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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
September 22, 2006
(202) 289-8928
Parental Inaction Doesn't Justify Regulation
Thierer Submits Comments in FCC Indecency Proceeding

WASHINGTON D.C. - Parents are equipped with an increasing array of tools to filter and block undesirable television programming from entering their homes, but if a parent chooses not to use these tools, that decision should not be an invitation for government regulation. So argues Adam Thierer in comments filed yesterday with the Federal Communications Commission titled "The Current State of Parental Controls (and What it Means for this Debate)." Thierer, senior fellow and director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom with The Progress & Freedom Foundation, cautioned the FCC against regulatory censorship.

The FCC is seeking comments as the result of a court remand of various broadcaster appeals of FCC indecency enforcement actions. Thierer declined to address specific programs or incidents, instead focusing "on the extent to which consumer and parental empowerment can solve the problem at hand without resorting to intrusive government regulation."

Empowerment is key, Thierer explains. "Because if it is the case that consumers and parents have the ability to effectively filter and block undesirable programming within their homes, then the traditional rationales the agency relies on to regulate broadcast content—that it is 'uninvited' into the home and that parents are powerless to control it-will have been rendered moot." The "uninvited" nature of broadcast signals is at the heart of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, from which the FCC draws authorization to regulate indecent content despite the First Amendment. Thierer argues that the Pacifica rationale is indeed moot: "[T]hat day is upon us."

Thierer provides a comprehensive list of parental empowerment tools and technologies available. "Of course," he notes, "whether or not parents are taking advantage of those tools and options is another matter entirely. But if, for whatever reason, parents are not taking advantage of these tools and options, their inaction should not be used to justify government regulation of programming as a surrogate for household / parental choice. Parents have been empowered. It is now their responsibility to take advantage of the tools and controls at their disposal to determine what is acceptable within their homes for their families." [Italics in original.]

Thierer's comments, titled "The Current State of Parental Controls (and What it Means for this Debate)" is available on the PFF web site. For more information on free speech and media regulation, visit the Center for Digital Media Freedom portion of the PFF web site.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation