Under its current leadership, the FCC has made it a priority to impose the morals of a small group of people on all television viewers by cracking down on so-called indecent programming. Not content with abusing the power to regulate over-the-air broadcasters, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been trying to extend his authority to act as moral policeman over cable and other paid systems as well, by bullying cable operators into offering "family tiers" of channels or a-la-carte pricing. He does this because the FCC doesn't have the power to regulate paid networks -- though that could soon change. The FCC will soon recommend that Congress pass a new law giving it the ability to not only regulate "indecent" programming, but also violence in TV shows, and also allowing it to regulate what's shown on basic cable channels. Just to review, cable is something that people pay for, and that they willingly invite into their own home. If they don't like what's on it, they can either take advantage of the myriad tools that exist to allow people to block objectionable content (from family tiers to the V-chip to controls on set-top boxes, or simply even the remote control), or they can choose to not bring it into their home. Giving the FCC these additional powers will simply push it further towards being the Federal Censorship Commission, and will have a chilling effect on all sorts of speech. However, even if Congress should pass new legislation in this area, getting it to stand up to scrutiny in the courts will be another matter. Just as state legislators' efforts to ban the sale of certain video games to minors have consistently been knocked back by the courts, Congress and the FCC may find they're overstepping their bounds -- and the Constitution.
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