Magazine article ADWEEK

Will Indecency Laws Strike Cable TV Next? Congressional Leaders Label Medium a 'Much Greater Violator'

Magazine article ADWEEK

Will Indecency Laws Strike Cable TV Next? Congressional Leaders Label Medium a 'Much Greater Violator'

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON It might not be constitutional, but that may be beside the point when it comes to a proposal that carries strong political appeal in some quarters: Never mind channel-blocking technologies, the V-chip or the "off" button. Some in Congress believe it's time to regulate cable television to keep racy programming out of American homes altogether.

Top congressional leaders last week said they want to subject not just cable TV but satellite TV and radio to the same indecency regulations faced by traditional over-the-air broadcasters. With the debate in Washington just beginning, it is not clear whether restrictions would apply only to basic tiers or to premium cable programming such as HBO's The Sopranos as well. But it is obvious that top lawmakers are offended by what they see on the tube--or they feel their constituents are. And they want to do something about it.

Cable is a "much greater violator in the indecency area" than broadcast, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Ala., told an appreciative audience of state broadcast executives gathered in Washington by the National Association of Broadcasters. "They must live up to the same standards we apply to you."

Stevens chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which last year came within a vote of extending indecency regulation to cable. Stevens voted against but only to avoid weighing down legislation that would have raised fines for broadcast indecency (that bill later failed). Stevens' counterpart, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chair of the House Commerce Committee, also weighed in. "It's not fair to subject over-the-air broadcasters to one set of rules and ... subject cable and satellite to no rules," Barton told reporters.

Broadcasters like the idea of forcing competitors to wear their shackles, which amount to a prohibition on indecent speech and visuals between 6 a. …

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