PFF has just released my new PFF paper on the rising threat of cable and satellite censorship. In the paper, I provide a section-by-section analysis of the leading pro-censorship measure, S. 616, the "Indecent and Gratuitous and Excessively Violent Programming Control Act of 2005." My analysis of the bill can be summarized as follows:
* Section 2's pervasiveness rationale has never been applied to newspapers and the Internet, and would be constitutionally suspect for cable and satellite.
* Sections 4, 7 and 8 would impose mandates on warning systems and filters deployed voluntarily by programmers. These efforts might best be grouped under the theme 'hanging the industry with its own rope.' Ratings systems are subjective, and government shouldn't have any say over them.
* Section 5's significant fines would carry the "clear as mud" indecency enforcement to cable and satellite, expanding the current confusion on what is appropriate.
* Section 6 would potentially abrogate contracts between national networks and their TV affiliates by forcing networks to expand veto power over programming, despite the fact that local affiliates already have significant influence.
* Section 10's proposal of a return of a "voluntary" code of conduct seems far from voluntary, with an implicit "or else" attached.
* Section 11 would exempt premium and pay-per-view channels, but what happens if S-616 forces popular content onto these networks and viewers follow? Would they then be regulated as well?
Please read the paper for more details. While the entire bill may not pass, given the atmosphere on the Hill and at the FCC today, portions of S. 616 could easily become law in coming months and years.