The Parents Television Council is predictably distressed over ABC’s victory over the FCC in the Second Circuit over a $1.2M fine for airing a 2003 episode of “NYPD Blue” that included footage of an actress’s bare rear end. NAB noted on the other hand that the effect of the ruling would be negligible, since broadcasters rarely use that kind of material anyway, even when they are allowed during safe harbor.
PTC says the Second Circuit has an objection to “broadcast decency” and said it is forwarding its opinion by “legislating from the bench.”
PTC’s Tim Winter said, “Once again the Second Circuit has proclaimed that it knows better than the Supreme Court, the Congress, the FCC, and the overwhelming majority of the American people. Regardless of one’s political viewpoint – left, center or right – this may well be the most egregious example of ‘legislating from the bench’ that our Federal Court system has ever witnessed.”
Winter added, “This ruling is as devoid of common sense as it was predictable. The Second Circuit’s three-judge panel has stated that it doesn’t like the concept of broadcast decency. The Court is clearly on a quest to do everything in its power to impede the law – even if the judges’ rationale today conflicts with their prior reasoning for overturning FCC sanctions. It is unfortunate that the industry’s blatant forum-shopping effort is being rewarded with such outlandish decisions.”
NAB’s Dennis Wharton told the Wall Street Journal that the ruling was relatively innocuous, since broadcasters generally steer clear of racy content. “Broadcasters have a relationship with our audiences where there’s an expectation that we will not push the envelope to the point where we gratuitously shock and offend the mores of the American people.”
Back when he was with CBS, Mel Karmazin made the exact same point at a Congressional hearing where the topic of broadcast indecency was raised. He pointed out that as the law stands, broadcasters are free to get very indecent as soon as the clock strikes 10PM and can remain indecent through 6AM. But they don’t.
RBR-TVBR observation: As usual, PTC says it represents the overwhelming majority of the American public. And once again, it claims 1.3M actual members, a claim debunked by one of its own former employees. But time and again, when PTC is worked into a lather, the vast majority of the American public are not concerned enough to do anything but continue to watch broadcast TV. PTC may say that it represents PTC – anything beyond that is empty bluster.
As RBR-TVBR has pointed out many times, every minute of every day thousands of broadcast stations are putting programming on the air, and only on rare occasion is anything said that could even remotely be considered indecent, even for the easily-offended. Broadcast f-bombs make news precisely because they so very rare.