathizers, and broadcasters claimed that the little book "would destroy the American Way of Life." The outcome of the whole affair was that the "Blue Book" was simply allowed to fade away, and the FCC has not made much effort to control standards since.

In 1951, when complaints about TV programing and over-commercialization began to increase, the Commission announced that "a public conference will be scheduled at a date to be announced later, for the discussion of television broadcasting problems from the viewpoint of the public, the Commission, and the industry." To this date - more than nine years later - the conference has not been held.

Self-Regulation

John C. Doerfer, who recently resigned as Chairman of the FCC - RF Cafe

John C. Doerfer, who recently resigned as Chairman of the FCC, makes ready to testify before a congressional subcommittee.

Even in cases of flagrant abuse, the FCC has established a hands-off policy. For example, since 1957, the Federal Trade Commission has notified the FCC of over 100 cases of stations engaging in false or misleading advertising. What action has the FCC taken?

According to an FCC public notice, the Commission brought the FTC's complaints to the attention of the stations involved so that they - the stations - would "be in a position to consider taking action consistent with their operation in the public interest." None of these stations has ever been asked at renewal time to explain Or justify its actions. License renewal is, in fact, virtually automatic. A Commissioner recently admitted that a staff member routinely spends only about five and one - half hours checking each renewal.

Whenever examples of flagrant disregard for the public interest are brought to public attention, the FCC inevitably expresses its faith in the industry's ability to "clean its own house." As recently as February 5. Chairman Doerfer recommended that stations, advertising agencies, and others involved in broadcasting set up a system of voluntary codes, and award a seal of approval to all programs and advertisements that meet code standards. Said Doerfer, "I have a strong belief that the most effective way to correct abuses in the broadcast industry is through prompt and farsighted self-regulation."

How well do voluntary codes work? Three years ago the National Association of Broadcasters began a campaign to get rid of objectionable commercials. The code board decided that TV commercials on hemorrhoidal remedies should be banned. At the time, Preparation H, a remedy specifically banned by the board, had ads on 148 TV stations, 84 of which were subscribers to the code. Two weeks later, 17 stations had resigned from the code rather than give up the ads. Twenty-one others allowed their seals to be revoked. Naturally, the 64 stations who were not members of the code to begin with were not affected at all.

While the institution of an industry-wide code such as proposed by Chairman Doerfer would no doubt do much good - after all, most broadcasters are responsible citizens - it offers no remedy for those who will not abide by voluntary controls. Withholding a seal of approval is an empty and meaningless gesture in these cases. Vigorous and prompt action by the FCC under its power to demand that broadcasters operate in the public interest or lose their licenses is the only thing that will impress irresponsible operators.

Tough Job

In all fairness, it must be admitted that careful, fair regulation would be a tough job. There is a serious shortage of both staff and money. Then, too, with all the publicity about radio and TV, many of us tend to forget that this is just one of the FCC's jobs. In addition, it must: license hams and commercial engineers; assign frequencies for broadcast, experimental, emergency, governmental, military, and other services; and consult with foreign governments about matters where international cooperation is required.

But in spite of the difficulties, there are things that could be done. A first step would be change the laws so that the FCC can fine violators, or suspend their licenses for a short time. At present, the FCC's only weapon-license revocation - is such a drastic step that the Commission hesitates to use it. The FCC has asked for this change, and others.

Wanted: Leadership

Of course, the question arises, why didn't the FCC ask for laws which would provide practical methods of regulation years ago, instead of waiting until it was under fire? And here, perhaps, is the heart of the matter. For what is most desperately needed is a Commission that will take the initiative, and not have to be pushed into action.

This, in fact, was the basic issue that led to the recent resignation of Chairman 48 Doerfer. The immediate storm of controversy resulted from the personal favors he admitted he had accepted from one of the country's largest broadcast station owners. But it had become clear that Congress and the people felt a need for firmer leadership.

The traditional lack of leadership is partly the fault of the system, rather than of the Commissioners themselves. These men - in spite of their tremendous responsibilities - are not highly trained civil servants who have devoted a lifetime to an exacting career. They are rarely experts in the specialized field of broadcasting. They are simply political appointees who may or may not be reappointed. Their pay - $20,000 a year - does not match the responsibility of their jobs.

The Commissioners are frequently subjected to Congressional pressure. Many Congressmen hold and have held interests in broadcast stations. This pressure, however subtle, has done little to increase the Commission's feeling of independence. Under the circumstances, it is not unusual that the FCC's first goal frequently seems to be keeping out of trouble and controversy.

Reorganization

Some people think that the entire concept of an unwieldy, slow -moving, pressure- sensitive Commission may be out of step with the times. In a similar case, Congress decided it was. In 1958, the Civil Aeronautics Administration -another independent regulatory agency like the FCC -was abolished and replaced with an agency headed by a single, efficient administrator.

One commentator suggests that a capable administrator might be able to lay down standards of honesty and program balance without the years of hearings and indecision characteristic of multi -membered boards. Many believe policy is more likely to be made and enforced by a single man, responsible to Congress and the President, than by a board of commissioners.

Whether or not this kind of thinking gains much momentum depends on the actions of the various boards -including the FCC - in the next few years. With an aroused public and a dissatisfied Congress watching its every move, the FCC is facing a showdown. What it does in the very near future will not only determine the course of the broadcast industry, but may also spell life or death for the FCC itself.

 

 

Posted September 16, 2022

Exodus Advanced Communications Best in Class RF Amplifier SSPAs - RF Cafe
Berkeley Nucleonics Vector Signal Generators Radar Simulations - RF Cafe
RF Cascade Workbook 2018 by RF Cafe
Amplifier Solutions Corporation (ASC) - RF Cafe

Please Support RF Cafe by purchasing my  ridiculously low−priced products, all of which I created.

These Are Available for Free

 

About RF Cafe

Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

Copyright: 1996 - 2024

Webmaster:

    Kirt Blattenberger,

    BSEE - KB3UON

RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images and text used on the RF Cafe website are hereby acknowledged.

My Hobby Website:

AirplanesAndRockets.com