This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," March 2, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Shock jock Howard Stern (search) wants off free radio and onto satellite radio, because there at least he's free to say whatever he pleases, but not if my next guest as his say.
Joining me now is the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, Representative John Barton (search), who wants the same broadcast decency rules that apply to free TV and radio to apply to cable and satellite radio, as well.
Is that it, Congressman, in a nutshell?
REP. JOE BARTON, R-TEXAS, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Well, it's almost it. The first thing we want to do is increase the fines, which are currently almost not even a hand-slap, about $12,000 per violation. We want to raise those to half a million dollars and apply them not only to the broadcaster, but to the entertainer who violates the law.
That's step one, is get the actual decency fines raised. Once we get that done, the second question is, since most people get their television through some sort of a cable or satellite outlet, now, there are not too many that get them over the air, television, should we find a way to constitutionally apply the new fines to offenses on cable and satellite.
CAVUTO: Yes, but Congressman, are you afraid that people who pay for that shouldn't have it compromised by people like you who try to legislate what they watch on it?
BARTON: Well, I think it's a fair question. That's a constitutional question. If I know that that's what I'm going to see, you know, if I choose through my cable outlet to purchase a premium channel, the Playboy Channel or something like that, where I know that the content is going to be a little more mature, then on ABC or CBS, NBC or FOX...
CAVUTO: But it's not even that. I understand what you're saying, but if I'm watching "The Sopranos" on HBO, I know Tony might curse now and then.
Conversely, if I listen to Howard Stern on Sirius (search) when he eventually goes there, I know he might not have the same type of program he had on free radio.
So I know what I'm paying for and getting, right? Why should that be effectively legislated?
BARTON: I understand that point of view, and I'm very aware of the freedom of speech and the First Amendment and what the Constitution says.
But I also know that if I've got three or four small children at home, and I have a cable package or a satellite package, and I don't know that, then I should have some ability as a parent to protect my children against those kinds of programs that I don't want them to see.
CAVUTO: But isn't there technology, sir, to do that, screening technology for, whether you're in the car or you're watching cable TV at home, to block out channels that might be risky to younger listeners or viewers?
BARTON: And the cable TV industry has begun to proactively advertise that fact. It's not well known, and I won't say it's cumbersome to use, but it's not automatic. So, you know, those are the kind of issues that we need to address.
But step one, I want to go back to the basics. The decency bill that passed the House several weeks ago, I think 389-38. We need to get the Senate to take that up and pass that. And then we can work on this issue of should we apply the same rules to cable and satellite?
CAVUTO: Well, a lot of constitutional lawyers we talked to, sir, say you're going nowhere fast, if you're trying to effectively regulate what is said on pay television or radio.
Would a middle ground, I guess what I'm asking, allow you to just let the private system work, where people can screen what they watch on pay TV, make sure there are safeguards that kids cannot be accessible to?
BARTON: Well, I don't think there's a question that if you consciously opt in to buy that particular channel, the particular program, you've got a right to do that. I'm not arguing against that.
BARTON: But there's so much that happens that you're not opting into. That's what we're trying to protect.
CAVUTO: All right. Congressman Barton, thank you very much.
BARTON: Thank you, sir.
CAVUTO: We'll see where this goes.
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