A coalition of conservative Christian organizations wants the federal government to regulate the cable industry. To protect children from obscenity and violence, they want consumers to select only the channels they want. But some Christians say this would prevent millions from hearing the gospel.

The issue has driven a wedge between anti-indecency activists and Christian broadcasters. Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council have been lobbying Congress against the pleas of broadcasters, who worry that offering à la carte cable would cut fatally into their programs.

"It limits what they believe is their fulfillment of the Great Commission," said Colby May, attorney for the Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition, which includes Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul Crouch, Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson, and pastor Jerry Falwell. "If you don't go into all the highways and the byways, where the hurt are located, you won't reach them." Few non-Christians would order religious stations, May said.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin supports à la carte programming. Most observers note that the FCC, which can fine broadcast stations for indecent content, lacks authority to penalize errant cable channels.

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the cable industry should police itself. In late November, he threatened action if the industry didn't devise a plan for meeting "the demands of the family community" by the end of 2005.

Giving people a choice could be costly. The nonpartisan General Accounting Office has reported that unbundling subscriptions would drive up the cost of cable by demanding greater service from the provider.

Related Elsewhere:

News elsewhere on the broadcast indecency debate includes:

A la carte cable debate creates odd bedfellows | Trying to preserve their electronic pulpits, the nation's religious broadcasters find themselves in the unusual position of fighting an effort by anti-indecency groups to thwart channels offering racy programming. (Los Angeles Times, via Pittsburg Post Gazette, Dec. 4, 2005)
Multicasting Tops Christian Coalition Agenda | The conservative lobby, which says it represents over 2 million "people of faith," has been pushing hard for the mandatory carriage, including putting out an action alert to members last fall. It argues that, without a government mandate that cable carry broadcasters' multiple digital channels, religious TV stations without the leverage to gain carriage will be squeezed out. (Broadcasting & Cable, Dec. 27, 2005)
Indecency, unbundling: cable TV's battle front | The war over unwanted or racy content escalates from rhetoric to rules (Denver Post, Dec. 11, 2005)
Congress and the FCC Turn Up the Heat | Congress and the FCC turn up the heat (Broadcasting & Cable, Dec. 5, 2005)

Past Christianity Today coverage of television indecency includes:

Clean Air for Ears | The FCC has rejoined the war against indecency. (June 3, 2004)
NRB Head: Indecent Airwaves Debate Is Opportunity | Frank Wright says issues over public interest may reshape views of Christian media. (March 25, 2004)

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