US Prez Favors 'Decency' Criteria for Cable, Satellite

19 April 2005

President George W Bush is in favour of 'decency' content controls for subscription cable and satellite TV companies. Or is he?

Speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Friday, the president was in quintessentially ambivalent form. "I think there ought to be a standard. On the other hand, I fully understand that the final edit, or the final decision, is a parent turning off the TV," he quoth.

"I mean, the ultimate responsibility in a consumer-driven economy is for people to say I'm not going to watch it and turn the knob off. That's how best to make decisions and how best to send influences."

Most cable and satellite operators would agree with the second part of the president's either/or scenario. Extending the 'decency' controls that now apply to broadcast networks would effectively kill-off such acclaimed programming as HBO's The Sopranos and Deadwood.

It seems the White House incumbent favors the laying down of clear content criteria so as to enable individual citizens to make a prior decision as to whether they (or their children) should watch a given program.

Sez the prez: "I don't mind standards being set out for people to adjudge the content of a show, to help parents make right decisions. Government ought to help parents, not hinder parents in sending good messages to their children."

"But, look, I mean, we're a free society," he continued. "The marketplace makes decisions. If you don't like something, don't watch it. And, presumably, advertising dollars will wither and the show will go off the air. But I have no problems with standards being set to help parents make good decisions."

The Bush telegraph echoes the line taken by the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ted Steven (Republican, Alaska), who has long been arguing that cable subscribers have the right to a tier of channels free of obscene language and situations.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff