The Federal Communication Commission has been pretty quiet since Kevin Martin took over from the famously bumbling Michael Powell in March of this year.
Using bluster and a high profile, in 2003 Powell unsuccessfully tried to muscle through a broad set of deregulation policies that would have allowed the television and newspaper industries to create mini-monopolies in local markets, while Martin, who shares Powell’s big-media dreams, has been more circumspect. The past five months have seen Martin move slowly and cautiously on most issues, while making hardly a peep about media deregulation and issuing no fines for indecent content on the airwaves — a far cry from the $7.9 million in fines Powell handed out in 2004.
While Martin has been quiet, he has long been on record as supporting Powell’s policy of fining broadcasters for content the FCC deems to be indecent; even saying that he would like to expand the fining criteria to cover more material. Moving in this direction, as Mediaweek reported today, Martin has hired lobbyist and activist Penny Nance as an advisor to the FCC.
As the magazine’s Todd Shields writes, Nance is a long-time anti-pornography activist and has worked as a lobbyist for groups that “push for Christian precepts in public policy.”
Until recently a board member of Concerned Women for America, which describes its mission, in part, as “helping … to bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy,” Nance also worked as a lobbyist for a group called the Center for Reclaiming America. On its Web site, the Center claims that it “focuses on five key fronts of the modern-day culture war: (1) Religious Liberties, (2) the Sanctity of Life, (3) the Homosexual Agenda, (4) Pornography, and (5) Promoting Creationism.”
The site also says that its aim is to “defend and implement the Biblical principles on which our country was founded.”
Her appointment comes at a time when, as Shields reports, “Some observers believe the FCC is preparing to act, perhaps in coming weeks, on as many as 50 indecency complaints. Some see Nance’s arrival as an indication the agency is leaning toward stricter enforcement.”
That’s putting it mildly. Nance’s past affiliations give us a hint at just how much Martin wants to crack down on alleged instances of indecency on the air — and in which direction.
Of course, none of this is written in stone. In the end, Congress and the public will both have their say, as well. But in doing some background research on Nance, we came across what may be a telling episode from last summer. A Media Matters report from July 2004 found that Nance appeared on a “Fox News Live” segment identified as a “suburban stay-at-home mom” in a piece dealing with “issues [that] matter most to suburban moms.” The segment did note that Nance was a former “full-time lobbyist” who “started a nonprofit organization for moms,” but in portraying Nance as an average suburban mom, Fox purposefully ignored much more.
At the time the segment aired, she was the president of Kids First Coalition, which “works to promote and encourage traditional families as well as to help those in crisis pregnancies,” a group for which she was a registered lobbyist, according to Media Matters. She was also serving as a board member of Concerned Women for America (where she also once served as legislative director and lobbyist). Also ignored was that Nance, in her sunny capacity as a “stay-at-home mom,” held the title of president of Nance and Associates, a public policy and media consulting firm.
In what amounted to little more than a Bush campaign pitch, Nance said that “safety issues are the things that American women are talking about on the playgrounds and on the soccer fields of America, and we believe that President Bush hears us and cares about these issues.” To set the record straight, we’ll note that the fact that Martin has hired a conservative is hardly cause for alarm. He is, after all, a Republican appointee for a Republican president. And Nance’s religious beliefs are equally little cause for concern — as long as she doesn’t try to force them on the American viewing public. What is disconcerting are her connections to groups which use terms like “Homosexual Agenda” and want to instill “Biblical principles.” All this, plus the fact that she winked and nodded her way though that dishonest Fox segment, points not to just a deficiency in character, but an active willingness to mislead the public in order to promote an agenda.
With friends like this, the American viewing public hardly needs enemies.