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Federal Cable Decency Standards?

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Anyone who watched Sunday’s Academy Awards could tell you that the show was…well…bland. And not just normally bland. Blander than the normal levels of Oscar blandness. The likely cause? Broadcast networks’ continual fear of the FCC’s wrath (strong-armed by the PTC‘s junta of form letter-senders).

ABC forced Robin Williams to cut a song he was going to perform from the show because it made fun of Sponge-Bob Square-Pants’ alleged homosexuality in the eyes of James Dobson. The song in question included lines such as “Fred Flinstone is dyslexic, Jessica Rabbit is really a man, Olive Oyl is really anorexic, and Casper is in the Ku Klux Klan.”

Even Chris Rock was entirely tame (read: boring), possibly influenced by new legislation that raises fines to $500,000 and allows for performers to be fined.

But this is all at least understandable. Broadcast television is sent out over the airwaves for any and all to see. Governmental authority over the broadcast industry is as old as the industry itself. Most people don’t throw their hands up that the PTC and the FCC make broadcast television more boring than watching fly paper on a hot summer’s day, because, thank goodness, they have cable.

Today, however, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R), Alaska, is beginning a push to apply the same stringent standards, which render network programming so flaccid, upon cable and subscription radio and television. That means no programming TV-14 and up until “late-night” hours.

“Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area…I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air. There has to be some standard of decency.”

Let’s put it this way: If people who even occasionally watch television during the day (including those who work at home, ahem) are forced to watch programming akin to what the networks air before 8pm, we’re not going to watch.

Washington Post story

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About Travis Marshall

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Travis, I agree this is absurd – cable doesn’t go over the AIRWAVES, that’s the whole point.

    BTW, your picture is skewing to the left and covering some of your text. It’s far too complicated for me to fix.

  • That’s the camel’s nose you see, poking into the tent. If “community standards” are what we use to determine decency, what is to stop regulators from declaring that our subscription choices are part of that community?

    Especially once it becomes part of the mainstream, and most households have cable.

    I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying, it’s time to buy camel repellent.

  • Beware, America. They’re focusing on the Senate side of this legislation but what we aren’t hearing about is the House side is already gearing up for even tougher regulations. There are a lot of things I can put up with on the conservative agenda but attacking my subscription cable viewing rights crosses the line.

    First it is cable. Next it will be news broadcasts. You won’t be able to report on teenage sex issues but feel free to show a dude in East DonkeyButt, Arkansas get shot by a dozen cops.

  • Don’t go trying to pin this looniness on conservatives. Restricting freedom of speech is about as un-conservative as you can get. There are some people in both parties who feel that nebulous concepts like ‘decency’ are more important than free speech. Let’s hope that they’re outnumbered by the legislators who think that our most important family value is freedom.


  • JR

    Don’t go trying to pin this looniness on conservatives.

    Uh oh, somebody’s getting ready to wave a bunch of right-wing apologist bullshit in our faces again. Gee, what century are you going to pull your political definitions from this time?

    This looniness comes courtesy of Ted Stevens. He’s a conservative. Case closed.

  • Dave, it’s conservatives. I’ll bet Dobson, Falwell and Robertson had a collective orgasm when this news came out. The first thing that came to mind when I read this story was “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” I hope the good conservatives here remember those words spoken by their hero (and mine) Ronald Reagan.