Sunday, March 27, 2005

Even a wacky socialist is right from time to time

Hooray for Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) for proposing legislation to bar the FCC from further content regulation of cable and satellite programming.

The push to crack down harder on radio and television indecency, which rose to national attention with Janet Jackson's brief exposure during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, is beginning to stir pockets of opposition.

Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a bill that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission, which polices over-the-air radio and television broadcasts, from extending its authority to cable and satellite channels.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to cut a contribution check to Sanders anytime soon, but he is right to say there needs to be a firewall against quasi-pro-free market conservatives from interfering here.

Sanders said his bill is meant to head off possible legislation discussed by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would give the FCC the power to fine channels such as HBO and companies such as XM Satellite Radio Inc. if they air offensive content.

"It's a very dangerous trend," Sanders said in an interview yesterday. "I've talked to people in the industry and they say it means programs like 'The Sopranos' and 'Sex and the City' and similar-type programs will either be rewritten or taken off the air or pushed into late night."

Granted, Sanders is more concerned with free speech and press issues, looking at it from that template. I, however, see it also as a freedom of property and freedom of contract issue, issues of economic freedom.

Sanders may be right for all the "Left" reasons (for not considering this an issue of economic liberty), but conservatives wishing to further empower the FCC are wrong for the non-"Right" reason (their policy being predicated on government stronghandedness versus private, market-oriented action).

I won't call Sanders my odd bedfellow on this issue, but I will call him my fellow traveler running down the path yelling, "stop," to the runaway train of FCC overempowerment.