Chernin goes to bat for free speech


With a freshly minted Freedom of Speech Award from watchdog Media Institute in his possessions, News Corp./Fox exec Peter Chernin argued that the First Amendment was far too important to be put under the auspices of the FCC and the small, vocal minority that is exerting undue influence on the FCC’s indecency policy. The Supreme Court will be looking into the fleeting indecency case in a couple of weeks.

Broadcasters have long been protected from punishment when fleeting or inadvertent indecent material has gone out over the air. That all changed after the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl performance. In the uproar that followed the costume reveal, then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell reversed a staff decision and said that f-bombs and other certain words would be dealt with regardless of context or circumstance. The FCC findings against Fox were reversed at the appellate court level, and the FCC has appealed its loss to the Supreme Court.

Chernin noted that a finding in favor of the FCC would be devastating to the practice of live broadcast. He also worried that FCC meddling into broadcast content could grow incrementally, leading to a day when the Commission pokes its nose into many different types of content. He also criticized a policy that applies to broadcasters but to no others in any other medium.

The responsibility for protecting children, he argued, was far too important to be entrusted to a government agency, and properly resides with their parents.

RBR/TVBR observation: The leading interest group claiming to speak for the public is the Parents Television Council. They often claim to represent a million parents, and just as regularly claim that the airwaves are nothing more than an open sewer. They do seem to have a healthy roster of reliable core members who can be counted on to protest an incident whether they’ve seen it on TV or not; however, the rest of the protesting public never seems to materialize during PTC’s calls to action. And the fact is, the calls to action are not all that frequent. It is a surprising lack of having anything to do, if the airwaves are as bad as PTC claims.