Policy

Bush Supports Cable-Indecency Rules

4/14/2005 9:36 AM Eastern

Washington -- Addressing racy content on television, President Bush told newspaper editors Thursday that he generally supported applying indecency standards to cable and satellite television, while insisting that parents shared responsibility in filtering content that is inappropriate for children.

Asked specifically whether he supported extension of federal indecency rules to pay TV providers, Bush replied, “Yeah, I’m for that. I think there ought to be a standard.”

But he quickly added that parents had a responsibility to ensure that their children did not view inappropriate content.

“On the other hand, I fully understand that the final edit, the final decision is the parent turning off the TV,” Bush told the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention here.

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has urged the cable industry to create at least one programming tier considered family-friendly and devoid of sex and profanity.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has also endorsed voluntary adoption of a family-friendly tier and has asked broadcasters to revive the family hour starting at 8 p.m.

Bush’s comments tracked closely with indecency views he expressed in January in an interview with C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb.

But on C-SPAN and again Thursday, Bush was not specific about the kind of indecency standards he would embrace. He didn't say whether he was referring to better ratings information, to children-safe program tiers, or to broadcast-indecency rules that ban profanity and sexual content from 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

“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,” Bush said. “That’s how best to make decisions and how best to send influences. But I don’t mind standards being set out for people to judge the content of a show, to help parents make right decisions. The government ought to help parents, not hinder parents, in sending good messages to their children.”

The cable industry, claiming that indecency regulations on the medium would violate the First Amendment, supports equipping parents with ratings information and set-top boxes that can block programming by rating, channel and title.

Bush indicated that if a substantial number of parents turned off the TV, they could send a message about the quality of programming being delivered into their homes.

“We’re a free society. The marketplace makes decisions. If you don’t like something, don’t watch it,” Bush said. “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.”