Technology Daily (subscription) reports that several conservative groups blasted Senate leaders Tuesday for not acting on legislation to increase broadcast indecency fines, and “failing to deliver an issue to values-oriented Republican voters”. Said Amanda Banks of Focus on the Family: “[t]here is no reason why in 2006, just months before this Congress is going to be out of session, it has not passed the Senate and moved on to the [president's] signature.”
But Focus’s focus is wrong here. Increased fines on broadcasters would do little to help parents protect their children from programming they see as offensive. Broadcast TV, remember, is only a small part of TV viewing–most is now on cable channels not under the FCC’s authority. And that authority, for good constitutional and policy reasons, is unlikely to be extended. If anything, given the legal challenges recently filed against the FCC’s latest round of indecency fines, that authority will be pared back.
Rather than the dead-end of goverment content regulation, the real goal should be to increase the ability of consumers to themselves control the content of what appears on their TVs. Congress this week took a giant step toward that goal yesterday–as the House Commerce Committee approved legislation to speed the launch of new, Internet-based, video TV services developed by Verizon, AT&T and others. Not only will these new offerings provide welcome new choices for consumers, but the technologies they use promise to make it easier for individual consumers to get individualized TV programming packages.
Such service would be a boon to beleagured parents. Rather than criticize Congress for not increasing the FCC’s power, conservatives should be cheering on this very real step toward consumer choice.