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"Increasing the fines against individuals will do more harm to the First Amendment than it will to clean up the airwaves."
——Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky, in dissent

HOUSE MAKES "INDECENCY"
MORE EXPENSIVE

The Cost of Free Speech May Also Now Exceed Your Budget, Say Critics
The cost of so-called “smut” on the airwaves just went way up.

The House Commerce Committee passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act on 3/3. And as you might expect with any piece of legislation that contains both “Decency” and “Enforcement,” questions are already being raised about its constitutionality.

According to a Hollywood Reporter article, the maximum fine for indecency violations would jump from $27,500 to $500,000 per incident—and a provision in the bill declares individuals who say the dirty words or show the dirty things must bear the same responsibilities as licensees.

The latter provision is “severable”—meaning it could be struck if declared unlawful in the courts without derailing the entire bill—which justified the votes of some committee members who felt just the tiniest bit squeamish about it.

“We’re not going to accept that kind of indecent material on the airwaves,” harrumphed Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), presumably referring to one second of Janet Jackson’s bare boob and not to hours and hours of ads for Viagra and beer. “This bill is a great bipartisan statement that enough is enough.”

The only dissenter, Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (R-Illinois), said upping fines against individuals “will do more harm to the First Amendment than it will to clean up the airwaves” and would “raise another form of censorship.” And she's a Republican. Hello!

Barton glibly dismissed constitutional concerns, though the Reporter cited reps from AFTRA and NAB who vehemently disagreed.

The bill, most admit, is something of a legislative steamroller and will likely pass in the Senate as well, where its author, Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), wants to know what Infinity is going to do about the naughty things Howard Stern has been saying.

So there you have it, people—Big Brother is on the move. Enjoy.

In a related story, the fine for clandestinely supporting the ouster of an impoverished Caribbean country’s democratically elected leader in favor of a drug-dealing death squad kingpin remains $0.00.

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