On June 15, President Bush held a signing ceremony at the White House for the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, a new law increasing the maximum fine for indecent TV programming tenfold, from $32,500 to $325,000 per violation.
The president knows the problem. The current maximum "is meaningless. It's relatively painless for them when they violate decency standards. And so the Congress decided to join the administration and do something about it ...The Congress got serious."
It may have taken three years too many, but when Congress finally acted, it did so in an overwhelmingly bi-partisan fashion seldom seen in Washington anymore. The House bill passed by a 397 to 35 margin. The Senate version sailed through unanimously.
And why not? The public, in red and blue states alike, is fed up with the raw sexual sewage and graphic violence being poured onto the airwaves they own. A December Associated Press poll found 66 percent of those surveyed said there was too much sex on TV, and 68 percent said there was too much violence. Other polls have pegged public disgust in the 80-and 90-percent levels.
In that sense, it was a no-brainer vote, but this is Washington, D.C., where nothing is simple, and ultimately, it also took real courage. Credit should flow to the Congress and the president for risking offending a very powerful lobby in the broadcasters, who not only broadcast filthy entertainment, but also broadcast the news, which helps people decide who to elect to the Congress and the presidency.
The Congress and the president heard, and responded to the outcry. The broadcast networks have been, and continue to be, tone-deaf. How can our media elite find so much pessimism in our society about our future in Iraq, or our future planetary health, or our future economic success, and totally ignore the public’s pessimism about how Hollywood -- that is to say, they -- are polluting the culture? The media barons are opposed to the public interest in a shameless, grasping, greedy way, every bit as shameless as these networks have portrayed the Big Oil barons in the last few months.
We can easily steal this "inconvenient truth" line from Al Gore: It's a seriously inconvenient truth for Hollywood that they have been pressed, prodded and preached, and finally it took federal legislation, in the form of massive potential fines, to get their attention.