Another misguided attack on the FCC over indecency


F-bombMorality in Media, which is primarily concerned with pornography, also keeps its eye on indecency issues and has attacked the FCC for opening up a proceeding on its enforcement policy.

“The FCC is all we have to protect our children from indecency and profanity on TV and it must begin to do its job now rather than change its enforcement standards,” said Patrick A. Trueman, President of Morality in Media. “The Supreme Court has ruled that people have the right to be left alone in their own homes and that networks have no 1st Amendment right to force indecency upon them.” Trueman added, “It should be remembered that the public airwaves belong to the public. If networks don’t like the rules, they can move their programming from broadcast TV to cable or satellite.”

MIM said that the Supreme Court affirmed the FCC’s right to uphold the FCC’s right to enforce indecency regulations.

That is true to an extent, but the Court ruling just was not that simple.

Here is how RBR-TVBR summarized the decision in a 6/22/12 article:

* First Amendment considerations did not need to be addressed as part of this case

* Since the Court settled the two particular incidents on grounds of insufficient notice, the constitutionality of punishing fleeting expletives was still up for consideration – in other words, the FCC is free to provide spell out and provide adequate notice of fleeting expletive and nudity rules, and if it does, the constitutionality of such rules would then be a matter for new litigants in a new court case.

* The FCC is free to modify its rules in light of recent Court proceedings, which would of course then be subject to further judicial review.

To a large extent, the Court punted. It basically ordered the FCC to clarify the rules it has or come up with better rules – and the standard way the FCC executes rulemakings is to seek and consider public comment.

RBR-TVBR observation: When the FCC announced this proceeding it didn’t say it was changing anything, and it did not kowtow to the networks at the expense of America. It asked if it should keep the rules as they are or change them. Strike one for MIM.

Again, we see a content watchdog treat it as a given that broadcasters have only one desire and that is to spread filth through America’s airwaves. To that we say “prove it” with full knowledge that it cannot be done. Sure, there are occasional slip-ups, but for the most part, the watchdogs have very little to point to that would constitute an actionable indecency infraction. Strike two.

And again, we have a watchdog that has anointed itself a fully vested spokesperson for the American public. It is our guess that most of the American public is far more tolerant than the members of MIM or PTC are, and we personally know of nobody who has appointed either of these groups as their personal content representative. Strike three.

The bottom line is that the FCC is handling this perfectly. We suggest that these watchdogs, rather than making the baseless charge that the FCC is taking dictation from broadcasters, thank the FCC for doing this in such a way that the watchdogs can file their comments along with everybody else and thereby seek to influence the final indecency regulation product.



  1. What groups like the Parent Trash Cult and the “Morality” in Media(as well as “Common Sense” Media, a liberal version of those groups) don’t seem to get is that the FCC v. Fox case ended in a draw where both sides got something they wanted(SCOTUS didn’t touch the constitutionality of the FCC’s indecency rules, a win for the FCC and their backers, while SCOTUS rescinded the fines against ABC/CBS/Fox that came about because then-chairman Michael Powell changed the rules without warning to the broadcast TV networks, a win for the networks and their backers).

    As far as Trueman’s laughable statements go:

    1) The broadcast networks are already on cable and satellite anyway, as local affiliates are offered on those systems(which begs an argument as to whether the public airwaves are still public).

    2) How can the broadcasters know what’s “indecent” and what’s not when the FCC’s rules were unclear to begin with? Technically, the only things that are considered “indecent” are the George Carlin seven dirty words and sexual material, based on court precedent. The Potter Stewart “You know it when you see it” argument should not be considered as what’s “indecent” and vulgar to one person may not be to another.

    3) Broadcasters could also lobby Congress to change or even repeal the laws that give the FCC the power to regulate “indecent” material. Since Hollywood is up there with the NRA in terms of level of influence in Washington, D.C., you have to wonder how much of a possibility that really is.

    4) The FCC is not parents’ only tool in shielding younger children from “indecency” as Congress mandated those V-chips in TVs and cable and satellite providers have parental controls in the set-top boxes. If parents don’t use them, their right to complain about content and ask for more tools is forfeit.

    On that last note, if the PTC and MiM do not provide their input into the FCC’s public conversation into potentially changing the rules, and if the FCC changes their rules without their input, the PTC and MiM only have themselves to blame.

    Not to mention that the FCC also has to take into account SCOTUS’ decision in Brown v. EMA, which ruled that “violent” content is protected under the First Amendment and cannot be considered as “obscene” material, let alone “indecent” material. Which means that the FCC can’t legally regulate “violent” content in TV.

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