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CONGRESS PROPOSES DECENCY RULES FOR CABLE, SATELLITE

Senate and House Committee Heads Endorse Measure

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The drive to curb broadcast obscenity was ramped up today as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee endorsed proposals to extend broadcast indecency bars to cable and satellite media.
Photo: AP
Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska called for the broadcast content rules to be extended to cable and satellite media.
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Speaking separately to a meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, criticized cable broadcasts and indicated they would move to expand broadcast obscenity rules to cover cable content, though Mr. Barton expressed concerns regarding First Amendment issues.

Sexually active children
"We wonder why our children are sexually active at a young age," said Mr. Stevens. "We are spending millions to promote abstinence while our public airwaves are increasingly promoting sex.

"In this country, there has to be some standards of indecency," Mr. Stevens said.

Mr. Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, "I think [broadcasters and satellite and cable operators] ought to play too, to the extent it's possible, by the same rules."

Supreme Court challenge
Mr. Stevens also warned the cable industry about its contention that because subscribers pay for cable, indecency curbs would violate consumers' First Amendment rights.

"I disagree violently," he 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."

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