The FCC commissioners have voted to adopt a 80-plus-page report on video content-management technologies, which was submitted to Congress by the Aug. 29 deadline and released to the public Monday. But they say the report's record of current and proposed technologies still fails to answer key questions and that it will be looking for more information.
The report categorizes and analyzes various options for blocking technologies and other parental control tools for broadcast TV, cable, satellite, wireless, DVD's and the Internet, concluding, as reported in B&C last week, that no single technology works across all platforms and that there is a need for more education and information for parents about the tools available, with "many commenters" urging a more substantial role for government.
The FCC did not say whether or not it would take that more substantial role, but it is in the process of reviewing its children's TV regulations more broadly with an eye toward how they may need to change in the digital world.
"While the record that was created in response to inquiry contains some important information for parents, it also raises important questions and exposes the need for further study of this essential issue," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. "In the days ahead, the Commission will initiate a new notice of inquiry that will seek to gather new information on this topic as well as others related to children and media in the digital age."
Among the things the FCC said it needs to study further, and which it will make the basis of yet another Notice of Inquiry, are the level of consumer awareness and the pace of adoption. Specific questions it wants answers to:
To what extent are parents aware of the control technologies that exist today?
Does parental awareness differ among media?
Are there reasons besides lack of awareness that keep parents from using these technologies?
If so, what are they, and do they differ among media?
It appears that adoption of control technologies may be greater for the Internet than for broadcasting and other traditional media sources: Why is this so?
Are there data to determine the pace of innovation in parental control technologies, whether innovation is proceeding at a pace consistent with other consumer technologies, and whether evolving needs of parents, caregivers, and children are being satisfied in a timely manner?
The report was delivered to Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) over the weekend, according to a source. It was his bill that compelled the FCC to produce the report. His office was still preparing a response at press time.