The National Association of Broadcasters is scrapping its 30-year-old practice of setting program standards for radio and television stations around the country.
A NAB executive committee recommended the action yesterday, virtually ensuring its approval later this month by the association's board of directors.
The committee called for the abolition of the NAB's radio and television code boards, which had been operating under the assumption that they were providing the kind of voluntary industry policing demanded by listeners and viewers, and respected by government.
Approval by the directors will mean that each radio and television station will be "the sole judge of the broadcast policies it should follow in the public interest," said NAB President Edward O. Fritts.
Last year, a federal court accepted a view different from the broadcasters' three-decade assumption--that the NAB actually was violating federal antitrust laws by telling television stations when, how and what kind of commercials they could air. The antitrust argument was put forward by the Justice Department.
The NAB had threatened to appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge Harold Greene, but abandoned the idea last March in favor of voluntarily suspending its broadcast code activities. That left the boards with nothing to do. An estimated 33 employes of the boards were laid off. And, yesterday, the executive committee members took what they said was the next obvious step.
"We've taken this action on the advice of our high-priced antitrust attorneys. They said it was the safest thing to do at this time," Fritts said. "The confusion caused by the Department of Justice's lawsuit requires that we take time to assess the matter and review possible ways in which industry regulation may be able to serve the public interest in the future," he said.
The executive committee wants to establish another committee--yet unnumbered and unnamed--to explore the possibilities of future self-regulation. That recommendation, too, will be considered by the board of directors at its meeting Jan. 17-21 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.