Ose Bill Well-Meaning, But Unconstitutional

Congressman Doug Ose, the California Republican, has recently introduced legislation that would ban the use of certain swear words on television. Ose was outraged when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) failed to take any action when Bono used the F-word at the Golden Globe Awards, and thus he has decided to do something about it.

I must say that I am somewhat sympathetic to Ose’s position. Some people do not like to hear foul language on television. I respect that point. However, I believe that it is the responsibility of the networks and of viewers to monitor the language used on television. The government should not be involved.

The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” All speech, including offensive speech, is protected from the government by this amendment. That doesn’t mean that we’re forced to endure it; after all, we can turn off the TV or change the channel at any time. However, any attempt by the government to suppress it illegal. It is for this reason that I also believe that the FCC is unconstitutional. Speech should not be regulated by the government.

Some of you are probably thinking, “great John, does that mean that porn can be shown on prime-time network TV?” No, it doesn’t. It does mean that the government can’t prevent it, but the networks, the sponsors, and the viewers certainly can. For instance, if a network shows something that is offensive, the viewers have every right to band together and demand change. They may do so by pressuring the networks and the sponsors through phone calls, e-mails, and boycotts. No network (or corporation) can remain in business if it doesn’t have a market. For this reason, they will listen to large numbers of consumers who complain. Think it can’t be done? Just think of the recent The Reagans mini-series that was set to air on CBS until pressure from viewers forced it to be moved to Showtime, where it was seen by only a fraction of the people who would have watched it on CBS.

Some, like Barbara Streisand, call actions such as boycott threats a violation of the First Amendment. In reality, statements such as these only show how ignorant Streisand and others are of the Constitution. Freedom of speech protects speech only from the government, not from individuals. The government was not involved in the cancellation of The Reagans.

If Congressman Ose wants foul language off TV, he should work to do so through grassroots efforts among regular Americans through letters, phone call, boycotts, and other ways that don’t involve the government. Trying to do so through legislation only limits freedom of speech, and will open the doors to much more government censorship in the future.

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