A look at the post-Janet Jackson landscape for broadcast media (legislative initiatives, etc.): Indecent or not? TV, radio walk fuzzy line [pdf]
Sixteen months after the exposure of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl touched off a government-led crusade against indecency, broadcasters — from the bawdy to the buttoned-down — say it’s still exerting a chilling effect.
Many radio stations have dropped or edited songs such as the Rolling Stones’ Bitch. Some TV networks are covering cleavage and blurring the posteriors of cartoon characters. And even some cable channels, though free from indecency constraints, are reviewing programs more closely to try to stave off regulation.
[...] Kevin Martin, the new FCC chairman, is expected to be even tougher on indecency breaches than his predecessor, Michael Powell. But Martin’s ability to push his agenda will be shaped largely by the views of the two new appointees who are likely to fill vacancies on the five-member commission this year.
In Congress, a bill the House passed would boost indecency fines more than tenfold, to $500,000 per incident, and subject performers to the same penalties.
[...] Similar legislation has stalled in the Senate amid a debate about whether indecency curbs should be extended from broadcast media to cable and satellite TV services. The bill died last year when House-Senate negotiators failed to agree.
One reason consensus is so hard: The indecency debate doesn’t divide neatly along political lines. It has united conservative lawmakers such as Upton with liberals such as Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. And it has split conservatives such as Brent Bozell, head of the Parents Television Council, from others such as anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who opposes government intrusion in personal lives.
[...] Further complicating the issue: Americans tend to have mixed feelings. A poll released in April by the Pew Research Center found most people support higher fines on broadcasters and favor extending indecency rules to cable. But by 48% to 41%, Americans say they’re more worried about excessive limits on Hollywood than about offensive programming.