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Media Institute Urges FCC To Reconsider New Indecency Standards In Light of First Amendment Concerns

FOR RELEASE: May 4, 2004

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


Arlington, Va., May 4, 2004 - The Media Institute filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission today urging the Commission to reconsider its March 18 ruling that spelled out sweeping new restrictions on broadcast indecency and profanity.

The Institute raised a strong First Amendment argument, pointing out that the new standards were vague, overly broad, and already creating a chilling effect on all types of broadcast content. Also endorsing the comments were 12 members of the Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council, a group representing some of the nation's foremost constitutional scholars, attorneys, and experts.

"We fail to see how the Commission has conducted an adequate First Amendment analysis, or considered the constitutional implications, of the policy it articulates.... The First Amendment deserves better," the Institute stated.

"We strongly recommend that the FCC undertake a thorough First Amendment analysis of its indecency policy. This analysis should go to the fundamental question of whether and how the Commission can structure and enforce a policy based on its own term of art ('indecency'), in the context of the current media landscape and social climate, that does not run afoul of the First Amendment," the Institute concluded.

The comments support a Petition for Reconsideration filed April 19 by 25 broadcasters and other media groups, entertainers, and free speech organizations. That petition asks the FCC to reverse far-reaching new restrictions announced in its ruling that Bono's use of an expletive during a live Golden Globe Awards telecast was indecent and profane.

The Media Institute is a nonprofit foundation in Arlington, Va., specializing in First Amendment and communications policy issues. For more information visit