The FCC has asked the Supreme Court to review its loss at the circuit court level on the matter of fleeting indecency, and the Parents Television Council has filed a brief asking that the court honor the FCC’s request and rehear the case.
The US Second Circuit found for broadcasters when the issue of fleeting expletives was argued there, and went further and found that the entire FCC regulatory regime was arbitrary and capricious.
PTC’s Tim Winter said, “Whether the TV networks like it or not, a public broadcaster’s fiduciary duty to use the public airwaves for the public good is not a relic of a gentler time. It’s preposterous for broadcasters to claim they cannot abide by commonsense decency standards. If they are unable to determine what their community standards of decency are, then perhaps they are not worthy of holding broadcast licenses.
He concluded, “In order to use the publicly-owned airwaves for free, broadcasters agree to abide by certain public interest requirements, one of which is not to air indecent material before 10:00 pm. Since the networks have asked the court to review previous rulings regarding the use of the airwaves by broadcasters, their message is clear: broadcasters want all of the privileges and riches provided by free use of the public airwaves with none of the responsibility. For that, they should be ashamed.”
RBR-TVBR observation: The ability to broadcast live programming is severely compromised when broadcasters have to fear that a stray, unplanned expletive could result in a six-figure fine and possible loss of license.
Broadcasters were right to fight hard against the FCC’s sudden intolerance for fleeting expletives. The overzealous foes of indecency have only themselves to blame for the fact that upon close examination, the courts have found that the entire fuzzy-gray body of indecency regulation is impossible to understand, much less follow, and have threatened to throw it out in its entirety.
It is important to note that at broadcasters have not demanded the total eradication of indecency standards. And even though broadcasters could go blue beginning at 10PM if they wish under safe harbor rules, they do not. All that’s being asked for are a reasonable margin for error – just as it has existed until Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction and Michael Powell’s overreaction – along with a clear set of rules and standards.
PTC says broadcasters should be ashamed, since it seems to believe that all broadcasters want to do is air smut 24 hours a day. The fact that PTC monitors the airwaves constantly and only occasionally finds something to even complain about, much less turn into an actionable indecency charge, shows that the organization’s incendiary rhetoric is a sham – and for that, PTC should be ashamed.