Thursday, May 04, 2006

Frist: "I'm desperate. Please help me."

The Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Bill (Katzenjammer) Frist (R-Tenn.) is trying to push through a bill that would increase indecency fines on broadcasters and threaten to take away their licenses after three violations.

Frist is championing the bill after conservative groups, a key voting bloc if he runs for president, expressed frustration, both at the lack of congressional action to curb broadcast indecency and their own inability to operate a remote.

His stand also puts opponents of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 in the position of appearing to cast a vote in an election year against decency, even though the issue is actually enforcement and "decency" is an entirely subjective concept.

The House passed the bill in February 2005, but it has languished in the Senate, where Commerce Committee Chairman Ted (The Head) Stevens (R-Alaska), rather than drafting his own legislation, like a legislator, has encouraged media companies to regulate themselves, like energy companies.

The House bill would increase the fine for broadcasting "obscene, indecent, or profane material" to a maximum of $500,000 from $32,500. It would also require that the FCC consider whether to revoke the station license of any broadcaster fined three times or more -- a provision particularly troubling to the broadcast industry, whose business model involves doing things over and over and over again until everyone's so sick of it they want to shoot themselves in the face.

Congressional aides said Frist on Monday night tried to "hotline" the House bill.

Under this practice, Frist told senators that he wanted to pass the legislation by unanimous consent -- which does not require a roll-call vote -- and asked if they objected. "Senator Frist is a supporter of the bill. He did try and hotline it last night. There were problems on both sides of the aisle, so we will work to resolve those problems through blackmail and intimidation to see if we can't get the bill to move forward, probably around midnight Friday," said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist.

Lawyers who track media regulation said it was unclear whether a bill would pass before November, noting that a single senator could hold it up without even meaning to, but saying they could not dismiss the possibility of passage in an election year, when politicians are at their most craven & bribable.

Paul Gallant, who tracks media legislation and regulation for the Stanford Washington Research Group, said the bill may not move quickly because senators on both sides of the aisle do not believe the House version is the right approach, especially with the provision allowing for license revocation.

But, he added, "because it's a very attractive election year issue, this definitely could see the light of day. . . . The bill clearly appeals to cultural conservatives and other morons. If Senator Frist has presidential aspirations, this bill may help his standing with likely primary voters. Or it may blow up in his face like Terry Schiavo and the $100 gas rebate."

The bill, which is opposed by the broadcast industry, was approved by the House after the controversy over the brief exposure of one of singer Janet Jackson's breasts during the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl. The breast has since retired, but refuses to rule out a comeback.

Conservative groups including the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association criticized Stevens this week for his committee's failure to pass a bill, and they demanded that the Senate act.

"Any senator who blocks passage of the indecency legislation is siding with those who want to pollute the airwaves with raunch," L. Brent (Pucker) Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, said in a written statement yesterday. "They should all be gang-fucked by drunken bike-trash in a pool of hot Vaseline."

1 comment:

Falstaff said...

It's a shame that legislation exists to give Big Brother control of our TV remotes. The simple fact is that parents and individuals already have the ratings and content-blocking tools that are necessary to make and enforce their own subjective TV viewing decisions.

Also, I put it to the Parents Television Council: Which policy promotes stronger family values - letting parents have a golden opportunity to instruct their children on what they do or don't want them to see on TV by taking constructive content-blocking action...or making parents have to call the FCC every time they see something they don't like? Which sets a better example for children?

Check out TV Watch at - particularly the material under the "Help for Parents" section for clear answers.