This fall, just in time for a slate of new TV shows sure to insult the tastes of millions of viewers, watch for congressional action on a list of potential new television legislation circulating on Capitol Hill to address the public's outrage.
The fastest-moving item is a congressional fix for the bizarre Second Circuit court ruling that the networks can't be fined by the Federal Communications Commission for fleeting profanities, since expecting TV executives to employ their own seven-second delay system is supposedly "arbitrary and capricious" regulating, and never mind that a) that is the only reason for which to have a delay, and b) it is the "technology" solution the industry claims makes federal intervention unnecessary. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has swept this bill through the Senate Commerce committee and analysts expect it to pass soon after Congress returns from the August recess. A similar version in the House, sponsored by Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) should follow.
In the Senate, a key player in advancing this remedy for the "accidental" deployment of F-words and S-words is Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican presidential contender. (An aside: Why is it that until just a few years ago, Hollywood had no problems with these "accidents"?) A few weeks back in the Senate Appropriations Committee's consideration of a financial-services bill, Brownback attempted to add an amendment tightening up the rules on the drive-by expletives.
Brownback was denounced for his impertinence. In a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, Chamber of Commerce lobbyist R. Bruce Josten blasted Brownback for mucking up the bill for his business buddies. Josten wrote Byrd that it would not only be unfair to fine a network for the "random utterance" of curse words (that's why they buy that seven-second delay technology). He claimed it would constitute "government intervention where there is not a market failure." In other words, government ought not to intrude where a free market solution will suffice, but when private industry willfully refuses to employ that solution it ought not to be viewed as a market failure. It's not exactly sterling logic, nor is it meant to be. It's just more spin, more fog coming from a pampered, wholly irresponsible industry and their hired guns in the broadcasters lobby.
Brownback, whose presidential campaign could have used a boost among the fed-up American people, was denied his prize by the Appropriations crowd. But Rockefeller's bill moves the same idea. Both of these men are owed a debt of gratitude for standing up to the hired guns of Tinseltown and their bullying tactics.