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Press Release

January 19, 2006

PTC President Bozell Testifies at Senate Indecency Hearing

Calls on Senate to Provide Increase in Broadcast Indecency Fines and 'A La Carte' Cable for Families


WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 19, 2006) -- Today, L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, testified at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing concerning regulating indecent content on television.  The following comments are excerpts from a written statement about regulating broadcast and cable television for indecent content.  To access the full statement, please visit www.parentstv.org.

"Millions of Americans are looking to the Senate to fulfill its promise to increase the financial penalty for those who break the law which prohibits the broadcast of indecent material over the public airwaves.  They are also demanding you do something about a system that is forcing them to subsidize cable content they find morally offensive.


"Mr. Chairman, there has been an awful lot of talk about this issue over the past two years, with a number of ‘solutions' offered by the broadcast and cable industries. I put the word ‘solutions' in quotes because so much of this is feints, dodges and smokescreens that ultimately does nothing—nothing—to correct the problem. There are real solutions. Virtually every person testifying before you today represents a vested special interest and will say, and spend, whatever it takes to protect their special interest. We speak on behalf of another special interest altogether: the vast majority of Americans sick and tired of the sewage pouring out of their airwaves, or on cable programs they are being forced to underwrite.


"I formally submit this three-point solution to you and to the Committee again today as a reasonable resolution to both the broadcast and cable issues. Simply put, the three points are as follows: There must be real penalties for those who violate broadcast indecency laws, therefore fines must be increased. Second, if aired outside the so-called ‘safe harbor' period, indecent material should be limited to cable. Third, consumers should be free to pick and choose – and pay for – only those cable networks they want.


"The industry must abide by community standards of decency while using the public airwaves.  This is not a proposal; this is law; well-settled law that was affirmed by the Supreme Court three decades ago.  The airwaves must remain safe for families. Those who violate the public trust are breaking the law and must be punished accordingly.


"We do not suggest a change in the indecency law, only a change in the fines for those who break that law. The existing fine structure is meaningless.  Legislation that increases the fine for violations to $500,000 per violation, per affiliate, with a ‘3 strikes' license revocation hearing mandated for repeat offenders, is a solution.


"Now let me tell you what is not a solution. You are being told that the entertainment industry bears no responsibility when it produces ‘cutting edge' material; that that the V-chip, the TV ratings system and parental control devices are enough to protect children; that ultimately it's up to parents to do something about the problem caused by Hollywood. But these are all dodges. The V-chip is a dodge. It relies on a reliable ratings system, but as the PTC publicly exposed last year, the ratings system is inconsistent, inaccurate, arbitrary and capricious, not just across the various networks but even within a network. And understand why this is so: the networks themselves rate their programs, and will not do so accurately because they cannot suffer the consequences. If they rate the program too steeply – that is, ascribing to it the correct adult warnings – many prominent advertisers will not sponsor the program. There is an inherent and unmistakable conflict of interest.


"We hear many broadcasters complain that allowing indecent material on cable, but not broadcast, creates an un-level playing field, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with cable. Do not be fooled by this smokescreen. Studies show that six companies—AOL Time Warner, Liberty, ABC/Disney, CBS/Viacom, NBC/Universal and Fox/Newscorp control approximately two-thirds of all viewers on television. In short, they control both sides of the coin. In addition, doesn't it strike you as odd that broadcasters never seem to feel the need to compete with the positive programming on cable? Seven of the top ten most popular shows on cable last week we're all on Nickelodeon.


"Let me tell you why cable choice must – I repeat, must – happen. In recent weeks and months, a number of the so-called expanded basic tier networks have aired some of the most graphic and shocking content imaginable. I'm not talking here about HBO or some sort of pay-per-view channel; I'm talking about advertiser-supported basic and expanded basic cable; what families are given to take when they subscribe to this service.


"The cable industry's sudden embrace of the family tier model is quite possibly its most cynical response yet. In fact, they have designed these family tiers to fail, because they would like nothing better than for the family tier concept to fail so they could claim after the fact that no demand exists for a different way of doing business in the cable industry.


"Our position is clear: if FCC oversight of cable programming were the only option to address raunchiness on cable, we would take it. But there is a better way, and that is to provide cable channel choice to America's families.  It is the only option available that creates a real free market in the cable industry."


To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver at (703) 683-5004, ext. 140.

The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has over one million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.






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