Use of blocking to tackle indecency


Mark Pryor (D-AR) has an item on Thursday's Senate Commerce Committee executive session which instructs the FCC to begin a rulemaking on blocking technologies. S. 602 the "Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007" should pass without difficulty. Pryor's bill would instruct the FCC to begin a rulemaking proceeding within 120 days of the bill's enactment in order to encourage of require the use of advanced blocking technologies, to identify such technologies, and to match up such devices across a wide spectrum of communications media including broadcast, cable, satellite, DVRs and other outlets.

It also instructs the FCC to look into devices that "can filter language based upon information in closed captioning; operate independently of ratings pre-assigned by the creator of such video or audio programming; and may be effective in enhancing the ability of a parent to protect his or her child from indecent or objectionable programming, as determined by such parent." The measure will be considered by the full committee Thursday, 8/2/07 at a session beginning at 10AM.

SmartMedia observation: Pryor's bill proceeds from some questionable assumptions. For example, in its "findings" section, it says that "75% of adults surveyed believe that television content marketed toward children should be subject to compulsory principles." It is possible to find other surveys which would suggest that 75% of adults believe that the government should stay out of content regulation. However, free speech scholar Laurence Tribe testified before this committee recently and pointed out that such technologies are far less intrusive on free speech than are options such as Pryor wants the FCC to study. We say full speed ahead on this project.