July 12, 2007
Congress Talking Censorship, Fairness Doctrine

Two major congressional movements continue to pose potential major repercussions for the media industry and particularly for television.

The first is continued discussion about indecency enforcement, as Kansas Senator and Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback continues to make noise about "fleeting indecency" enforcement for the Federal Communications Commission and giving the FCC powers over violent programming. After courts questioned the definition of indecency in FCC decisions recently, Brownback is pushing for new legislation to be pushed through Congress to make these changes.

The discussion is to give FCC the authority for fining for "fleeting expletives" and the ability to fine networks for "excessively violent content."

John Eggerton with Broadcasting & Cable points out that the Parents Television Council is already hard at work trying to drum up support for the bill.

Hollywood Reporter's Brooks Boliek calls Brownback "one of Congress' most conservative lawmakers." I take this as conservative in the social values sense, because this expansion of governmental power over content doesn't strike me as conservative in my mentality of the word.

Of course, the American Civil Liberties Union has already come out in firm opposition of the bill as well.

Meanwhile, there is apparently some bizarre discussion of The Fairness Doctrine once again, as captured by TelevisionWeek's Ira Teinowitz, in that there has been a push to ban on reviving the Fairness Doctrine, but it isn't clear what drove it, since there had not been any major push to revive the Fairness Doctrine anyway. Teinowitz writes:

Republicans -- led by U.S. Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas -- called the Fairness Doctrine archaic in an age when consumers have numerous sources for information; they pushed for adding a ban on FCC action to unrelated appropriations legislation.

Democrats, meanwhile, questioned the reason for a debate, saying no revival was under consideration and offering to accept the amendment without debate. The House eventually voted 309 to 115 to accept the amendment.

I know that one Congressman who has talked about the Fairness Doctrine some was Dennis Kucinich, as I wrote about back in January.

For more posts on these issues, look at the following posts:

FCC Continues the Crusade Against Violent TV Programming

FCC Discusses Increasing Authority Over Violent Programming, Cable and Satellite

The Access vs. Censorship Series

With Dems in Power, Congress Replaces Constant Indecency Talk with...More of the Same