Watchdogs applaud Third Circuit


TV Watch was predictably enthusiastic about the court decision shooting down the FCC’s $550K fine against CBS for the infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction – it was created by broadcasters to push back against the relentless indecency campaigns of certain other watchdogs. Also singing the praises of the Third Circuit decision was one of the most dedicated of First Amendment guardians – the ACLU. The latter organization said broadcasters should enjoy the same protection as books and magazines.

TV Watch’s Jim Dyke said, “A majority of Americans and 87% of all parents believe that they should be in charge of making television viewing decisions, not the government. Yet, for years groups like the Parents Television Council have used ‘astroturf’ campaigns to generate the majority of complaints to the FCC. They dismiss the ratings which parents find useful, as ‘meaningless.’ The blocking technologies, which parents use to the support their old fashioned rules, they call ‘useless.’ In the wake of today’s court ruling, they will increase their lobbying campaign with members of Congress and regulators. They will generate more television studies with scary titles using faulty analysis, biased methodology and suspect omissions to influence the debate and raise money. All the while, claiming to represent a majority of Americans. But they don’t.”

“Whatever one’s view on what constitutes indecency, the government can’t change the rules halfway through the game,” said ACLU’s Chris Hansen. “The Federal Communications Commission abandoned 30 years of precedent by handing out a fine to a company that thought it was playing by the rules, and the court was right to throw out the penalty. The FCC’s vague and shifting standards highlight the fundamental First Amendment problem with allowing the government to censor speech based upon its own notions of what is ‘decent.”

And in what should be music to broadcasters’ ears, Hansen added, “The government does not have that power for books and magazines and it should not have that power for television and radio.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Is it just us? We see no signs of any great public hue and cry over this. Quite a few fans of the First Amendment have weighed in to support the Third Circuit decision, but other than PTC, there is very little blowback. Perhaps it is true that the average citizen can weigh the difference between a lapse lasting a fraction of a second, and the 86,400 seconds of completely decent programming that air each and every day on just about every licensed station in the US.