“Deregulation” bill imposes sweeping controls on TV violence, computer indecency
WASHINGTON, D.C.–In early February, Congress passed a sweeping telecommunications deregulation bill that requires broadcasters to rate the violence in their programming and imposes strict penalties for indecent speech on any “telecommunications device,” including electronic networks like the Internet.
The bill would make it a crime to use the Internet or any other telecommunications device to transmit any indecent or obscene material with the intent to annoy or harass the recipient.
It would also be illegal to use the Internet to transmit any “comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs,” where such material is available to minors.
The law also contains provisions aimed at implementing the “V- chip,” a mechanism that is supposed to enable viewers to block out violent programming on television transmissions. Broadcasters and cable operators are given one year to set up a voluntary rating system covering violence and other objectionable content and then to transmit signals that contain those ratings. If a satisfactory system is not in place after one year, a rating commission will be established by Congress.
All television sets larger than 13 inches in diagonal screen size manufactured in the United States or imported for use in the United States will be required to be equipped with blocking devices capable of screening programs based on their rating signals.
The bill also extends to the Internet a federal obscenity law which makes it a crime to transport materials designed to produce abortion or information concerning such materials, thus restricting online discussion of abortion. (Telecommunications Act of 1996)