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Federation Communications Commission (FCC) is an agency in the US. It was established through the communications act of 1934 and it has the responsibility of regulating international as well as local communications in television, radio, cable, wire and satellite. FCC regulates broadcast on television in terms of indecency but not on cable television. Some have raised concern over the material broadcast on cable television in a bid to protect minors. Cable television is liberal and free to broadcast materials that traditional television would otherwise not touch. In the past years, the debate about FCC regulating cable television has been on the rise. In the year 2006, the then president signed into law a bill that sought to raise the financial penalties following the controversial event at the super bowl event during halftime when Janet Jackson’s jacket was ripped off exposing her bare breast. This paper will look at whether the FCC’s Indecency Restriction be Extended to Cable Television.
Times have changed and over “85% of homes receive their television programming from cable and satellite providers” (Con-Revere 2). This means that FCC should extend its restriction on indecency to cable television. In the past FCC has failed to come up with clear regulations for regulation of cable television against indecent material broadcasts because the distinction between the two has not been made. It is the high time the government did so to level the playing field for both traditional television and cable broadcast. This is because cable television has “established a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans” (Con-Revere 5). The government does not regulate cable television and to increase ratings indecent material or racy material is transmitted to attract viewers.
Protection of children
FCC’s indecency restriction should extend to cable television to protect the children. This will make cable television responsible for the content it broadcast to the population. The fact that the regulations for indecency and speech are different for traditional and cable television has allowed cable television to get away with indecent content. In 2005, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockfeller said, “each day, and for hours and hours every day, broadcast, cable, and satellite television outlets indiscriminately barrage our children and families with indecent and violent images” (Hudson). The FCC needs to regulate cable television to ensure that indecent material is not broadcast because this kind of material is harmful to consumers especially children who tend to copy what they see. For instance, the lack of FCC regulation in cable television made Howard Stern leave broadcast radio and join Sirius Satellite Radio to avoid violating FCC rules due to his indecent material that would attract heavy fines. Such moves clearly show that indecency in cable television is going on and is not prohibited which leaves the children as well as adults exposed to all kinds of indecency. Cable television is a safe harbor for the broadcast of “obscene and indecent programming” (Con-Revere 3). ) Therefore, cable television should be required to offer tools that parents can use to guard their children against indecent material. This is because FCC does not impose regulation regarding indecency on services lacking indiscriminate access to children that characterizes broadcasting” (Con-Revere 5). Family-friendly tiers need to be created in cable television.
Opposition of regulation
Those who propose government regulation of content argue that it needs to do so to “protect children from harmful material online” (Hudson). The government has said that it is committed to the protection of children. “The FCC should expand indecency regulations to cable and DBS” (Hudson). On the other hand, opponents argue that giving the government the control of content broadcast on cable television will lead to restriction of viewers’ choice on what they would want to view. Furthermore, they argue that the government should enforce the current regulation on indecency instead of trying to other realms. Nevertheless, the government can regulate “the issue of indecency on cable television without imposing direct content controls” (Con-Revere 3).
The First Amendment
The First Amendment does not offer protection against child pornography and obscenity. Those against cable television regulation urge that material can be obscene as to children but not as to adults” (Hudson). Therefore, they use this argument to broadcast indecent materials. Some say that indecent material is broadcast during late night hours when the children are supposed to be asleep. However, this is not a guarantee that children do not watch such material. Therefore, the government needs to come in strongly and regulate cable television against broadcasting indecent materials because listeners or viewers are not protected from unexpected indecent content like the infamous wardrobe malfunction during the super bowl.
Cable television does not use public airwaves to broadcast, unlike traditional broadcast. This could explain why there is a distinction in the regulation of the two media. Cable television uses fiber optic to transmit its programming through subscription-based services. However, cable television “has acquired a “pervasive” presence and that children easily can obtain access to indecent material on cable” (Hudson). Thus, children are not protected against harmful content because they can access it easily. The government should amend the law 18 U.S.C. Sect. 1467 that criminalizes “any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communication” (Hudson). FCC should extend its indecency restriction to cable television as well as premium channels (Con-Revere 3).
Constitution on the regulation of content
On the other hand, extending FCC restriction to cable television is bound to be met by a lot of opposition because according to the First Amendment people have a choice and not the government about what they can see or hear. The limitation on this principle has made it difficult to impose regulations against cable television on indecent content. The US is a free and democratic society and thus “the government may not lightly restrict speech based on its content” (Landau, Butcher and Kirkland 3). Some people choose to watch programs on cable television because they do not see anything vulgar or indecent in the content while others may be offended by the same content. The freedom of speech restricts the government because the matter of what is indecent or not lies in the hands of an individual. Therefore, applying FCC’s “indecency to cable television would be unconstitutional” (Theirer).
The FCC should be empowered to extend its restriction on indecency to cable television. This is because many children as well as non-consenting adults are exposed to indecent material. Extending the restriction to cable television will ensure that the material broadcasted does not violate the FCC laws. Cable television is no longer a preserve of a few. Many people depend on cable television for information and entertainment. Thus, the government has the responsibility of protecting minors from exposure to indecent content, which influences them negatively. The only way the government can do this is through extending regulation to cable television, which has been a safe harbor for producers and presenters of indecent material.
Con-Revere, Robert. “Can Broadcast Indecency Regulations be extended to Cable Television and Satellite Radio?” 2006. Web.
Hudson, L David. “Indecency regulation: beyond broadcast?” First Amendment Center. 2007. Web.
Landau, Christopher, Butcher, Angela and Kirkland. ”Cable Television.” 2008. Web.
Theirer, Adam. “CRS Report on Applying Indecency Regs to Cable.” The Technology Liberation Front. 2005. Web.