The newest version of Congress have sent out the warning signal that they are not going to backdown from reconsidering many questions in regard to the Federal Communication Commission.
The FCC made their first appearance before Congress, getting chastised for not acting in the public interest. And many people unhappy with the recent direction of the FCC, myself included, was excited to hear those words...that is, until I realized what the majority of the focus seemed to be, or at least the majority of what was reported on.
Instead of making a strong stand rallying about issues of diversity of voices or greater access or just the type of issues I think the FCC should be tackling, we get an extended discussion about the wasteland from Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
Sen. Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, gives us this line about commercial television: "I barely watch it. I hope my children don't." Why, of course, we must censor to protect the children! Rockefeller followed this line of thinking up with this quote: "Since the broadcasters have continually failed to self-regulate their product for the good of the children, it falls on the government to step up to the plate."
What does Sen. Rockefeller want to do about it? How about bringing back legislation to take the power of indecency restrictions to cable as well? AND, we should give the FCC the ability to censor violence on television.
I am not tackling ownership issues here, which I feel is at least a much more nuanced argument, but I believe that there are two lines of government media policy right now--one of increasing access and freedom, the other of restricting and policing content. It is indeed the responsibility of a governing body to maintain both of these aspects of media regulation, but I believe one direction must be solidly and forcefully chosen over the other since the two are often at odds.
What Sen. Rockefeller is proposing is giving significant power to the government to put further restrictions on television content.
At least the FCC conversation did tackle issues such as the digital divide, but, in the rhetoric of the meeting and in the press surrounding it, the censorship and indecency debate has gotten the most attention.
There's a great response from Norman Horowitz, in a piece appropriately titled, "Why Not Burn Some Books While We Are At It?" He writes about comments that the FCC should not shy away from their obligation to police the airwaves that this sounds more like Iran than America, definitely making the connection with a country hostile with the American government intentionally.
Horowitz writes, "In my not to humble opinion, the FCC should stay out of the entire business of 'regulating' content in any way. All regulations should be content neutral. Content is created for an audience, and not the Congress, Church, FCC or any other potentially regulatory group."
For all those who were excited about a Democrat-led Congress, Horowitz has a few angry words, "I am so pleased that the Senators have time for this really important stuff now that they have figured out how to stop our wars, fix New Orleans, provide health care for everyone, deal with the homeless, explain how to repay our 9 trillion dollar debt, stop global warming and a few other minor things that are hurting our society."
The Technology Liberation Front has a great series going on how the Democratic Party is abandoning the First Amendment, this installment focusing on the concern about media violence.
Author Adam Thierer urges for Rockefeller and others, before they "embark on a new 'it's-all-for-the-children' crusade to rid the world of media violence, hopefully they will be willing to consider the mixed 'scientific' record on this front as well as the First Amendment complexities associated with defining and regulating 'excessive violence' on television."
Perhpas S.T. Karnick isn't so wrong in saying, "The notion that the left is more liberal-minded than the right is one of those thoroughly wrong ideas that nearly everybody believes despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Consider, for example, the specter of censorship of the press."
For our previous posts related to these issues here, see: