<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, March 04, 2005

How Much for Just the Porn? 

You read earlier this week about the proposal by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) that Congress impose decency standards on cable and satellite TV. Eric Hellweg of the MIT Technology Review says that, for a variety of reasons, we are unlikely to see pay-cable stripped of its tits, its ass, its shits, its fucks, its very raison d'etre, but sees the issue being used as a sort of stalking horse for an altogether different agenda -- forcing cable and satellite providers to offer individual channels on an a la carte basis:
Few observers contacted for this article believe Stevens and Barton will get their wish, primarily because doing so would be a massive procedural undertaking and would likely cause a major rift in the Republican party between the traditional "less government, freer markets" followers and those beholden to "morals voters."

To police these networks, Congress would have to pass a bill essentially re-writing the Federal Communications Commission charter. The FCC doesn't police cable and satellite television because they don't use the public spectrum.

Since cable and satellite television subscriptions are a private transaction, not available by default to all Americans, the FCC has wisely opted not to push its own mandate into what would likely be murky waters . . . .

More likely, however, is that the indecency cry could reignite the long-simmering cable and satellite a la carte battle. One of the leading social conservative organizations is planning on using the indecency issue to lobby for a la carte cable in the Spring.

The Parents Television Council, a 10-year-old, Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that uses the Internet to mobilize citizens against television shows that it views as harmful and negative, is only offering Stevens' notion secondary support, preferring instead an a la carte or tiered cable offering.

Mahaney says the PTC is currently forming coalitions "from the left and the right" and plans a "heavy lobbying campaign" in April or May for a la carte, or tier-based consumer cable choice.
Tier-based cable pricing is not the scariest prospect in the world (although a disputed 2004 FCC study claimed, not unsurprisingly, that a la carte selection would increase prices to consumers). But one small portion of Hellweg's argument does give us pause:
Governing cable television could very quickly lead to the cable companies governing Internet content, since so many American consumers receive their connection through a cable modem.

And it's about to get even trickier. With telecommunication companiess such as Verizon rapidly launching television services, it stands to reason that these companies would then have to police their networks as well to avoid FCC fines.
As you know, it is not in our nature to be paranoid (And stop laughing. Why are you laughing??) -- but what if the hidden agenda is a larger and altogether more dangerous one?

You have, of course, read about this.

| | Technorati Links | to Del.icio.us