FCC Wants Children Shielded from Cellphone Smut

by Jeremy Pelofsky

Tue Feb 15, 2005 05:07 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. communications regulators are turning their sights on protecting children from indecency on mobile telephones after cracking down on television and radio stations for indecent antics.

The wireless industry should mount an education campaign so parents know how they can shield their children from adult content as more and more have mobile phones, John Muleta, head of the Federal Communications Commission's wireless bureau, said in a letter released on Tuesday.

"With adult content available from a myriad of sources, now more than ever it is important for carriers, content providers, and parents to know what is being done by industry to prevent access to adult content by minors," he said.

"Through responsible action on the part of wireless carriers and content providers this important social goal can be achieved without government intervention and without interference to the provision of content to adults," Muleta said.

He urged the wireless industry association, CTIA, to tell parents what services their children's mobile phones can access and that they can if they want to block pay-per-call voice services and Internet access.

Muleta also asked the industry to review whether it should change its code of conduct to address adult material.

About 21 million, or 33.8 percent, of 5- to 19-year-olds had cell phones by the end of 2004, according to technology research firm IDC.

A spokesman for CTIA said it has a team working on the issue and was "committed to staying ahead of it."

"The goal is to have a rating system in place and also provide additional tools in the form of filtering systems," said Joe Farren, director of public affairs at CTIA.

Unsolicited e-mail messages of any kind to mobile phones are barred by law. But there are no laws on the books that directly address indecency on wireless phones.

The FCC has been cracking down on television and radio broadcasters for violating limits on decency after a series of incidents, including pop singer Janet Jackson baring her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl football game halftime show.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider legislation on Wednesday to increase fines to as much as $500,000 on broadcasters and entertainers who violate decency limits.

Broadcasters are barred from airing indecent material, typically of a sexual or profane nature, except during late- night hours when children are less likely to be in the audience. The limits do not apply to cable and satellite television and radio services.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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