IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

All I want for Christmas is a new FCC

Here's a holiday request for Santa: Fix the feds' TV oversight
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dear Santa,

Remember me? The kid you brought a red Schwinn bike in 1959? I’m back with a new Christmas list.

Hey, I know I’m a little old for this, but when you get to be my age it’s mostly ties and sweaters from everybody else, and I really, really need this stuff. Please help me out.

• First, how about one of those cool new Bill O’Reilly Christmas Under Siege talking dolls? The one where you say “Happy holidays!” and it erupts with an angry comeback. (I especially like when it sputters, “I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration!”)

It’s a great stocking-stuffer. (Why not? O’Reilly is the sort of guy for whom the expression “stuff it” was invented, eh, Santa?) But keep this toy away from the kids. It doesn’t set the best example of Christmas spirit.

• Well, that was the easy part. Also, Santa, could you bring me a new FCC? My old one’s on the blink.

The Federal Communications Commission, you know, is the government agency that regulates TV and radio stations. It’s run by a five-member board that, in recent years, hasn’t been as focused on the interests of ordinary citizens as much as the huge-and-getting-huger media companies.

That makes me sad, Santa. The FCC should be operating in the public’s behalf, since the airwaves that carry broadcast programming are publicly owned. That’s right, Santa! The air you and your eight tiny reindeer will be flying through across the U.S. is a public resource, not private property.

So maybe Christmas Eve you could pack your sleigh with a few new commissioners eager to serve the public interest, rather than big business.

• I hope I don’t seem greedy, but here’s something else: Could you do something about growing commercialization in the media — like all those product placements on TV, in movies and everywhere else clever marketers can think of?

I expect you’re all too aware of our culture’s crass commercialization, since it hits a peak during your big season. In fact, Santa, you are arguably a product of the advertising industry. It was Coca-Cola advertising 70 years ago that clinched how you’re pictured even today.

Still, you would never plaster your sleigh with logos and sell naming rights to corporate sponsors. (American Express Presents Santa Claus and His “Do the Dew” Christmas Tour? Not you!)

So throw your weight around and do something quick! Thanks to constant product hyping during TV shows, it’s not visions of sugarplums that dance in my head — it’s visions of Craftsman tools, L’Oreal and Burger King. The way this is going, even the sugarplums will soon be paid-for product placements!

• Finally, Santa, I’d like to ask you this: When will the folks who oversee public broadcasting stop asking “Is it too liberal or too conservative?” And start asking “Is it distinctive and really good?”

Unfortunately, the issue of partisanship in PBS programming seems to preoccupy the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the private agency that distributes federal funds to public media outlets. But this is in defiance of the very purpose of CPB, which is to serve as a nonpartisan buffer protecting those broadcasters from political intrusion.

Santa, I want you to fix public broadcasting. I’m sure you agree, politics is no standard to apply to programming that’s supposed to be beyond politics.

As you may have heard, an internal investigation recently found that former CPB chairman Kenneth Tomlinson broke federal law by interfering with PBS programming and using political tests in the recruitment of the corporation’s new president (including e-mails exchanged with White House officials about possible job candidates).

Tomlinson, who said he did nothing wrong when he resigned from the CPB board, had made it his business to fix what he characterized as public broadcasting’s liberal slant.

Nothing is likely to change. Why expect a new direction from the board, which commended Tomlinson when he left for “his legitimate efforts to achieve balance and objectivity in public broadcasting”?

Santa, can you do anything to quiet unfounded claims that public broadcasting is liberal — when even CPB-commissioned surveys of viewers turned up nothing of the kind?

And can you clear up the notion that public broadcasting is a waste of tax dollars — when the average American’s annual tax bite for both public TV and radio is about $1.30?

Why, that’s a whole lot less than the cost of downloading just one episode of “Desperate Housewives” to an iPod!

Which reminds me of one last Christmas wish: If you find an extra iPod in your sack, please don’t hesitate to leave it under my tree.