Study in the works on how FCC indecency policy affects live news


Opponents of the FCC’s decision to aggressively punish broadcasters who unintentionally provide a platform for a so-called “fleeting expletive” to go out over the air number among their objections the probable chilling effect it has on live programming and news-gathering. RTDNA is conducting a survey to look into the matter.

RTDNA explained the premise of its study, saying, “In recent years, the FCC has been enforcing its rules banning the broadcast of indecent material aggressively, including extending fines to so-called fleeting expletives and nudity. At the same time, Congress upped the penalty for violating the rules to $325,000 per incident. The United States Supreme Court will soon hear argument about the constitutionality of the FCC’s indecency rules. RTDNA will join an amicus brief in that proceeding. To assist in those efforts, we are looking for information from our members.”

It’s looking for information on whether the rules have had an effect on newsgathering, what stations think the rules mean, if they’ve altered their policies on covering live events, if it has affected sports programming, if great works of art are kept off camera if they feature elements that might not be allowed on a scripted program, if any stations are practicing self-censorship and if they invested in time delay equipment and at what cost.

RBR-TVBR observation: We suspect that the there’s been an uneasy peace in recent years – the FCC seems to have been anything but aggressive – rather, it appears to have been holding its fire until there is some resolution of the matter in the courts.

That of course doesn’t mean stations haven’t been proactively taking steps to protect themselves. We await with great interest the results of this survey.

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