House GOPers say FCC reform needed to fix indecency enforcement


F-bombHouse Energy and Commerce Committee leaders Fred Upton (R-MI) and Greg Walden (R-OR) say a more transparent FCC would have come up with better FCC indecency regulation.

Walden stated, “It has long been a priority of ours to protect family values, which is why we have fought to ensure that the rules on the books are properly enforced. The Supreme Court ruled today that the FCC’s indecency regulations were too vague at the time of the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Awards and NYPD Blue incidents to give FOX and ABC fair notice of the applicable standards. This highlights once again the need for the FCC to conduct its business through a more transparent and orderly process, allowing for better input and decision-making. How much longer can we allow bad process to produce bad results? The time is now for reform, such as those included in the FCC Reform Act. In the meantime, today’s ruling reinforces the responsibility of broadcasters to represent their communities. Most of them know and do the right thing, and we urge them to continue to listen to the public and uphold appropriate community standards that protect families and children.”

Added Upton, “Although the decision focused on the FCC’s failure to provide due process, the larger underlying issue remains: the importance of protecting both our Constitution and our families and communities. I would remind executives in New York and Hollywood that they should act responsibly when it comes to the entertainment they are sending, via the public’s airwaves, into family rooms across the country.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Sorry but this argument is utter nonsense.

The problem here is not lack of transparency at the FCC, it is the combination of an attempt to balance regulation of speech – an enormously difficult prospect no matter how transparent the process – with First Amendment protections and changing cultural standards.

The FCC understood the difficulty it had enforcing and broadcasters had understanding indecency rules when it issued a lengthy explanation of them at the beginning of Michael Powell’s tenure as Chairman.

Then came Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. What happened next was utterly transparent – Michael Powell simply announced he was changing the enforcement policy on fleeting expletives. And that rule change by executive fiat is exactly why the court shot down the enforcement actions against ABC and Fox.

Something else happened right after Nipplegate. Upton himself introduced and shepherded into law legislation that increased the maximum penalty for an incidence of indecent broadcast content all the way from $32.5K to $325K. The addition of a truly nuclear option into the FCC’s arsenal can be argued to have been one of the major motivating factors driving broadcasters to take this issue to all the way to the Supreme Court. Perhaps Upton should take a bow for his role in making it happen.

Of course Upton’s influence is a matter of speculation, discussion and debate, but it is our considered opinion that you can draw a much straighter line from this case to Upton’s Decency Enforcement Act than you can to any perceived lack of transparency at the Commission.

In short, you can be for FCC reform, or against it. But you cannot call the Fox v. FCC a transparency issue.


  1. Aren’t Republicans against the “Nanny State”? This sure sounds like they want more regulation to protect the poor ignorant public from it’s own base desires. C’mon GOP, less is more

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