Lawmakers Endorse Indecency Regulations for Cable, Satellite

Mar 1, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Leading lawmakers in the Senate and the House on Tuesday endorsed proposals to extend the government’s indecency prohibitions to cable and satellite.

As it stands, the Federal Communications Commission’s prohibitions on off-color programming apply only to broadcast radio and TV, not cable and satellite. But at a National Association of Broadcasters-sponsored seminar in Washington, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, both said cable and satellite should be subject to the same programming restrictions that broadcasters face.

“In this country, there has to be some standards of indecency,” said Sen. Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Added Rep. Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “I think [broadcasters and satellite and cable operators] ought to play to, to the extent it’s possible, the same rules.”

Cable TV representatives have long contended that extending indecency prohibitions to cable would violate the industry’s First Amendment rights, in part because subscribers willingly invite cable and other pay services into their homes.

“I disagree violently” with the cable industry’s constitutional analysis, Sen. Stevens said. “We might as well get it on the table. If that’s the issue they want to take on, we’ll take them on, and we’ll let the Supreme Court decide.”

Said Rep. Barton, in subsequent remarks to reporters, said, “I’m very supportive of what the senator says.”

Brian Dietz, VP of communications for the NCTA, responded in a press release: “We believe any regulation of cable content raises serious First Amendment objections and will oppose efforts to impose regulation on cable programming. As the U.S. Supreme Court has found, the subscription nature of cable service, and the ability of cable customers to block unwanted programming through the use of tools offered by local cable systems, strongly differentiate cable from broadcasting, which is distributed free and unfiltered over the air.”