Spain, Venezuela Ramp Up Broadcast Obscenity Rules

Rhett Pardon
MADRID — Spain and Venezuela both cracked down on obscenity over the airwaves this week by imposing new regulations for broadcasters.

Cutthroat competition between Spanish-language channels has led producers to look for programs containing sexy and reality sex TV, and the battle to win viewers and gain a larger share of advertising revenue has been fierce.

The state of Spanish television has long been a cause for concern among politicians in both countries and has become such an institution that Spaniards have a word for it: "telebasura," or rubbish television.

Spain's government on Thursday reached an agreement with the countries' main television stations to try to shield children from programs containing sex.

That deal, part of a campaign to clean up the so-called "telebasura," will require networks to remove such programming during hours when children are most likely to tune in.

State-run TVE and private TV stations Antena 3 (A3TV.MC), Telecinco and Sogecable (SGC.MC), will be barred from broadcasting programs with violent or sexual content between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The government and TV stations have also agreed to create two committees to monitor compliance to the new code. One will be formed by Spanish TV stations, production houses and journalists and another by representatives of parents, TV consumers and experts and government officials.

The stations will have three months to decide what programs might be taken off the air during those hours.

In Venezuela, a law went into effect Thursday that puts limits on broadcasts deemed to be obscene and lays out cases in which the government may fine noncompliant media organizations for a range of offenses.

President Hugo Chavez signed the Law for Social Responsibility in Radio and Television on Tuesday night, following its approval by legislators last month.

The law draws a distinction between news and opinion programming. It also prohibits "vulgar" language, images of sex and "psychological" or physical violence between 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.