Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

FCC Media Violence Report Looms

According to today's Washington Post, the FCC's report on televised media content will be out within the week, and you can expect a whole lotta regulatin' to be goin on once it hits the Hill.

In their article, "FCC Seeks To Rein In Violent TV Shows: Agency Will Recommend Law to Regulate Broadcast And Basic Cable Content," Washington Post staff writers Paul Farhi and Frank Ahrens report that:

The Federal Communications Commission has concluded that regulating TV violence is in the public interest, particularly during times when children are likely to be viewers -- typically between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., FCC sources say. ... The report -- commissioned by members of Congress in 2004 and based on hundreds of comments from parents, industry officials, academic experts and others -- concludes that Congress has the authority to regulate "excessive violence" and to extend its reach for the first time into basic-cable TV channels that consumers pay to receive.

The Post reporters were kind enough to seek out my thoughts on the FCC's pending report. Here are the sections of the story that summarize what I had to say:

Adam D. Thierer, a senior fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation who writes extensively on government regulation of the media, said the answer to preventing children from seeing violent content is in the hands of the parents -- literally. "There are more ways to control violent and objectionable content on cable and satellite television than ever before," Thierer said. "Every single set-top-box technology on the market has some sort of parental-control mechanism embedded in it." ...

Thierer said that if Congress were to pass laws that empower the FCC or another agency to regulate basic-cable channels for violent content, they likely would not stand legal challenges brought by the cable industry. He drew an analogy to local and federal attempts to regulate violent content in video games, which -- like cable and satellite television -- do not come into the home free over the airwaves.

"Every single one of them was struck down as unconstitutional," Thierer said. Further, in 2000 the Supreme Court struck down part of the Communications Decency Act that required cable operators to scramble or block the Playboy Channel, saying such methods are unconstitutional.

I'll have plenty more to say about this issue in coming weeks, and I'll be publishing a big new paper on the issue within a few weeks of the FCC's release of its new report. In the meantime, you might want to check out these two earlier entries (here and here) of mine on this issue that summarize some of the best things that have been written on this issue by others.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:23 PM | Free Speech