Boi has it right when he distinguishes broadcast from cable television. Broadcast television uses the public airwavies, but, as Boi put its “you have to actively pursue” cable programmming. You have to pay to get cable.
I agree with many of those who fault many cable programs for their lack of “decency.” (Please note the quotation marks.) I also fault many clubs for playing music so loud that I can’t hear my friends talk. So, I just don’t go to those clubs. As long as they keep the noise within the clubs, that’s their business. These clubs are private places; we can choose to enter (or not to enter) as we will. By the same token, as Boi bluntly puts it, if you don’t want the programming that cable offers, “turn the damn thing off.”
The president seemed to agree, saying, “I think there ought to be a standard. On the other hand, I fully understand that … the final decision is a parent turning off the TV.” Fine, let there be a standard, but let it be set by a private institution. Not enforced by the government.
I don’t disagree about the proliferation of “indecent” programs. (Please note the quotation marks.) But, many people have already responded to this by refusing to subscribe to cable. If those social conservatives are upset by this alleged wave of cable TV “indecency,” then they should mount a campaign against it, appealing not to the federal (or state) government, but to the American people and encourage them to cancel their cable or to write to their cable company threatening to.
I have blogged previously (here and here) that the government shouldn’t fund the media, like PBS or NPR. It shouldn’t censor them either, especially media that people have to pay to watch. The president understands that private institutions, be they religious or secular, do a better job of setting standards than the government. He should apply that understanding here. Don’t regulate the content of cable and satellite TV.