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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
October 11 , 2007
(202) 289-8928
New Media Options Undermine Regulatory Rationales
New Technologies Empower Parents to Control Media

WASHINGTON D.C. - New technologies that allow families to easily tailor their media consumption undermine the "pervasiveness" rationale for government regulation of content, explains Adam Thierer in "Parental Control Perfection? The Impact of the DVR and VOD Boom on the Debate over TV Content Regulation." In the Progress on Point released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation, the author cites both the variety of family programming options now available and new technologies, such as digital video recorders (DVRs) and video on demand (VOD) services, as evidence that parents are fully empowered to control what media is consumed in their household.

In his paper, Thierer, PFF Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom, discusses video technologies which allow parents to tailor their families viewing options to their tastes and preferences. These include devices that allow parents to acquire libraries of approved content, such as DVD players, VCRs and the more recent DVRs. Thierer also points to the large variety of family-friendly programming that is available from broadcast, cable and satellite television as evidence. Video on demand services, which are growing in popularity, also give parents a variety of acceptable content for their families to view at anytime.

Thierer claims that the widespread availability of these technologies coupled with the wealth of programming options available "have profound implications for debates over the regulation of television programming." Content-based regulation of broadcast media has historically been justified by the "pervasiveness rationale," or the idea that the medium is uniquely invasive in the home and readily accessible to children. The multitude of parental control options available in addition to the empowerment technologies mentioned above undermines this justification for content regulation. Also, Thierer states there is no basis for singling out broadcast media for unique regulation in light of competition from new video platforms.

Thierer concludes, "The 'pervasiveness rationale for government regulation of video content is an aging relic of bygone media and regulatory era. It would be a mistake to accord lesser First Amendment protection to any type of speech or media provider based on that rationale when parents have been empowered to control media that enters their home."

"Parental Control Perfection? The Impact of the DVR and VOD Boom on the Debate over TV Content Regulation," is available on the PFF website. For more information on tools available to parents to protect their children from inappropriate material on a variety of media sources, see Thierer's recent special report, "Parental Controls & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods," a comprehensive guide for both parents and policymakers.

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