House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) warned broadcasters and advertisers Tuesday that if they don’t clean up their act, Congress will have to do it for them. And that means more than just boosting indecency fines.
"The entertainment industry–and I include the advertising industry in there–has collectively decided the bad press they suffer for producing trash is worth the [economic] benefits they enjoy for hyperstimulating the imaginations of 7-year-olds with gratuitous sex and violence," he told an audience of broadcast group executives in town for an NAB-sponsored meet-and-greet with legislators.
He said his message to those industries was simple: "The status quo will not stand." DeLay said the current political pressure on the indecency issue is not coming from "some secret cabal of conservative politicians in an election year. It is coming from American parents, most of whom were watching the Super Bowl broadcast and most of whom were appalled by it."
He warned that "if decision makers at studios, networks and affiliates fail to appreciate the sensitivity of the post-Super Bowl environment, the consequences will not be merely economic."
The Texas congressman said that Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction was simply the capper on a "pretty pathetic display of crude, violent, and oversexed commercialism run amok."
He warned that, while he favors self-regulation by the industry, and said broadcasters have a "grand" opportunity to do just that, "the patience of the American people is at the breaking point. If the entertainment industry cannot pull itself together and stay within some boundaries of decency," he said, "Congress will have no choice but to step in."
DeLay said he didn’t want Fred Upton’s bill boosting indecency fines tenfold–which is being marked up Wednesday–to get bogged down by "extraneous issues of regulatory retribution." In response to a question about whether he supported increased fines on individuals, DeLay said, "yes." It was unclear, however, whether DeLay was actually supporting that specific provision or simply Upton’s effort to increase the fines generally. DeLay also wants cable to start offering subscribers family-friendly bundling options for cable service, adding he had had a meeting on the topic just this morning.
He says he came home one night, sat down to watch TV and the first thing he turned to was Nip/Tuck, "then, pop, Howard Stern [‘pop’ was DeLay’s version of ‘click’], then, pop, MTV, then, pop, BET. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We need a technology so viewers can pick among cable channels."
He suggested that there should be some form of bundling of service. While he would hope cable companies would do it voluntarily, if they, don’t he suggests Congress again may have to step in.