…and he's not going to take it anymore.
Speaking in front of one of the most annoying of all trade groups, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Republican Stevens suggested that freedom of speech for pay TV and radio was too much to bear:
"Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area," the Alaska Republican told [NAB], which represents most local television and radio affiliates. "I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air" broadcasters.
"There has to be some standard of decency," he said….
Stevens told reporters afterward that he would push legislation to apply the standards to cable TV and satellite radio and television. It could become part of a pending bill to boost fines on broadcasters who violate indecency restrictions or of an effort to overhaul U.S. communications laws….
Last year the Senate Commerce Committee narrowly defeated an amendment to a bill boosting fines for indecency that would have extended such limits to cable and satellite services….
Stevens said he disagreed "violently" with assertions by the cable industry that Congress does not have the authority to impose limits on its content.
"If that's the issue they want to take on, we'll take it on and let the Supreme Court decide," he said.
Whole thing here. For the record, Stevens did mutter that, of course, "No one wants censorship."
Nope, broadcasters–and politicians–just want to neuter competitor cable and satellite services by restricting permissible language and images and reducing free expression to the narrow limits allowed on broadcast outlets. That's got nothing to do with censorship (or rigging markets in the favor of politically connected pals). The House of Representatives recently boosted the maximum fines for indecency from $32,500 per incident to $500,000. The Senate is expected to do the same.
In an interview with Reason in our December issue, former FCC honcho Michael Powell implied that attempts to extend content regulation to cable, satellite, and other pay services were misguided, saying:
Do you think a 12-year-old knows what a broadcast channel is? Do you think that they have any idea what the differences between Channel 4 and Channel 204 are? Do you think that the First Amendment ought to change as the dial changes?
I don't. To suggest that we bend the First Amendment for one industry singularly is to do hazard to our most cherished principle.
Unfortunately, it seems like Republicans are more than willing to limit free speech to keep broadcasters happy–and to keep "indecency" away from the very people who are willing to pay for it.
Powell, who became a real indecency zealot himself after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl brouhaha, implied pretty strongly that over time, broadcast would enjoy the more expansive expression rights that cable and satellite media enjoy. If Stevens–and other pols–are serious, the reverse may well be the case. Here's wondering when they'll start reading newspapers and the Web and start pushing to limit all that…
Powell Q&A here.