As the First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere notes, regulations that take the context of violence into account would be scrutinized especially closely, because the government would be targeting speech based on viewpoint as well as subject. "Any attempt to regulate televised violence would face insurmountable First Amendment barriers," he concludes.
Although the FCC report obfuscates the issue, extending content regulation from broadcasting to cable and satellite TV is also constitutionally problematic. Advocates of broader regulation say it's silly to treat programming that travels through a wire differently from programming that travels over the air, especially when the two are indistinguishable to viewers.
I agree. Given the tools parents have to filter what their children see, including the V-chip, ratings from producers and independent groups, and cable and satellite system controls, the excuse for regulating content on any channel is weaker than ever.
The FCC's quaint talk of "time channeling" betrays an old-fashioned bureaucratic mindset. It seems regulators have not come to terms with an entertainment world in which a wide variety of programming is increasingly available, via DVDs, DVRs, downloads and video on demand, whenever viewers want to watch it.
The route taken by that programming, whether over the air or over the Internet, through TV cable or through phone lines, by mail or by satellite, into computers or cell phones or iPods, should be legally irrelevant. Logically, the government has to choose between a lot more censorship and a little more respect for parents.