Valenti Fires Free-Speech Salvo

MPAA chief Jack Valenti fired a warning shot at policy-makers Monday, reminding them that the First Amendment is still the law of the land.

In a keynote address to the National Association of Broadcasters that was directed as much at Washington as at the audience, Valenti warned government officials of the high stakes that come from messing with free speech.

“It’s not easy being a First Amendment advocate,” he told a packed auditorium. “You must allow that which you judge to be meretricious, squalid and without redeeming value of any kind to enter the marketplace, and often you become so irate at what is invading the culture of your community, particularly words and ideas from which some of us recoil, that you want to call your congressman and say, ‘For God’s sake, pass a law and prevent … these blasphemous intrusions.’ But before you make that call, be wary, be cautious. For throughout history, whenever a tyrant first appears, he always comes as your protector.”

Valenti’s speech came the day before the Federal Trade Commission was scheduled to release its second report criticizing the entertainment industry for selling adult fare to children (HR 4/23). While today’s report is expected to focus more on the music industry’s failure to stop selling adult fare to children, executives fear that it could mark another government attempt to curb the entertainment industry’s behavior.