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Regulation syndrome

When it comes to making rules on TV and radio content, conservatives and liberals are inconsistent

Issue: "Rich man, poor man," May 5, 2007

Liberals want to resurrect the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine, a tenet created to ensure fair and balanced coverage of controversial issues, so that they can regulate talk radio and require "equal time" be given to opposing political views. Liberals don't like talk radio's mostly conservative content.

Some conservatives, aided by the FCC, want to regulate violence on broadcast television and, for the first time, cable television and the FCC will soon recommend that Congress enact legislation that would sanitize entertainment programming by controlling violent content. News content, which shows actual blood and gore, the result of real violence, would not be affected. Apparently, real violence is thought not to pose as great a threat to children and to public morality as the simulated kind.

According to The Washington Post, TV industry and government sources say the FCC report, which Congress commissioned in 2004, fails to adequately define violence, leaving that to federal legislators. The report, which is due to be released soon, reportedly concludes that Congress has the authority to regulate "excessive violence," but how will that be defined? When Jack Bauer on Fox's 24 tortures a terrorist to get information that will stave off a nuclear attack, is that excessive? If he fails and the bomb goes off, would that violence be considered excessive?

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For 50 years social science has shown that prolonged exposure to TV violence can have a negative effect on children, but what about commercials and their link to human behavior? Do beer commercials cause kids to become alcoholics, or drunk drivers? If that could be proved, should commercials be regulated? Does prolonged exposure to tabloid stories, the grist of cable TV, turn viewers into bottom-feeding dunces who don't care about news that really matters? And, if that could be proved, is it the government's responsibility to insulate people from the guilty pleasures derived from such tripe?

Anyone concerned about the preservation of the First Amendment and the rights it guarantees to free speech and free expression should be worried about this latest assault on the Constitution. Conservatives who oppose regulation of talk radio, which most of them like, must be consistent and oppose the over-regulation of TV content they don't like.

-© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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