Copps bemoans 2nd Circuit short-circuit of indecency rules


FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said that the “chilling effect” the Second Circuit should have been the chilling effect it is having on the ability of parents to protect their children from inappropriate programming, not the chilling effect FCC indecency enforcement might have on freedom of speech.

Copps took heart that the decision of the Second Circuit acknowledged the power of the FCC to create and enforce indecency rules. And although he thinks what is already has “an enforceable indecency policy,” and is urging his colleagues to tweak what is already in place so the court recognizes that fact as well.

Here is Copps’ full statement: “I am shocked by such an anti-family decision coming out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  Sadly, the court focused its energies on the purported chilling effect our indecency policy has on broadcasters of indecent programming, and no time focusing on the chilling effect today’s decision will have on the ability of American parents to safeguard the interests of their children.  I hope that this decision is appealed—and ultimately reversed.  In the meantime, as even this court recognizes, the FCC has the power to create a constitutional an enforceable indecency policy.  I’m convinced we already have one.  In light of the uncertainty created by today’s decision, I call on this Commission to move forward immediately to clarify and strengthen its indecency framework to ensure that American parents can protect their children from the indecent and violent images that bombard us more and more each day.  These parents—millions of them—are waiting.”

RBR-TVBR observation: At the end of this broadcast day, it is highly likely that there will be no cause to complain to the FCC about indecent broadcast program content. It’s that simple. Broadcasters operating 12,000+ local stations will not utter one single solitary f-bomb or s-bomb, nor will one single inappropriate body part be exposed, nor will there be one single episode of improper excretory activity.

As Mel Karmazin brilliantly pointed out before Congress several years ago back when he was with CBS, if broadcasters were interested in getting into the smut business, they’d do it – starting promptly at 10PM when safe harbor begins.

But every day, even during those overnight hours when anything goes, broadcasters operating 12,000+ local stations STILL refrain from uttering f-bombs or s-bombs, or from showing inappropriately exposed body parts, or from indulging in improper excretory acts.

The rules the court was dealing with concerned the narrow category of fleeting and inadvertent slip-ups that the FCC used to excuse until Janet Jackson and Bono whipped the agency into a purity-of-speech frenzy. Will the attorney class diminish the FCC’s powers further or will the FCC come up with a better bright line through the inevitable gray that this issue dwells in? That remains to be seen.

The fact remains, broadcasters need guidance, not language police. The Second Circuit made a fabulous and utterly fair ruling.