Michael McLaughlin

You’d think that a bill proposed by the president pro tempore of the Senate would deal with a subject of some importance. A compromise regarding Social Security or perhaps a new omnibus bill to balance the budget. However, the new bill being proposed by Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaskan Republican, and Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, involves a subject that many may find extremely trivial.

The subject? According to the Boston Globe, it is an attempt to force “decency” standards upon satellite radio and cable television.

George Carlin had a routine back in the early 1970s entitled “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV,” mocking what he and many others perceived to be the utter stupidity of deeming certain words to be taboo.

Now, those who wish to protect us from ourselves are on the warpath yet again. The Parents Television Council, run by wing-nut extraordinare L. Brent Bozell, has been clambering for such a move since the ’90s, and after the last election, it appears they have enough political capital to press the issue.

Somewhat ironically enough, its Web site (parentstv.org) has a virtual smorgasbord of all the “offensive” clips over the last few months. I suppose the purpose of these clips is to shock people, but I’m sure there are some odd people out there who use the site to see what stations and programs all the “good stuff” is on.

Don’t get me wrong; the PTC actually has a bit of a point in that some of the material shown relatively early at night is unsuitable for young children — although to be honest, most of the innuendo is also probably quite a good deal over their heads.

Also, I believe Congress has the right to impose laws regarding decency standards upon broadcast TV, as they have been doing so since television’s first beginnings. This is the case because the airwaves are owned by the people of the United States — not any one corporation — and therefore are subject to regulation. However, I don’t believe Congress should exercise that right, as it tends to lead to stagnation in creativity.

What I believe is that Congress does not have the right to impose those standards upon cable or satellite as people pay for this product, and acceptance of the content is implied in the purchase of the service. And this isn’t just some kind of crazy liberal pinko idea either. The Kansas City Star reported the out-going head of the FCC, Michael Powell, who heavily cracked down on the broadcast networks, surprised many by coming out against Stevens’ and Barton’s attempt to extend the power of regulation.

At the end of the day, I don’t really see what the whole fuss is about, at least with language. After all, as Frank Zappa once said, these are just words we’re talking about. And honestly, who has never said a vulgarity?

Finally, I agree with President Bush’s view on this issue (Holy crap! I just agreed with the president!) that if you’re offended by what’s on TV, change the channel. As for the children? Well, isn’t that what the V-Chip is for?

Mike McLaughlin is a senior history major, secretary of the College Democrats and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].