Senate Commitee Passes Censorship Bill

by Paul William Tenny

I'm a notorious opponent of censorship in pretty much any form. Government simply should not be in the business of telling citizens what they can and cannot say - within reason. Obviously common sense dictates that threatening to kill someone shouldn't be protected, and yet a plain reading of the United States constitution quite clearly states that the government cannot, under any circumstances, prohibit speech of any kind.

We ignore that, sometimes justifiably so, but not this time. After Janet Jackson showed her breast during the Super Bowl, the conservative-leaning FCC went on a Bush administration-sponsored Jihad against practically any and every form of perceived indecency on television. They of course, as governments tend to do, went overboard in their zealous persecution of the big four networks, and were finally challenged in a court of law. At issue was whether or not "fleeting" and isolated incidents of swearing were actionable offenses for the FCC. Three of the four networks joined together to challenge a couple of fines to get a definitive ruling. The way the law works to my understanding is that any appeal of FCC decisions go directly to an appeals court, where the networks won their challenge.

The court ruled that the FCC overstepped its authority and ordered them to reconsider their internal policy. In response, social conservatives in Congress - with the full cooperation of Democrats - passed a bill out of committee that would give the FCC the authority the Supreme Court had previously ruled it did not possess.

The FCC still has two remaining legal options outside of interference by congress, where it could have requested another hearing before the full appellate court, or a petition to the Supreme Court for consideration. The FCC did neither, but that hasn't stopped the Senate from sticking its nose into the issue by handing the FCC even more censorship power than it already has.

TV Watch, a research and advocacy group funded in part by media companies, decried the vote. "Once again, government is ignoring parents and trying to control what families see on television -- although a majority of parents, an overwhelming 92%, don't want government making TV viewing decisions for them," Jim Dyke, exec director of TV Watch, said in a statement.

"This bill is premised on the completely false notion that broadcasters are clamoring to air 'F-bombs' and 'S-words,'" said National Assn. of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Stations go to great lengths to prevent such language, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise."

The Rockefeller bill was part of six other bills or items that the committee voted on as a package. Given no debate raised over any of the bills or items, the entire committee meeting lasted less than five minutes.

Your tax dollars at work. This is how the online gambling prohibition made it into law a couple of years ago. Knowing that if it were seen in the open, Republicans snuck the measure into a totally unrelated port security bill. By the time anyone realized what happened, it was over and done with.

Call your representatives in congress and tell them to stop playing big brother for what you see on television. Remind them you have a remote control, and are willing to use it, and if necessary, you'll beat them over the head with it until they listen.


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