Democratic Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps has called on the agency to ensure that children do not see pornography on television.
In a short Nov. 21 statement — which accompanied the elimination of some FCC sex-channel rules — Copps said the commission should "commence a proceeding" to determine what steps the agency can take to protect children from indecent and obscene programming.
"It is incumbent upon us to take whatever steps we can, consistent with the First Amendment, to protect our children from sexually explicit programming in their homes," Copps said.
The FCC eliminated rules created to enforce curbs on sex channels contained in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Last year, the Supreme Court struck down the sex-channel law as a violation of the First Amendment in a suit brought by Playboy Entertainment Group.
Under the law and FCC rules, cable operators unable to fully scramble an adult channel's video and audio feeds were required to restrict their adult programming to between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Congress — addressing the problem called "signal bleed," which occurs when adult programming jumps over to other channels due to poor scrambling — wanted to ensure that such programming was unviewable in cable homes that did not subscribe to adult channels.
The Supreme Court held 5-4 that Congress should have relied on less restrictive means in dealing with signal bleed than a ban on adult programming on some cable systems for two-thirds of the broadcast day.
In its unanimous order, the FCC noted that consumers may ask cable operators to block programming from entering their homes and may rely on the V-chip in TV sets and cable set-tops to interdict sexually explicit programming that may bleed onto other channels.
Copps, citing the minority opinion in the Playboy case, called the alternatives available to parents to block sexually explicit programming "woefully inadequate."