Senator Who Targeted Pay-TV Now Aims at Online Adult

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens, the Republican from Alaska who is attempting to pave way for regulators to have the right to regulate content on pay-TV stations, has expanded his target to limit free speech.

This time it is the Internet.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation indicated that Internet decency regulations could be inserted into legislation that was originally intended to boost fines for radio and TV broadcasts that are deemed obscene.

"We ought to find some way to say, 'Here is a block of channels —— whether it's delivered by broadband, by VoIP, by whatever it is — to a home that is clear of the stuff you don't want your children to see,'" said Stevens, who noted he was in favor of a ratings system.

“We're looking to create tiers, or create a system like the movie business ... to let us develop a ratings system," he said.

Earlier this month at the National Association of Broadcasters' annual state leadership convention, Stevens said that because most people receive their TV via cable or satellite, the government has the power to regulate indecency. At the conference, Stevens said he would target video-on-demand and pay-per-view in future legislation, as well.

Last year, Stevens co-authored a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking that peer-to-peer networks be investigated because they provide access to online adult material.

A first wave of Internet decency wars took place nearly 10 years ago, when Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act, which punished the transmission of indecent or "patently offensive" material with up to two years in prison and fines of $250,000.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 rejected those portions of the law, but didn't comment about the constitutionality of a law that would require certain types of web publishers to rate sexually explicit sites through a mechanism like the Platform for Internet Content Selection, which is built into the Internet Explorer browser.

Calls to Stevens and his aides by XBiz weren’t returned Tuesday evening.