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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) used a Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing for two new nominees to the Federal Communications Commission as a platform to do some media bashing.
At the end of a two-hour confirmation hearing for Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Varadaraj Pai, who have been nominated to succeed Michael Copps and Meredith Baker as FCC commissioners, Rockefeller said the television news has been "dumbed down" and entertainment programming has become too "obscene" and "promiscuous" for his taste.
"Everybody yells 1st Amendment so you never get very much done about it," he griped to the prospective FCC commissioners.
Rockefeller, who chairs the powerful committee that has oversight of the regulatory agency, asked Rosenworcel and Pai what the FCC could do to clean up the airwaves. Rosenworcel, who served as counsel to Rockefeller before her nomination to the FCC, said "video programming is really powerful stuff. Some of it is not so enlightening and not so healthy."
However, neither she nor Pai would go so far as to say the FCC needed to be harsher with regards to raunchy content.
Unfortunately for Rockefeller, the FCC's current indecency regulations are under attack from the courts. In June, the Supreme Court said it would hear arguments over whether the FCC's enforcement of its rules against foul language and overtly sexual content violate the Constitution. Last year, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the FCC's rules were "unconstitutionally vague" and had a "chilling effect."
Rockefeller also said he's "not a great fan of Facebook" and expressed concern about the role social media plays in the coarsening of society.
Both Rosenworcel and Pai are expected to be confirmed.
This is not the first time that the Democratic senator has been critical of the media. At a hearing last November, he ripped Fox News and MSNBC and suggested he wouldn't mind if both went away.
"I hunger for quality news," he said. "I'm tired of the right and left."
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-- Joe Flint
Photo: Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Capitol Hill in August 2011. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press.