Should HBO be regulated? Two top Republicans think so

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Lawmakers press for decency limits on pay TV,radio
By Jeremy Pelofsky
Updated: 5:08 p.m. ET March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON - Two top U.S. Republican lawmakers Tuesday said they want to apply broadcast decency standards to cable television and satellite television and radio to protect children from explicit content.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said he would push legislation this year to accomplish that goal and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton said he would back it if it does not violate free speech rights.

"Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area," Stevens, from Alaska, told the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents hundreds of local television and radio affiliates. "I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air" broadcasters.

"There has to be some standard of decency," he said, but noted that "no one wants censorship."

Stevens cited the discussion of masturbation and sex toys during prime time television as one example of content that bothered him. He told reporters he would extend the restrictions to premium channels like HBO as well.

"If we can work out the constitutional questions, I'd be supportive of that," Barton of Texas told reporters later at the conference. "I think they ought to play, to the extent possible, by the same rules."

The legislation could become part of a pending bill to boost fines on broadcasters who violate indecency restrictions or part of an effort to overhaul U.S. communications laws.

If they are successful, it could pose new problems for radio host Howard Stern, who has said he was forced to leave broadcast radio for satellite radio to avoid decency limits -- and Federal Communications Commission fines.

So far the restrictions have not applied to subscription services offered by companies like cable TV operators Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc. or XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., which recently signed Stern.

Last year the Senate Commerce Committee narrowly defeated an amendment to a bill boosting fines for indecency that would have extended such limits to cable and satellite services.

And, Sen. George Allen, a committee member and Virginia Republican, told reporters Tuesday he would be "hesitant to expand it to those" services.

While lawmakers and some parents groups are anxious to wipe the airwaves clean of indecency after singer Janet Jackson bared her breast last year during the Super Bowl halftime show, President Bush has said parents are the first line of defense and can just "turn it off."

Federal regulations bar broadcast television and radio stations from airing obscene material and restrict indecent material, such as sexually explicit discussions or profanity, to late-night hours when children are less likely to be watching or listening.

Stevens disputed assertions by the cable industry that Congress cannot impose limits on its content. "If that's the issue they want to take on, we'll take it on and let the Supreme Court decide."

A spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which represents cable operators, said the high court had previously ruled that content regulation for subscription television services violated free speech rights.

"We believe any regulation of cable content raises serious First Amendment objections and will oppose efforts to impose regulation on cable programming," said NCTA's Brian Dietz. He noted that subscribers can have channels blocked if they want.

The House of Representatives has approved legislation to raise fines to $500,000 from $32,500 on television and radio broadcasters that violate indecency limits. The Senate has legislation pending to increase fines as well.

But neither bill has provisions that would extend indecency restrictions to cable and satellite services. So far the White House has expressed support for the House bill, and made no public pronouncement about the Senate measure.


I pay for HBO, knowing what I'm going to get. The inappropriate material isn't exactly a secret. These morons are probably just whining about Real Sex and Bill Maher.

These religious right types should really form their own party, and quit ruining the GOP.

Quote from: Machiavelli on March 01, 2005, 09:28:34 PM

I pay for HBO, knowing what I'm going to get. The inappropriate material isn't exactly a secret. These morons are probably just whining about Real Sex and Bill Maher.

Haha. Real Sex is lame though. That's Real Sex not real sex :)

already a thread on this :P


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