In the eyes of most political observers, the Democratic takeover of Congress signaled tougher federal scrutiny of business interests, but those same pundits might make an exception for the entertainment industry given that Hollywood is a major financial base for Democrats. But when the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on children and TV violence on June 26, the roles seemed to be reversed: It was the Democrats taking the entertainment industry to task as socially irresponsible, while Republicans in general favored the do-nothing approach.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) began with a strong call for the television barons to stop pouring sewage into America's living rooms, promising to introduce a tough bill next month to allow federal regulation of indecent, violent and profane content on TV. He slammed Hollywood for putting its short-term profits ahead of the long-term interests of children by conducting "a never-ending race to the bottom," and insisted the industry was "unable and unwilling to police itself."
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) suggested that any crackdown on the entertainment industry was fraught with constitutional problems. "It is not something that is easily regulated," he stated -- correctly. There is a better solution and one that de facto deregulates cable: Cable Choice, giving the public complete control over what it subscribes to, and pays for. Yet Stevens has offered no tangible support for this measure, either.
Which silence is preferable to the comments made by his Republican colleague Gordon Smith, who denounced cable choice claiming it would reduce the number of family-friendly children's offerings, an audacious statement with no basis in fact.
But at least Stevens and Smith were in the building.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who agreed strongly enough with Rockefeller on his bill to co-sponsor it in the last Congress, did not attend the hearing. Sen. John McCain, who had a chance to distinguish himself with socially conservative presidential primary voters by showing up at the hearing, was a no-show. Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sen. David Vitter, who owe their recent promotions from the House to the Senate on strong support from the pro-family movement, did not attend the hearing.