Tar Heel Pundits - Tar Heel born and Tar Heel bred
Tar Heel Pundits
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email: tarheelpundit @ gmail.com

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sen. Ted Stephens and Free Speech

I spent a semester in Media Law* arguing against the type of government regulation of speech Sen. Ted Stevens wants. Money grafs:
"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. . . .

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."
Wow. More government regulation of speech. Just what we need. This is so stupid as to defy description. If you don't like what's on cable TV, don't buy it. The reason we have more stringent rules on broadcast TV is because it is broadcasted over-the-air and there isn't a conceivable way to prevent it from coming into our homes (except, you know, by turning the TV off, but I guess that's too hard for some people).

Who gets to determine what content is suitable for TV? Are we going to get some new decency board, where 9 old men get to determine what should and should not be on TV?

Forget that. Let the market decide. If you don't like what is broadcast on cable, don't buy it. Better yet, cable companies ought to offer, if they don't already, family programming packages---packages of channels that broadcast only content that people like Sen. Stevens find appropriate for families. That way, when people choose to purchase cable, if they want this type of programming they can get it without taking away programming the rest of the people want and without having some two-bit censor in Washington, D.C. telling the rest of the country what we can and can't watch.

Clearly, I'm with Jeff Jarvis in this whole censorship thing. Free speech is too important to let the government decide what should and shouldn't be said---that's why we have the First Amendment. Speech should be regulated through the market and the marketplace of ideas.

Side note: Kudos to Sen. George Allen (R) for being "hesitant to expand" broadcast decency standards to pay TV services, though a more forceful denunciation of Sen. Stevens would be appreciated.

Hat tip: Jeff Jarvis

*One of the best classes I took in law school, period.

posted by John Branch @ 8:19 AM

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