President Bush said parents should turn off their televisions if they feel the programs being broadcast violate their standards of decency.
In a taped interview to be aired on the public affairs channel C-SPAN Sunday, Bush waded into the thorny debate over how far the government should go to clamp down on indecent antics on radio and TV.
“As a free-speech advocate, I often told parents who were complaining about content, you’re the first line of responsibility; they put an off button (on) the TV for a reason. Turn it off,” Bush told C-SPAN interviewer Brian Lamb.
The comments come as Capitol Hill lawmakers discuss a possible crackdown on radio and TV indecency and Bush considers who should replace the outgoing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Powell.
Regulators at the FCC have been confronted with the subject of radio and TV indecency over the last year because of a raft of incidents that included brief nudity and profanity on the air.
In response the FCC has sought millions of dollars in fines, including a record $550,000 fine for CBS stations that aired pop singer Janet Jackson exposing her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl football game.
Powell recently announced he will step down as head of the FCC in March.
According to a transcript of the interview taped Thursday, Bush said that whomever succeeds Powell must carefully balance free-speech rights against the need to hold companies to account for programming that is “over the line.”
“My answer would be, if I were interviewing an FCC chairman, ’Please tell me where the line is, and make sure you protect the capacity of people to speak freely in our society, but be willing to -- if things get too far, call them to account,”’ Bush said.
Broadcasters are limited to airing material containing sexually explicit discussions or profanity to late night hours when children are less likely to be listening or watching.
The broadcast restrictions do not apply to cable programming, which is not carried over publicly licensed airwaves.
Parents groups, lawmakers and FCC officials have been clamoring for more action against sexual innuendo, profanity and other antics on television and radio.
Bush did not say whether he would support a measure backed by some lawmakers that would drastically boost the existing indecency fines.
But he gave a joking hint of his own opinion of some TV programming. If the fines are increased, he said, FCC officials ”are going to collect a lot of money when some of these TV shows are still on.”