Politics

I Want My MTV, Indecency and All

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FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin is on a mission to”…change the television landscape.” It seems he is committed to curbing indecency on cable and satellite services.

…Martin told activists that he is privately reaching out to industry leaders to address racy content on basic cable and satellite television, says Rick Schatz, the president of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, a Christian ministry. “He said the free rein of cable and satellite and satellite radio is not acceptable,” says Schatz, who sat in on the meeting. “He’s committed to seeing something is done during his tenure.”

Martin has asked media companies to offer a new “family-friendly” tier of cable programming, a package that would likely exclude channels like MTV and Spike TV. “If cable and satellite operators continue to refuse to offer parents more tools, basic indecency and profanity restrictions may be a viable alternative[.]”

Senator, and chairman of the Commerce Committee, Ted Stevens of Alaska has been pushing for such regulation as well.

“We put restrictions on over-the-air signals,” Stevens said of network broadcasts in March. “I think we can put restrictions on cable itself.” His staff has been reviewing new regulatory options, looking for ideas that would survive a court challenge on First Amendment grounds.

(Thank goodness the First Amendment is there to slow these folks down.)

What does the cable and satellite industry have to say for itself?

Worried about the bottom line, the cable and satellite industry has responded by launching a campaign to educate parents about available technology, like the V-Chip, that can block certain channels from any single television. The campaign has been opposed by a powerful coterie of family advocacy groups and activists…

And, if I may interject, there is also the notion that there are better things for kids to do than sit around watching TV. Other options for parents: playing pass, going for a walk, reading or doing homework with the kids. Heck, almost anything. The possibilities are endless.

This technology and these arguments are not compelling enough for some, when it comes to facing down the powerful draw of indecency. The draw so great that concerned activist Patrick A. Trueman can’t even trust himself not to watch porn when it is available.

Family Research Council legal director Patrick A. Trueman said he recently traveled to a Marriott Hotel in Houston, where he said three separate cable stations — not pay-per-view stations — were showing “hardcore pornography,” which he described as “sex acts.” He demanded that the hotel staff come disable the channels.

Funny when he says it, but when similarly minded activists hold sway with powerful people like Senator Stevens and FCC chairman Martin, there may be trouble brewin’. For instance, Martin has written about limiting broadcasters First Amendment rights…

…in a letter to the Parents Television Council, a group that has called for a boycott of shows like the WB’s “Everwood” because it features adults who encourage teenage characters to use birth control and, in one case, have an abortion. “Certainly broadcasters and cable operators have significant First Amendment rights, but these rights are not without boundaries,” Martin wrote to the group. “They are limited by law. They also should be limited by good taste.”

The juxtaposition of the group’s boycott activities and the quote from Martin’s letter here, begs the question: Does the interaction of fictional characters encouraging their fictional teenage children to use birth control, or even have an abortion, rise to the same level as ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater’? [Though admittedly, I cannot discern from this article whether Martin’s letter addresses the group’s boycott of “Everwood” or something else altogether.]

As a parent I take responsibility for what my kids watch. Freedom of expression is more important to me than ‘convenience’ in monitoring what’s on my TV.

Salon.com: The FCC’s cable crackdown