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Analysis of Broadcast Indecency Measures Kicks Off New Series of First Amendment Issue Papers

FOR RELEASE: April 5, 2004

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


Arlington, Va., April 5, 2004 - "Government regulation of the 'indecent' threatens us much more than Janet Jackson or Bono," say noted First Amendment attorney Bruce W. Sanford and his colleague Mark I. Bailen in an issue paper released today by The Media In-stitute.

"The Government's new enthusiasm for regulating the content of the broadcast spectrum is a terrible idea for several reasons," they warn: (1) It legitimizes the public's sanctimonious scapegoating of the friendless media; (2) it deflects our proper focus from the cultural forces and impulses that are merely echoed by the media; (3) it blows fog into our First Amendment jurisprudence; and (4) it inevitably leads to a product more obnoxious for its mindlessness and vacuity than any possible titillation.

Sanford and Bailen say broadcasters must understand the public's preference not to have shock and titillation thrust upon it without warning. Otherwise, public outrage forces policymakers to craft "sledgehammer" regulations that can crush not only the lewd and las-civious, but also expression from serious and thoughtful artists. And that, they caution, threatens free speech for everyone.

Their analysis is titled "How the Government's Crackdown on Broadcasting Threatens Emma Thompson and All of Us," referring to the actress and winner of Academy and Emmy awards who is a mainstay of PBS dramatic productions.

Sanford chairs the nationwide Media Practice of Baker & Hostetler LLP, and Bailen is a member of that practice in the firm's Washington, D.C., office.

This is the first in a new series of issue papers called "Perspectives: First Amendment Analyses of Communications Policy Issues." The Institute plans to release several papers per year on timely and topical issues, written by members of its First Amendment Advisory Council.

For more information about The Media Institute, visit