Fighting for the First Amendment

Fighting for the First Amendment

: I signed onto TV Watch, an organization unveiled today that “opposes government control of television programming and promotes the use of parental controls” — or as I would put it, opposes the FCC/religious-fringe jihad against the First Amendment.

All I’m really doing is lending my name and quote, along with others on a bipartisan list, in the cause of defending free speech. But I am delighted that someone is finally stepping forward to give Congress and the FCC cover to defend the First Amendment against assaults from the so-called Parents Television Council and others who would use government to censor what we can see (and hear and read and click on).

TV Watch released a survey that says Americans prefer to chose their own entertainment and don’t want government to do it:

: 86 percent of Americans say more parental involvement is the best way to keep kids from seeing what they shouldnít see. 11 percent say the government should increase control and enforcement of network television programming.

: By nearly four to one, Americans say more government regulation is not the solution, personal responsibility is.

: 91 percent of Americans ñ and 80 percent of those who say they ìoftenî see things they feel should not have been aired ñ say that ìsome people will always be able to find something on the television or radio that offends them. But the sensitivities of a few should not dictate the choices for everyone else.î

: Even among the most sensitive viewers, those who ìoftenî find television content objectionable, 74 percent of respondents said they prefer ìpeople exercising personal choice over what they watch on television,î and not ìgovernment regulation of what is appropriate.î

Here are some quotes from fellow signatories (some of them roped in by me):

: ìFreedom of expression is more than the sum of individual free speech rights. It’s part of a larger culture ñ a democratic culture ñ with a robust public sphere of inquiry, learning, art, and political debate. To protect freedom of expression we must do more than prevent government restraints. We must encourage and support the institutions and practices that make the public sphere healthy and vibrant, and that give everyone, rich and poor alike, a chance to participate.î

— Jack Balkin, professor, Yale Law School

ìThe solution to the problem of objectionable content for some is not heavy-handed government regulation that chills free expression for everyone. Rather, parents and consumers need more choices ñ better choices ñ and better information about those choices, so they can decide for themselves what to watch and what to avoid. Thatís not just better for creative artists ñ itís better for all Americans.î

–Jonathan Rintels, executive director, Center for Creative Voices in Media

ìWhy would we give more control to government when consumers have all the control they need over their individual TV sets? If the FCC has the power to remove or alter programs that you don’t like, it also has the ability to kill programs that you love. Thatís why it makes no sense to empower Washington bureaucrats when we can use the tools we have to decide for ourselves and our children which programs we watch.”

— Braden Cox, Technology Council, Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“One of the FCC’s original missions was to promote cultural diversity. But the indecency warriors threaten that mission. Creativity flourishes in an environment of free speech.”

— Susan Crawford, professor, Cardozo Law School

ìInstead of forcing yet more government regulation on the American public, it is time we find a solution that respects the rights of private citizens, the intelligence of the American consumer and the role of a limited government.î

— Nick Gillespie, editor Reason magazine

“Right now, the FCC only hears from a few well-funded, politically motivated groups. Despite their claims, they donít speak for the majority of Americans. Itís time for the rest of us to speak up and tell the government that we donít want them limiting free expression based on one groupís idea of ëgood taste.í”

— Amanda Toering, director of SpeakSpeak

îI donít like many things on television, but I also donít want the government determining what I can watch. A fundamental conservative principle is at stake here ñ protection against a big government dictating how we should live.î

— Stacie Rumenap, deputy director, American Conservative Union

îThis is about individual rights and responsibilities. If we increase government control over this powerful medium, politically correct enforcement of TV will follow the next liberal into the White House. We don’t need the PC police deciding what is appropriate programming.î

— Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform

“We must protect the First Amendment and our right to free speech from efforts to regulate media ñ television, cable, satellite, or internet ñ that try to silence anything that could offend anyone. This lowest-common-denominator approach is driving the best creativity off TV, it is putting a chill on public discourse, and most important, it is interfering with parents’ rights to set our own standards for or children. The remote control gives us all the power we need. We don’t need to give that power to the government.”

— Me

The survey was funded by media companies (members include News Corp. and Viacom — both of which are fighting FCC fines, at last — and NBC Universal). No one is paid to be involved.

The organization promotes more information, ratings, and use of the V chip. I’ve said in the past that I’m not a great fan of the V chip (because it, too, allows the nannies to complain and get content that offends them marked with the scarlet V). But it’s what we have and so I certainly agree that information and the chip beats the hell out of government censorship.

And I strongly believe that it is time for Americans to rise up and oppose the fringers and nannies and defend the most precious principle of American democracy: free speech.

: More of my posts and rants on the topic here.

: Reuters story on the launch here. Broadcasting & Cable’s here.