The Daily Stern

The Daily Stern

: F***ING SENATE: The Senate snuck in passage of its indecent indecency bill by tacking it onto a defense appropriations bill.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a measure to crack down on indecency on radio and television by sharply raising fines.

The Senate also took steps to rein in the growth of U.S. media companies by invalidating new, more relaxed ownership rules.

The provisions were attached to a bill to reauthorize defense programs and would need to get full congressional approval later this year.

After being flooded with complaints about nudity on broadcast television and explicit discussions about sex on radio, lawmakers voted 99-1 to raise the maximum fine that can be levied on a station from $32,500 to as much as $275,000 per incident and up to $3 million a day.

It’s a bad day for free speech, which is a dark day for America.

: PUPPETRY OF THE CENSORS: Broadcasting & Cable is reporting another attack on speech but one that tries to avoid the FCC and the first amendment issues by instead going after a local public-access TV creator for “conduct” rather than “speech.” Says a B&C press release quoting Max Robbins, ex of TV Guide:

The first real blow to the First Amendment protections enjoyed by the cable television industry may have been dealt by prosecutors in Grand Rapid, MI, setting a precedent that can render FCC and Congressional oversight irrelevant, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

An exclusive story appearing in editions of B&C reports that the prosecutors there used a novel approach to convict a local public access cable TV host after an “indecency” complaint was lodged against him for airing a particularly explicit skit on his late night program. The American Civil Liberties Union has come to his defense and, by implication, the defense of the entire cable industry.

“If this guy’s conviction is upheld on appeal, existing state statutes can be used to effectively censor programming on cable,” Max Robins, B&C’s editor-in-chief says.

ACLU lawyers appealing the conviction, meanwhile, offered an even more ominous view of the legal tactics applied in this case. They said that allowing the conviction to stand threatens to expose not only cable TV, but broadcast television “programming, movies, videotapes, and even books and magazines to prosecution.” …

A trial court and circuit court [found] that the cable access channel was a “public place” and that exposure was conduct, not speech, and thus not protected by the First Amendment. Now it’s up to the Michigan State Court of Appeals to weigh in.

What the guy did was dorky and dumb: He painted his penis to tell jokes. But, hey, it’s good enough for Broadway…. And no matter, what’s happening here is that local officials are going after someone on what is supposed to be “public access” for what they don’t like.

There’s nothing to stop them from going after the exact same behavior on the Internet.

There’s nothing to stop your local cops, then, from knocking on your door for what you put on your blog.