Legal watchdog goes to bat for FCC on indecency


The American Center for Law and Justice believes the FCC has a legitimate role in policing the content of America’s broadcast airwaves insofar as keeping it decent, and is saying as much to the Supreme Court as it gets set to consider arguments in the Commission’s battle with Fox and ABC.

“Televisions are found in almost every home,” said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow. “It may be that TV stations would prefer to cross the lines of decency in a misguided effort to boost ratings and bolster their profits. But to do so in prime time means sacrificing the protection of children – and adults – from gratuitous assaults on their sensibilities. The First Amendment right to free speech does not include indecent exposure in public settings like this.”

In its brief, ACLJ says that while SCOTUS will likely be focusing on indecency language, particularly the “fleeting expletives” at the center of the Fox issue, the court would do well in ACLJ’s opinion to also be mindful of displays of nudity.

“The Supreme Court will be focusing on obscene language, not nudity, in this case,” said Sekulow. “The purpose of our brief is to remind the Court that there is another whole area of indecency – indecent exposure – that the Court needs to keep in mind. It would be a terrible thing if the Court, while thinking about an occasional expletive dropping from the lips of a celebrity, inadvertently rendered a decision that undermined the important existing protections of children against public indecency, whether on the streets or on TV.”

The brief exposure of a woman’s unadorned posterior is at the center of the ABC portion of the case, so it is possible that the Court will focus on both issues.

RBR-TVBR observation: The issue here is partly the FCC changing the rules on a unilateral basis with no provision for public input; and due to the FCC’s recent overreaction to “fleeting” incidents, it is also partly on the prospect of putting broadcast free speech, in the deep freezer with a combination of zero tolerance and harsh punishment for what has always been treated as only an admonishment-worthy infraction.

One more word – We are so tired of people like Sekulow saying that broadcasters are using indecency in a misguided effort to boost ratings. If that were true, they’d be sneaking it in at a far higher rate than we have seen ever in real life, and at 10PM when safe harbor kicks in, the indecency floodgates would open wide. That does not happen – Sekulow and people like him can make their charges, but they cannot provide any compelling evidence to back them up.