The Playgoer: How Congress does Censorship

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

How Congress does Censorship

Bill Frist is now fasttracking a Senate version of a bill already passed in the House cracking down on TV naughtiness by levying much greater fines.

Some salient details:

As defined by the FCC and the courts, material is indecent if it "in context, depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in a patently offensive manner as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium."

While obscene speech has no constitutional protection, indecent speech does. It can be aired from 10 p.m.-6 a.m., when few children are in the audience.

Broadcasters say they are forced to guess at what constitutes indecency because the statute is so blurry. Because of the confusion and the fear of fines, some have become extremely gun-shy over programming.

Do we care that mega-conglomerate media network corporations might have to shell out a few more millions? Maybe not. But the fact is, they're not happy to part with any millions, so count on them to back off anything remotely naughty.

And given some new interest in putting more plays and musicals on television, we theatrefolk better take notice, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be a very sad day to see a future FCC use today's indecency fines as precedent to censor stage classics made for TV. Imagine Shakespearean productions censored for war violence, or "Man of La Mancha" censored for its rape scene, or most classic operas censored for content and innuendo that some people may find objectionable?

The fact remains that parents and individuals already have the necessary ratings and content-blocking devices to make and enforce their own subjective TV viewing decisions. Our government was never designed to be a subjective arbiter of decency, nor should it become that.

Check out TV Watch at for a common-sense voice of reason in this debate.