CONFIRMATION HEARING

Wheeler May Use Pulpit To Stem Indecency

FCC Chairman nominee Tom Wheeler says he thinks that "it is possible to call upon our better angels with some leadership" to help clean up programming.

FCC Chairman nominee Tom Wheeler, at his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Committee, said that he may use that position’s bully pulpit to try to clean up TV programming that makes him “grit my teeth.”

“I]s this what I want my grandkids to be seeing — whether it be violence or obscenity or indecency or whatever?” Wheeler asked in response to a question from Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) regarding the FCC’s struggle to regulate broadcast indecency.

The courts have put strict limits on how far the FCC can go in regulating content, Wheeler said. “I do believe, however, that it is possible to call upon our better angels with some leadership. I remember Newton Minow talking about television as the ‘vast wasteland.’ He did that without regulatory authority. It caught the public’s attention. Maybe it’s possible to do the same kind of thing today and say, can’t we do better.”

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Said Scott: “I like your optimism at least. I’m not sure I share it, but it like it.”

Appointed by President Kennedy, Minow served as FCC chairman between 1961 and 1963.


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