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Policy

Sensenbrenner: No to Cable-Content Regs

4/05/2005 5:35 AM Eastern

San Francisco -- House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said Monday that cable technology that allows parents to block inappropriate content for children was a better remedy than government regulation.

Sensenbrenner, addressing a National Show luncheon with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), said he came away impressed with parental-control technology he saw demonstrated on the convention floor earlier in the day.

“Pushing the proper button on the remote when something that the parent determines is inappropriate for the kids to see is a far better way of teaching the kids good values than having the government trying to set the standards, whether it’s judicially set or it’s set by regulation or whether it’s set legislatively,” Sensenbrenner said.

His comments clashed with the views of House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who favor indecency regulation of cable to the extent that voluntary efforts -- including such things as the establishment of a family-friendly tier -- were not forthcoming.

Occasionally interrupted by applause, Sensenbrenner acknowledged that he holds a minority opinion right now in Congress and that it was cable’s burden to rally more lawmakers to its side.

“What I can say is that if there is a quick vote, the majority would vote along with chairman Barton and Sen. Stevens, and that’s why education, I think, is so important,” he said.

Sensenbrenner’s committee does not have jurisdiction over cable-content issues unless antitrust law was somehow implicated. Sensenbrenner’s views tracked with comments by President Bush, who told an interviewer a few months ago that if parents didn’t like what they see on TV, they could always hit the off button.

“You can’t expect the government to replace parental responsibility in determining what the kids see and what they don’t see,” Sensenbrenner said.

Eschoo, who serves on Barton’s panel, urged cable to put its best foot forward by promoting its quality programming more often with consumers.

“I think you so far have exhibited that you can have a gold standard. However you can notch that up, you keep doing it,” she said. “Don’t assume that everyone knows what you know.”

September