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Bill to Bring A La Carte, Indecency Regs to Cable

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-if-we-feel-like-10-am-porno dept.

274

An anonymous reader writes "A bill introduced this week would force cable operators to offer à la carte cable and so-called family-tiers of service. Those opting for à la carte programming would get refunds on their cable bill, but the legislation would also extend broadcast indecency standards to cable and satellite TV for the first time: 'In accordance with the indecency and profanity policies and standards applied by the [FCC] to broadcasters, as such policies and standards are modified from time to time, not transmit any material that is indecent or profane on any channel in the expanded basic tier of such distributor except between 10pm and 6am.' As Ars points out, 'With the parental controls built into every television set, set-top box, and DVR being sold these days, the need for such legislation seems questionable at best. Unlike broadcast television, which is available to anyone with a TV and an antenna, people subscribe to and pay for cable/satellite.'"

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274 comments

Will we really save money? (5, Insightful)

eharvill (991859) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526759)

Or simply lose a lot of cool ("indy") channels that don't get enough sponsorship to survive on their own?

Re:Will we really save money? (4, Funny)

MobileDude (530145) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526851)

errr, perhaps they're not that ^cool^ if they can survive on their own?

Re:Will we really save money? (5, Insightful)

eharvill (991859) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527269)

Yes, b/c as *everyone* knows, popular and highly rates shows *must* be good.

Re:Will we really save money? (2, Insightful)

guaigean (867316) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527353)

But if they can't sustain themselves, why would you continue paying to produce it? Unless you're doing non-profit, why would you support a company policy that said "Hey, we're just gonna spend a lot of money and go further in debt, just in order to make 0.5% of the population happy." Seriously, not all indy is good either. If something is valued by people, then it should bring in more support than it requires to produce. If it isn't, unless you had money to blow, why would you keep it going?

Re:Will we really save money? (4, Insightful)

badasscat (563442) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527493)

But if they can't sustain themselves, why would you continue paying to produce it?

I understand your point, but it's not really a valid one. If it was, not only would you only ever hear Britney Spears on the radio, it's all you *could* ever hear *anywhere*.

The problem is a lot of stuff starts out "indie" that becomes mainstream later. Almost by definition, most experiments fail. The ones that succeed, though, are the ones that drive the mainstream forward. So a lot of money must be lost in order for money to be gained over the long term. How do you think bands like Coldplay and U2 were initially financed? They didn't pay for themselves at first; they were financed by people like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. Same goes for TV talent. You've gotta run before you can walk.

With a-la carte pricing, I guarantee channels like IFC and Sundance Channel will die. You may not watch those channels, so you personally may not care. But is the point of a-la carte pricing to bring us less choice? Is that the goal we should be working towards?

Re:Will we really save money? (1)

badasscat (563442) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527513)

You've gotta run before you can walk.

Er, uh, yeah... and vice versa.

Hopefully you know what I meant.

Re:Will we really save money? (3, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527757)

But is the point of a-la carte pricing to bring us less choice?

What about the choice not to pay for channels we don't watch?

Re:Will we really save money? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527531)

Wasn't the grandparent poster talking abou "cool" stuff, not "successful" stuff? Usually the coolest things aren't popular or successful.

Re:Will we really save money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19526915)

Why not both? And is that such a bad thing?

Re:Will we really save money? (2, Interesting)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527299)

That bothers me too. I support a la carte cable. I had my cable cancelled a few months back becasue I was paying $80 to get 60+ channels (&HD) and really only watched about 8 channels.

But with a la carte cable might feel they have to go the way of network TV and try to appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator instead of their niche audience. Which would destroy the entire reason cable is worth having in the first place...

Plus the whole decency thing is just stupid.

Re:Will we really save money? (5, Interesting)

daeg (828071) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527755)

Actually, I think the opposite may be true. Currently, it is difficult to target a niche audience because you, as a television channel, have to convince broadcasters to add your content to their lineup. It is a risky venture for cable companies. They don't know if their viewers really want the content.

With a la carte, cable companies have little to risk about adding a channel since they can pay for what their customers use. N subscribers makes them pay $N for the channel.

Channels will have to continually produce content for their viewers, too, or customers will sign up for the months when new content is on and cancel afterward, much like many people do with HBO/Shotime/etc. Of course, this can also bring in a new market sector of channels: those that are only on air for a few months out of the year, reducing operating costs and having a very strong profit for the few months they are on air showing good content.

I don't, however, like this getting tied in with even more indecency laws. Laws and indecency have nothing to do with one another, even for broadcasters. If we allowed anything on air and current statiosn suddenly went apeshit and started swearing about the mother fucking fire on main street that caused the anchor to be late for mother fucking work while blaming it on those shithead firemen a new market sector would instantly appear: the moderated, tame, channels. Especially if we had a la carte.

It's not about money (4, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527465)

The indy channels disappeared a long time ago. What you think of as "indy" channels are just the media monopolies doing odd stuff to try to capture niche audiences.
The real indy channels went away when the MMs used their clout to force the cable companies to buy big bundles of channels. ("If you want to carry the local Fox station, you have to carry our new FX channel too. Yes, we know there's nothing on it yet. We'll worry about that later.") That left no room for all the weird little cable channels you used to see: the channels run by obscure religious sects, the public-domain movie channels (I saw the entire work of Ed Wood on one of those!), the Flat Earth society channel, the origami fetish channel...

Of course, these bundles aren't cheap, which is why cable rates are so ridiculous.

I think the folks that want alacart (I insist on spelling it that way, given the context) aren't interested in saving money or "protecting" their kids. They are just are pissed off that some of their money is going to pay for "un-Christian" content. In other words, this is just another lame "culture wars" battle that has no relation to the real world.

Re:Will we really save money? (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527625)

"Or simply lose a lot of cool ("indy") channels that don't get enough sponsorship to survive on their own?"

You mean like ESPN? Sorry, Disney, there just aren't that many rabid sports fans out there. And be sure to tell Viacom that they may have some problems keeping "M"TV afloat as well while you're heading out the door.

I look at my basic cable lineup here in brighthouse country, and I just don't see anything that counts as "independent" other than the local 24-hour news channel. All the "small" channels I'm seeing are simply chaffe that content providers bundle with channels that are in demand in the name of extorting more money out of cable providers and, ultimately, subscribers. This kind of bullshit is why people have been clamoring for a la carte cable for years (though I personally don't believe it's worth the price of additional censorship).

This argument you bring up, a favorite one used by large conglomerates trying to suggest that forcing useless channels upon us is the price we need to pay to keep "independent" broadcasting alive has no merit when there are no such independent cable channels to be found. CBS, Disney, News, Time-Warner, Viacom, GE... the only independent channels I find are independent broadcasters in my area.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527711)

You are delusional if you think ESPN would not survive a la carte; or are you being sarcastic? Sarcasm doesn't translate very well over the Internet, you know. Also, MTV would have no problem surviving (unfortunately).

Accepting unlimited govt to get things you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19526777)

Gets you unlimited govt in areas where you would prefer it not to be.

How a subscription channel can be a public airway is beyond me, but with infinite commerce clauses and pick and choose federalism, congress can pretty much do whatever it wants.

Re:Accepting unlimited govt to get things you want (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527423)

The beauty of this is, is all of the FCC decency standards may be struck down as a consequence. Not only because of the channel subscriber argument, but something like Comedy Central's Secret Stash is going to be protected speech (Richard Prior, South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut, etc). Remember the original decency regulation argument is based on the idea of a lack of plurality. There isn't that much choice in radio and TV as compared to printed material because of the capital investment required, and if there were no controls, famlies might be left out. That argument is ridiculous now with most cities having a couple major papers and a handful of what amount to pamphlets, dozens of radiostations, a half dozen tv stations and 500 cable channels.

I say bring it on, the FCC is engineering the destruction of their own moral authority.

RE: Bill to Bring A La Carte, Indecency Regs (2)

PoorClyde (151924) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526785)

I still don't understand how/why they bundle fundementally different concepts into one bill.
You can't get a stop sign at the end of your street unless you also vote for new garbage bins for the courthouse...what??

Re: Bill to Bring A La Carte, Indecency Regs (1)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527017)

Like all politics, it is a form of gamesmanship.

It forces those voting on a bill to make a decision about how bad they want one thing versus how bad they don't want the other.

And it works both ways. Someone who initially would be dead-set against a bill is more inclined to do so if they get something that they do want in return for a yes vote.

Re: Bill to Bring A La Carte, Indecency Regs (1)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527133)

More like a "you scratch my balls, I'll scratch yours" proposal, I would estimate. Both of these items are "pet projects" to someone.

Congress is just a bunch of ball-scratchers, I tell ya!

It's political. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527019)

Multiple reasons:

#1. To get an "earmark" (aka "pork") passed because it attached to a bill that will be sure to be passed.

#2. To force an opponent to vote AGAINST it because of their stance on a particular issue.

#3. To get an opponent to vote FOR it because it includes on of their pet projects.

Re:It's political. (1)

Blackhalo (572408) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527451)

It sure would be nice if this Bill was A La Carte. That way we could tell our reps to vote for the "A La Care" and against the censorship.

Bring on ala carte! (1)

MobileDude (530145) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526821)

Being forced to support cable channels my family will never watch is the same as being forced to eat one meal a day at that restaurant down the street that no one likes.

Bring on ala carte!

Re:Bring on ala carte! (2, Insightful)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527515)

Being forced to support cable channels my family will never watch is the same as being forced to eat one meal a day at that restaurant down the street that no one likes.
So when did someone put a gun to your head and force you to order cable?

Re:Bring on ala carte! (2, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527563)

Bring on ala carte!

Even if it means imposing the indecent "indecency regulations" on cable channels?

And what if it means the channels your family likes are no longer available at all, because they were only sustainable in package form?

Re:Bring on ala carte! (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527673)

Being forced to support cable channels my family will never watch is the same as being forced to eat one meal a day at that restaurant down the street that no one likes.

How so? If you never watch the channels you don't like, how it is the same as being forced to eat (and only eat) at the one restaurant you don't like.

I'd say its more like going to an all-inclusive Mexican resort hotel and only eating in 4 of 5 restaurants because you didn't care for the menu of one of them.

Re:Bring on ala carte! (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527793)

more like being forced to pay for a meal you don't want and won't eat, while still paying for the meal you do want.

Bwa?? (5, Insightful)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526823)

Now I'm even more confused. If you can get any channel you want a la carte, then why do you need to impose indecency regs on channels. I could almost see the logic when you had to get Spike and TNT in order to get Nickelodeon for the kids, but now if you can cherry pick the safe channels you specifically want (and as such, pick the not so safe at your discretion), you should do away with the regs and let the market sort out what people are willing to pay for.

Give and Take (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527115)

Now I'm even more confused. If you can get any channel you want a la carte, then why do you need to impose indecency regs on channels.

How else can you get people to voluntarily give up their 1st Amendment right, without promising to ease up a bit on the cable monopoly. And it works too, just the other day this guy politely asked me to voluntarily give up my wallet, and he promised he wouldn't shoot me, thus saving my life.

Re:Bwa?? (4, Informative)

h4ck7h3p14n37 (926070) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527309)

The sections talking about a la carte service are there to distract people from the real meat of the legislation, allowing the FCC to censor cable channels. Currently the FCC's able to censor over the air broadcasters quite well, restricting the information that they are allowed to push to their viewers. They do not have this ability with cable channels and I suspect that they desperately want it.

Just think about it, over the air broadcasters are unable to show or talk about certain things (eg. horrors of war, human sexuality). As a result, it becomes much easier to control what people believe about certain things. Cable channels do not have this sort of restriction, so they're able to get this information out to their subscribers/viewers/listeners.

If the FCC is allowed to censor cable and satellite (and Internet?) content along with traditional television and radio broadcasts, then they will become the information gatekeepers for the majority of Americans.

Re:Bwa?? (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527479)

The sections talking about a la carte service are there to distract people from the real meat of the legislation,

just as most "educational funding" and "protect the children" bills are just vehicles to get all of the add-ons passed. No bill passed would every be over 20 pages, except that their several hundred pages obscure most of the self serving gluttony and power grabbing of our government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Re:Bwa?? (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527543)

If you can get any channel you want a la carte, then why do you need to impose indecency regs on channels.


Cable Conglomerates: "Set lobbyists to KILL"

I imagine it wont be full a la carte (pick per channel) if it passes at all. It will be more like the digital "tiers" people already buy from some cable operators, except the groups of channels will be much smaller. And they'll just lump FX and Spike and such into one group, and MTV/VH1/GAC into another, ect. Just watch; if you want SoapNet, they'll force you to get Oxygen and Lifetime.

I want a'la carte, but (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526849)

"extend broadcast indecency standards to cable and satellite TV for the first time: "

the price they want is too high.

Re:I want a'la carte, but (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527207)

"extend broadcast indecency standards to cable and satellite TV for the first time: "

the price they want is too high.

That's the toned-down version. The original bill also wanted to "force viewers to register their viewing plans online with the Department of Homeland Screwiness 48 hours in advance".

Weasel a'la carte (2, Interesting)

slarrg (931336) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527559)

It's not really a'la carte. They make you subscribe to the whole tier then refund the cable company's cost for each channel you drop from the tier. Every cable company will immediately be paying a fee to allow channels from each media company then pay only a penny per channel per subscriber. That way they can charge $20/tier then refund $.50 when when you opt out of every channel in the tier. This will be rife with abuse!

extending standards to HBO (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526901)

Would all those great shows like the Sopranos, Sex in the city, Deadwood, etc ever been possible had HBO been worrying whether or not they're hurting all of those beautiful minds in the heartland?

Re:extending standards to HBO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527031)

I think for HBO something like this would mean Rome, Deadwood or Entourage would start at 10pm instead of 9pm.

You already have to have digital on demand to watch any of the "adult" HBO programming when you are home from work. I even remember one of their early sitcoms, you could see the tittie shot on the night showing but the afternoon viewing was neutered.

I suspect the other major premiums work the same kid safe hours? Not sure about sundance or the indy channels. If they treat you like an adult all day, they would be fucked under this plan.

I think this just writes a horrible standard into federal stone.

 

Re:extending standards to HBO (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527047)

Sex in the City is garbage for dead minds.

Re:extending standards to HBO (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527147)

Would all those great shows like the Sopranos, Sex in the city, Deadwood, etc ever been possible had HBO been worrying whether or not they're hurting all of those beautiful minds in the heartland?

Certainly not, they'd have been too risky.

Matter of fact, this is just another example of a bunch of lawyers (i.e., Congress) creating a lot of makework. That's all this is: yet another Congressional subsidy to the corporate attorney crowd, as if Sarbanes-Oxley and intellectual property (hah!) weren't enough. We're at the point where no company can take a breath (much less create something worthwhile) without having to consult some lawyer and have him pass on the idea. Which he won't, with laws like this on the books, because if he did, he wouldn't be doing his job.

Regarding "decency" laws: what is it about certain people that they feel the need to force their pattern for living upon everyone else? I just want to grab one of these idiots by the throat, shake him a few times, and point out that I'M NOT OFFENDED BY A FEW BAD WORDS, YOU STUPID LITTLE PRICK, I PAY THE DAMN CABLE BILL NOT YOU, AND WORRYING ABOUT WHAT ME OR MY FUCKING KIDS SEE ON THE GODDAMN TELEVISION IS ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY NONE OF YOUR GODDAMNED BUSINESS!

"Decency" laws my ass. What we need are laws that make Congress behave decently. I might go for that. But they'd fuck that up too, it's the nature of that particular collective beast. It really is twisted that some of the most amoral individuals in our society are the ones trying to define what is acceptable and "decent" (whatever that actually means) for the rest of us. Still, they do say that hierarchies are like septic tanks: the really big chunks always rise to the top.

And I'm sorry if any of you found this post to be "indecent" but sometimes Congress just torques me into a fucking pretzel. As Lewis Black says, "The only thing STUPIDER than a Republican or a Democrat ... is when these little pricks work together!"

Look at it from Congress' viewpoint. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527357)

They have to justify their existence SOMEHOW!

And what Congress does is pass laws. So, to justify their existence, they pass MORE laws.

From Congress' viewpoint, the only stupid law is the one you didn't pass that causes you to lose the next election.

What we need is a citizen's uprising and make ALL laws expire after 5 years (or 10 years or whatever).

That way Congress can happily pass laws that they've already passed (thereby justifying their existence) and the rest of us can get on with our lives.

Re:Look at it from Congress' viewpoint. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527583)

Yes ... I think something like an automatic sunset provision applied to all laws by default. Of course, as Congress proved with the Patriot Act that doesn't always guarantee that you'll get rid of something you don't want.

Re:Look at it from Congress' viewpoint. (4, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527595)

Congress can also remove old stupid laws. Maybe if they spent odd numbered years getting rid of old laws, then the laws we keep might have a bit more dignity. Or maybe if they really paired down our "Code of Law" to under 5000 pages or so our judicial system wouldn't be such a "game" played by lawyers, and could actually return to being about justice. Wouldn't that be novel.

good and bad (3, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526953)

"A bill introduced this week would force cable operators to offer à la carte cable and so-called family-tiers of service.
à la carte cable, good now those garbage channels will finally die. restrictions on profanity etc. no, half the good scifi/action etc. shows have this in them. I like the idea of being able to cut out garbage channels and get a nice refund back for it but I dont like the idea of anyone telling me what I can and can not watch at the times they specify. Let me choose what I want to watch and keep your slimy tentacles off my remote.

Re:good and bad (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527023)

restrictions on profanity etc. no, half the good scifi/action etc. shows have this in them.


Frack! What the frell are you talking about? Sounds like a pile of dren to me. I think you're the zarking son of a tralk hazmot. Grow a pair of mivonks.

Re:good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527273)

Aiya, huaile. You forgot to reference Firefly, you gorram piece of gose.

Re:good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527141)

Here's [cato-at-liberty.org] a different perspective on "a la carte" vs. bundled programming that you might find enlightening.

Re:good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527311)

down is up, black is white. If you give people the option of reducing all the crappy channels in their cable the worst channels WILL DIE. This is exactly what we want to see- bad shows die the horrible deaths they deserved. Secondly, each show does get a certain amount for being broadcast [yes they actually do make money imagine that!] refusing to support them will indeed cause their show to be canned as it deserves.

Re:good and bad (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527739)

Here's a different perspective on "a la carte" vs. bundled programming that you might find enlightening.

It's also a perspective that's blatantly wrong, or worse, intentionally misleading. Nikelodeon and MTV don't give their channels away for free, there is indeed a marginal cost for the cable company to carry them over not carrying them. Maybe if the guy was also calling for an end to copyright and a ban on content producers from charging any additional amount over the cost of production for their content he'd have a point, but as long as the cable company has to pay MTV and Nikelodeon to carry their channels, you have to pay them to carry those channels.

The perspective is also ignorant of the fact that there are more channels out there then there is cable bandwidth. Fiber to the home may fix this (if the industry ever bothers to roll it out, which for all of the Libertarians' handwaving, they can't explain other than the market didn't clap loud enough for it and the fiber fairy died) but until then, your choices are satellite or 60-70 channels on cable (or 100-110 compressed-the-hell-out-of-channels on "digital" cable).

Worse, the content providers themselves are in on "forcing" the channels on you. It's not really a matter of having to have MTV to get Nikelodeon, it's the conglomerate owning MTV demanding that the cable company bundle Nikelodeon, C-Span#49, the phone-in shopping channel, biblethumper network plus, and that channel that does nothing but show a color test pattern 24 hours a day (not because it's fun to watch, but because it fills up a slot that a competitor could have used) along with MTV.

more tracking (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526961)

This will probably result in mandatory 2-way cable boxes. It will probably pass since it will create more records that can be inspected and sold.

So... (5, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526987)

...when we complained about the FCC's censorship, we were told: Oh, you can get cable if you want uncensored stuff.

And they they started labeling everything and building controls into TVs to filter by rating. That was okay, because they told us, with everything labeled, people could complain less about 'inappropriate' things, because, after all, everything's rated.

Look, we've given those fascist 'think of the children' asshats every damn thing they wanted, and, magically, they always want more. It is trivial to filter content from children at this point, via broadcast or cable. We should be reducing such general restrictions, not adding to them, because we've added specific abilities to filter to end users. There's no logical reason we should be extending restrictions them to cable.

The one conclusion is that they wish to keep such content from adults.

You know what? Media companies need to start labeling everything TV-MA. Everything. All channels, all shows, are now listed as bad as possible. You can either live and operate as an adult when interacting with the TV, or you can not ever watch anything ever again. Your choice.

We tired, God knows we tried, but you fascist assholes either mindbogglingly stupid you can't avoid the carefully labelled content we've made, or deliberately don't want to. We're just going to have to draw the line in the sand, and label everything as 'hardcore porn' so you will shut the hell up. If people want cable, or, hell, wish to purchase a TV, they get handed a form that they have to flip past ten pages of porn to sign, and certify that they consent to have the filthiest things possible beamed directly into their and their children's brain.

Of course, TV would remain the same, with different shows aimed at different audiences, but we'd have a lot less assholes whining about it, because there would be huge clear warnings that 'The following show contains every bad thing on earth. Do not watch it under any circumstances.'

...hey, South Park actually has that warning. Hmmm.

A microcosm of how the US economy is screwed (4, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526999)

I am now basically convinced that only people from an engineering field should be allowed to draft laws. Why? Things like this. All it will end up doing is driving up the costs of cable service, undermining the buying power of families.

But politicians are, in general, too stupid to understand that. So are the American people, in general, because they keep electing leaders who are leading us toward national economic suicide. More regulations, more taxes. Gee, you wonder why jobs are leaving America? Could it be the cost of compliance with every asinine regulation that some moron drafts?

Sheesh. The people who are too lazy to regulate their own kids' use of TV will love this. They'll get their "family tier," only it'll probably cost them about $20-$30 more per month than the current system costs.

Then they'll institute price controls because these same whiners will demand $45-$50 or less. Then, the cable companies will make less money per customer, weakening their position.

Need I go on?

Re:A microcosm of how the US economy is screwed (3, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527183)

I have never been impressed by my Engineering friends' patience for the disturbing capacity of the human organism to frustrate expected error tolerances; they tend to expect things to work in regular and predictable ways (with easily twiddlable control values). Individual humans are bad enough in this respect, but in aggregate, human beings are frustratingly difficult to predict in their behaviors and constructing systems for channeling and mediating those behaviors have unexpected and often catastrophic failures.

When you stop and think about it, law and legislation is very much like engineering; just with none of the convenient physical laws and thresholds to depend upon when designing the machines for operation. The engineering mindset, however, tends to value efficiency above all other qualities, and efficiency is not the primary goal of legislation; there are other things of value to be preserved in human-government interactions that would undoubtedly be sacrificed on the altar of efficiency.

I do agree that this particular legislation sucks lots, though. Doesn't take an enginner to figure that out.

Re:A microcosm of how the US economy is screwed (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527615)

I am now basically convinced that only people from an engineering field should be allowed to draft laws.

Yeah, that'll work out really well.

But politicians are, in general, too stupid to understand that.

I think it takes an even more special breed of stupidity to think that only engineers should formulate laws. Because engineering and human interaction have soooo much in common.

Broadcast is not available to anyone (1)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527001)

Unlike broadcast television, which is available to anyone with a TV and an antenna, people subscribe to and pay for cable/satellite.

The author has never lived in a concrete apartment building with nothing but cable available. When *I* lived in such places (and a few others that had bad broadcast reception for other reasons), I had the option of not subscribing, which meant absolutely no TV, or maybe a couple of snowy channels.

I'm not commenting on the article in general. I just thought that particular statement was ill-informed.

Re:Broadcast is not available to anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527763)

You're missing the point of the statement. Broadcast TV can be freely received by anybody with the equipment to do so. There is no way to get cable other than subscribing to it. That is the point of that statement, cable doesn't have to be regulated because you actively have to try to get it and the person purchasing it can be reasonably expected to be informed about what it contains. Broadcast on the other hand is just floating out there for anybody to pick up. Maybe your particular circumstance didn't allow for it, but yours is a very uncommon situation. I can pick up TV just fine in my concrete apartment building, I even get a few HD channels.

Yes, people pay for cable (5, Funny)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527025)

and yes, the sets have "parental controls." However:
  • The parents don't use those controls,
  • Therefore the Government has to step in For the Sake of the Children!

There are rumors that one reason the parental controls aren't being used is because the parents who want them are also dependent on their children to set them up.

Re:Yes, people pay for cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527097)

There are rumors that one reason the parental controls aren't being used is because the parents who want them are also dependent on their children to set them up.

Beautifully poetic.

Re:Yes, people pay for cable (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527243)

The controls are worthless, because there is no independent standard by which a show is judged. What does TV14 mean? Well, Disney defines it one way and Viacom another. Heck, the same network isn't always consistent. I'm pretty sure I think this "decency" provision is a bad idea, but the cable channels have in part brought this on themselves. The people who care what their kids watch have trouble knowing if it meets their definition of appropriate. I suspect that letting people choose what channels they want to pay for will go a long way to fixing the "problem".

V-chip (4, Insightful)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527037)

With the V-chip in every TV sold, I think it's time to end FCC restrictions on over-the-air television, not the other way around.

Re:V-chip (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527387)

Indeed, that's the reason we agreed to allow them to mandate those chips in the first place. The far right mandated that we (the consumer) foot the bill for a small minority of parents who are not only horrified that their poor children might be permanently scarred by words that are no worse than the things they'd hear on the playground, but also are unwilling to monitor their own kids and what they watch on TV. (This is, of course, assuming that these parents ever really even existed, but for now, I'll give the Congress critters the benefit of the doubt.)

So now that they've managed to force everyone to pay more money for this feature when we buy a TV so that a few people don't have to actually act like parents to their kids and can use TV as a babysitter, these same Congress critters want to censor satellite TV because those people can't be arsed to figure out how to use parental controls? Uh... no.

If parents want to protect their kids, they are already provided with the technology to do so, and more to the point, I and every other American citizen is forced to pay extra money for our TV sets so that they will have that right. That is absolutely as far as I am willing to allow our government to regulate TV. It takes all of ten seconds to set up parental controls on a TV. If parents can't figure it out, all they have to do is ask their kids to show them how.... :-)

This law isn't about protecting the children. This is about a bunch of fascists at the FCC who want to turn the airwaves into a Barney-fest and trying to do it by tacking it onto a law that everyone wants. This is exactly why we need a constitutional amendment to mandate a single subject per bill and ban these multi-topic laws. As for this law, screw Congress. They can take my South Park and Futurama when they bite my shiny metal @$$.

Re:V-chip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527467)

I'm pretty sure Al Gore, his wife, and Hillary Clinton don't count as "the far right."

This isn't a left/right issue, it's a "elected politicians are all fucking morons" issue.

Bzzt. Unconstitutional. Next. (1)

Morky (577776) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527041)

The supreme court would smack this down hard. There are already parental controls for those who need them. I think the tiers of "decency" are a good idea as a marketing idea for cable companies, but it shouldn't be mandated by the state.

Re:Bzzt. Unconstitutional. Next. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527287)

Bzzt, wrong.

I am sure some people thought that when decency laws were implemented in broadcast TV.

Re:Bzzt. Unconstitutional. Next. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527653)

The current supreme court lineup is fairly likely to limit the fcc.

It doesn't matter if its needed or not (4, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527051)

This violates free speech plain and simple. They managed to slip this crap through on radio by claiming that broadcast radio was pushed out to consumers. Supposedly this meant that broadcasts were equivalent to yelling in the street. That was a fairly lame argument since you had to make an intentional effort to actually hear those broadcasts but whatever. Cable TV doesn't even meet that shady criteria. You actually have to pay to have a wire run into your home and pay a subscription to receive it. Cable TV is like speaking privately in your home. In your home YOU and not the public and not the FCC decide what content you want to purchase.

Cable companies and content producers should ignore this. If the FCC tried to claim to that they are a higher authority than the constitution they would quickly be put in their place by the courts. This provides an excellent window of opportunity to get rid of all the censorship the FCC has forced upon television.

In other words... (1)

Optic7 (688717) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527061)

"Here's that delicious dish that you've been asking us for so long. Oh, just don't mind the huge turd wrapped around it."

Nice. Thanks politicians.

Rationale? (4, Insightful)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527075)

What is the rationale for the Free Speech infringement here?

With broadcast regs, it is reasoned that the airwaves are a limited public resource. Thus, the public supposedly has a right to regulate content broadcast over it.

But cable is neither a limited, nor a public resource. And I don't gather that satellite is either. So how does the Congress get around the First Amendment and regulate their content?

Is this unconstitutional or what?

Re:Rationale? (1)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527381)

Is this unconstitutional or what?
Probably, but it's been a long time since the government cared about whether their laws are constitutional.

Re:Rationale? (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527491)

I think most Cable was installed by private companies. However, their cables were laid in city-owned conduits or strung from city-owned poles. I'm sure there was a leasing agreement. But they still use limited, public resources to carry their wires.

Sats use radio for the uplink/downlink. I'm sure they had to license that from someone. Or do companies really spend billions to orbit a bird just hoping that no one else will decide to use that freq?

Not that I'm saying they *should* be regulated. But when you have Ted "the tubes" Stevens up there, anything could happen.

Re:Rationale? (2, Informative)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527649)

At most, that argument would allow for state governments to regulate content, the federal government still has no authority to do this.

Censoring cable/satelite TV in unconstitutional. (1, Troll)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527083)

Congress can try all they like, but there's basically no difference from a first amendment perspective between censoring cable, and censoring any other subscription based press medium.

In other words, if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of censoring cable, say goodbye to the first amendment. Normally I'd say this was impossible, but with the extreme right leaning of the court these days, anything is possible.

Re:Censoring cable/satelite TV in unconstitutional (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527265)

sigh... while I am against indecency laws, they don't mean the constitution is dead.

Re:Censoring cable/satelite TV in unconstitutional (1)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527421)

How is it constitutional for the federal government to tell any company what product(s) they must or can't offer?

Re:Censoring cable/satelite TV in unconstitutional (2, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527695)

Really? Let's look at the facts. The last big first amendment issue the supreme court looked at was the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. In a 5-4 decision, the supreme court decided that it was ok to abridge the first amendment.

Who were the 5 first amendment haters? Breyer, Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, and Ginsburg, the 4 liberal, 1 wishy washy jurists.

Justice Thomas (perhaps you consider him extreme right leaning?) dissented, calling it the "most significant abridgment of the freedoms of speech and association since the Civil War."

Who do you agree with?

By Who's Standards? (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527089)

Who gets to decide what is indecent? Me? I doubt it.

Re:By Who's Standards? (1)

Morky (577776) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527155)

No, me. I say fisting is indecent. At least without a LOT of Vaseline. Ok, maybe not indecent, but damn uncomfortable

Overreaching (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527139)

A la carte good, censorship bad. They don't have much leg to stand on since cable isn't broadcast on public spectrum and satellite already has special permission to broadcast "indecent" content so long as it is scrambled or encrypted. There's no way the satellite lobby will let the congress-criters take this away.

Why only cable? Why not dish or fios tv? (1)

majortom1981 (949402) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527197)

Why is it they are only picking on cable? Why cant this law apply to Satelite providers and fios tv also?

A la carte, yes; decency, no (4, Insightful)

Dracos (107777) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527259)

Cable rates have increased at 6 times the rate of inflation this decade, it's insane.

I want cable, but I don't want to scroll through 200 channels of crap I'll never watch (MTV, VH1, Lifetime, Oxygen, the fucking Golf channel... these are my opinions, keep your flames).

I do want to watch the Hitlery, er--I mean, History Channel (when it's not about WWII), History International, the Discovery networks, Comedy Central, and a few select others. Give me my 20 or so channels that I actually want at $1 each, and I'll be happy.

I'm still subscribing, and there are still commercials, so the only people who lose from censoring cable are the majority of people who aren't offended by OMGBOOBIEZ!!!111one on the National Geographic channel. If you don't like it, turn back to the 700 Club.

The premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Skinemax, etc) are the ones they likely want to censor, and these are the ones you have to effectively subscribe to twice.

The FCC is not my kid's parent, I am. Don't impugn my ability to perform my parental duties, you pseudo-family-values fascists. I suspect that they want to do this to increase DVD sales.

Re:A la carte, yes; decency, no (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527297)

Buy a guitar or piano and learn to play music. There are other things in life than watching TV.

Heck, you want a challenge, find a way for me to get a date on Friday that doesn't involve a "rough trick named stan" and I'd salute you.

Tom

The modern infection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527285)

Religion infecting politics is the most prominent indecency which exists in 2007, worldwide.

Soldiers didn't give their lives so that small-minded religious bigots could impose their obscene restrictions on everybody else.

I f*ck*ng PAY for premium channels. (2, Insightful)

frogstar_robot (926792) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527293)

A major reason why I pay for premium channels is so I can watch things like Penn & Teller Bullshit! and Orgazmo. If pay cable has to be just like the three major networks of old then I'm dropping my cable like a hot rock. You hear that cable operators?; I'm not the only one who pays to see things the more public networks can't show. Lobby this one down pronto.

Doomed to failure (1)

cbuskirk (99904) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527321)

More pompous grandstanding for the electorate. Instead of doing real work once again congress campaigns from The Hill. It will be a cold day in hell before Disney lets you subscribe to ESPN without paying for Disney Channel, Toon Disney, ABC family, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN Spanish. If the cable companys can't stand up to Disney there is no way congress or the American people can. Not that congress wants to fight them, they are owned by the Media corps anyways.

There Should Be a Law... (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527359)

Actually, there shouldn't.

If consumers want to buy just one cable channel, then they need to all go to the cable office together and cancel their services at the same time.

If enough consumers want it, it'll happen.

But every time you allow your government to regulate things, you lose a little more control.

Small government == good government.

Re:There Should Be a Law... (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527435)

You misunderstand how things work. If 1,000 people went to a cable TV provider office and demanded access to only EWTN, just EWTN and nothing but EWTN ... they wouldn't be able to have it. There are contracts that specificy things like "every customer will get a basic cable package and Nickelodeon will be included in this basic cable package." Nickelodeon then gets a fee per cable subscriber. Period.

If the cable companies want to sell channels a-la-carte they are going to have to renegotiate every contract they have with basic channel providers. With completely different terms. Why would Nickelodeon want to do that? They are perfectly happy with the present situation and if Comcast isn't, well tough.

Similarly, if someone goes into their cable company and specifically says they do not want BET that's too bad. If enough people decided they didn't want BET and BET wasn't being compensated for it, BET wouldn't even be in business any longer. A lot of the marginal channels wouldn't be because the only thing that keeps them going is the way basic cable is charged for.

And BET would get the NAACP and ACLU on their side to sue Comcast or whomever for discrimination. And BET would be back in the lineup on every single subscriber's TV.

No, the only way to do this is by government mandate. A new regulation that is handed down so Comcast, Cox and everyone else can go to Nickelodeon, BET, EWTN and all the others to say they have to have a new agreement and different terms. And BET can't sue Comcast because it isn't their decision.

Bet this wipes out EWTN (Eternal Word TeleVision), BET and quite a few others that very very few people want but managed to make it into the lineup. Bet you didn't even know what EWTN was before this and have never, ever watched it. Those channels are going to go bye-bye with this type of arrangement. Good or bad? I don't know. But I know that if EWTN was relying on real subscribers for income they wouldn't be around.

Re:There Should Be a Law... (1)

Khaed (544779) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527607)

For the most part, you're right, however: EWTN is basically made up of televangelists, and they rake in money. EWTN doesn't have a lot of cost to run, either. There's no way the people who watch EWTN wouldn't pay up to keep the channel. Religious people do a lot for their religion, including donate money.

(rant coming)

I'd be happy not to have BET, EWTN, or Nickelodeon on my lineup. I might actually get cable if I didn't have to spend $50 for a bunch of shit I'll never watch. Lifetime -- "Television for women who think men are all evil rapist bastards." BET/MTV/VH1 -- "Television for the stupid." Even TLC, which used to be fairly interesting, degraded into this stupid redecorating bullshit. When they started they showed stuff like The Human Animal. Now it's fat women with no tits getting their living room redone by a dumbass who didn't even qualify to be the sit in host for America's Funniest Home Videos.

(rant ended)

I feel better now.

Re:There Should Be a Law... (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527699)

Cable television is so over-regulated and wrapped up in anti-compeditive contracts and local-monopoly contracts that it's already outside the realm of "small government" and the free market. The only thing that can really effect it is changing the regulations.

Personally, I'd like to see all of the local monopoly contracts get replaced by a full-bandwidth net neutrality rule. We have the technology to make all television be on-demand streamed over IP from companies other than the local telecoms. That's the only way to really allow competition in the market, but instead we get FIOS that's allocated 1/10th for non-neutral internet and 9/10ths for Verizon services like FIOS TV.

silly french words (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527365)

just call it freedom channel.

people who support micromanagement from government on such level deserve the censorship.

or let's just illegalize all TV and get over it.

YES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527489)

Seriously, I would do anything for this bill to get passed. Obviously the decency thing is fucking bullshit, but we'll worry about that later. Cable companies will stop at nothing to avoid offering a la carte service; it's a tough nut to crack. In fact their lobbyists are undoubtedly behind the deceny part of the bill in order to get everyone to vote against it. Well, fuck that. I say we pass this shit so they finally have to start giving us what we want.

This could be good (but probably wont be) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527527)

Best case scenario:

Cable channels are a la carte. Cheaper, and we only have to pay for what we want to watch. They agree not to show scarystuff/pr0n/bad language/etc --ON THE BASIC "FAMILY" CHANNEL PACKAGE-- until late at night, or not at all. But they leave the rest of the channel packages ALONE. NO OVERSIGHT, NO CONTROL, NO INDECENCY RULINGS.

Probable case scenario:

This is all just a ruse to get government "indecency" hooks into cable programming. Remember, ALL governments eventually seek to make themselves larger and more powerful; to expand into things they have no business (or legal right) to be in. Once they get a toehold, a few years later, they have massive amounts of control and influence over it.

Note: Rep. Lipinski is the real driving force on this bill, and its not the first time. He had another similar bill last year or the year before IIRC. He salivates over controlling the cable networks under the guise of "OMG, someone please think of the children!". (As a sidenote, he basically "inherited" his seat in Congress from his incumbent father. But thats how shady Chicago politics work.)

Lipinksi is a Democrat, so please drop the Republican/Middle America/Christian bashing for a moment. When it comes to extending government control and influence, the (current) Reps and Dems are equally evil-minded charlatans. The Dems are pushing harder and harder for control of things like cable and talk radio (to silence the political discourse of alternate media).

Ron Paul (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527547)

If you agree that this bill is asinine, support Ron Paul for President. He understands the stupidity of such things, and knows they are unconstitutional.

What's wrong with the 'V-Chip' (1)

wfs2mail.com (794623) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527585)

I think the 'V-Chip' is essentially useless the way it is, or was, implemented.

I think it should have been enabled by default and set to the G rating. That way, if you wish to enable anything above that rating, you must enable it yourself. That is the only way you can put the choice and responsibility in the hands of the viewer. This would have given programmers more freedom yet more accountable.

If you set 'V-Chip' to allow PG, or adult, then that's what you're allowed to see and programmers are allowed to show it. If something gets shown outside of its rating, well, then you have a right to complain and the programmers should be reprimanded, fined or whatever.

Unfortunately when they started shipping sets, the 'V-Chip' was off by default, so its too late implement the system the way it should have been. If you tried doing that now, all the people who already purchased a set would still complain instead of turning on their 'V-Chips'

Heres a fix! (1)

corifornia (995298) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527605)

Support national "Wear a Fuck TShirt" Day. Its July 7th. Wear a TShirt that says fuck and go to public places. "Fuck the FCC" is a popular one.

OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19527621)

Here's the question I've wondered for along time......

  This country is HORRIF!ED by the sight of bare breasts, including TV.

  I've always suspected it was attributable to the fact that our lawmakers are from a very different age, and as we grow older, some of us will become the lawmakers and (H0PEFULLY) won't be so freaking uptight.

  Or will we? Are there lame overly conservative dipshits among our contemporaries? Will we ever get naked boobies on American TV?

Extra credit; will it be a bad thing that we're so relaxed? Will we bring anarchy unto ourselves as loosened morals are taken further and further? Will society become a real life continuous episode of Jerry Springer?

Go cold turkey (4, Interesting)

Bork (115412) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527647)

I pulled the plug on my TV about 2 years ago. Not bragging about it, I just got upset about a $40 a month fee, biased news, empty programming, endless reruns, series based on previous series that were based on...., series based on commercials, 20+ minutes of commercials in an hour show.

I took about 6 months to get use to being without the TV. I am busy enough with my normal life now that I would not want to lose the hours I use to spend watching it. It's strange now when I am at a friend's house while their TV is on, I get mesmerized / hypnotize by it, all intelligent thought is removed.

A lot of people find it enjoyable; great for them, I found it to be an addiction.

The bright side of censorship (1)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527655)

HBO, Showtime, and similar channels will migrate to IPTV much quicker. That is, until the government decides that belongs to them too.

What Hypocrites! (1)

no-body (127863) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527703)

And - who are they(*) trying to fool?


Holier than thou on one side, on the other side taking money, lying, a hive of intrigues with a moral of cheating on their wifes going to prostitutes - ahem, escort services and getting neck massages - ....

The "forbidden" 6 (?) words: fuck, shit... are used in daily life - and?

It's all a big smoke screen to hide the real issues that a large part of the population is getting sucked on!

*) they: "democratic" representatives watching out for you, so you are not taking any harm!

carrot and the stick (1)

wizkid (13692) | more than 6 years ago | (#19527715)


Yes, I'd like the ala-carte programming. But getting the stupid FCC regulation with it. That's not actually a stick, it's an overweight baseball bat, being handled by a pumped up steroid enhanced baseball player.

It looks to me like another attempt by the government to jack us up with more big-brother monitoring. The FCC used to be a good thing. But now, my personal opinion is that it should be disbanded. It used to be to control broadcast channel frequencies, and other radio channel frequencies ( and the protocols and licenses to use them ). It looks like we may be losing another chunk of freedom, in the name of protecting us from those evil titty's.

AHHHHHHH ATACK OF THE KILLER DIRTY WORD!! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!
 
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