The union representing everyone from Janet Jackson and Bono to local DJ’s yesterday sent a letter to the House protesting the proposed Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which goes to a floor vote Thursday.
The America Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) called it unfair and urged them to reject it. The union is planning to send a letter opposing much of a similar Senate bill approved by the Commerce Committee Tuesday. That letter will take a little more work, though, since the group does not oppose an amendment in that bill that would roll back the June 2 media ownership dereg while the FCC studies any connection between consolidation and content.
AFTRA argues that under the provisions of the House bill, performers could be fined for the indecent programming decisions made by broadcast licensees. It doesn’t like the rest of the bill, either, but its biggest beef is with the performer part.
"We believe that such legislation should be rejected on the grounds that it represents an unconstitutional threat to free speech and would have an unnecessary chilling effect on artistic freedom" says the letter signed by AFTRA President John Connolly and National Executive Director Greg Hessinger.
The letter mainly refers to radio performers and stations, where shock jocks have been fined heavily for some blatantly sexual material. AFTRA notes that radio station managers were fully aware of what they were airing before public opinion turned on (and Congress took interest in) racy radio.
"Some licensees have chosen to take such calculated risks—decisions for which they have been heavily rewarded," the letter says. "To suddenly claim that they aren't responsible for the content, and therefore shouldn't be held accountable, is both disingenuous and self-serving. Congress does not need to assist these ever more powerful conglomerates in evading their ultimate responsibility for their business decisions by shifting responsibility to individual artists and announcers."