"Decency" Rules for Cable TV?
The broadcast industry is complaining about “unfairness” — their TV and radio programs are more tightly regulated than cable TV and satellite radio. And they want a “level playing field.” Funny, they weren’t too concerned about the angle of the playing field when our public airwaves were being gobbled up by two or three bloated corporations.
Since the broadcast industry gets what it wants, the Senate and House Commerce Committees are concerned about this issue of “fairness.” No hearings have been scheduled — yet.
The broadcast executives don’t want to just come out and say “we want to squelch our competitors at the cable stations.” Their stated “reasoning” is that 85% of Americans have cable TV subscriptions, and they access their local broadcast channels through their cable service; hence there shouldn’t be any distinction between broadcast and cable channels.
My guess is, if Congress tries to regulate Cable TV and satellite radio, they’ll be waking up a sleeping giant that they’ll wish they hadn’t disturbed. Regardless of people’s political viewpoints, they like their cable TV. The Shield, the Sopranos, the raunchy comedians on Comedy Central (and even more so on HBO and Showtime) — judging by these shows’ popularity, they’re not being watched exclusively by godless leftwing pagans. A huge cross section of America would be outraged by any government tampering with their viewing habits.
You may remember, during the first Bush presidency, the one Bush veto that got overridden by Congress had to do with cable TV rates. The underlying message should have been clear: you can start wars, reduce people’s benefits, plunder the environment, but don’t fuck with our TV.
Maintaining existing “decency” controls on broadcast TV is one thing. But taking away the freedom of cable TV, which tens of millions of us have grown accustomed to? Well, as one of the Watergate conspirators noted more than 30 years ago, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in.