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FCC Should Not Attempt To Regulate Broadcast Violence, Cautions First Amendment Issue Paper From Media Institute

FOR RELEASE: November 30, 2004

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


Arlington, Va., Nov. 30, 2004 - Any attempts by the Federal Communications Commission to impose censorship on television violence would be inappropriate, unnecessary, and unconstitu-tional, according to a policy analysis by Prof. Laurence H. Winer released today by The Media Institute.

Winer notes that the "widespread public displeasure" with broadcast content is chimerical, and that the evidence of harmful effects on children is insubstantial. "The government's failure to adduce any evidence of harm [in several recent court cases] about sexually explicit content is striking and should sound a loud note of caution," he warns.

The threat to the First Amendment is even more compelling: "The commissioners are simply imposing their own taste, their own sense of what is offensive in broadcast programming. But the commissioners have no expertise in determining what is appropriate television content, and nothing could be more inimical to the First Amendment," Winer cautions.

The policy paper is titled "The Soul of the Censor: The FCC Attacks Television Violence." Winer is a professor of law at Arizona State University College of Law and is also a member of The Media Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council.

Marketplace forces and parental involvement "are the first, and appropriate, filters on children's television viewing," Winer states. The FCC can promote V-chip use, but otherwise should permanently get out of the censorship business, he argues.

Winer concludes that distributors and programmers "must mount vigorous court challenges to each new egregious overreach by the Commission." If media companies continue to curry favor with the FCC, "no one is safe from the Censor - not cable operators, not satellite distributors, not Internet service providers. Things will only get worse, much worse."

This is the second in a new series of issue papers called "Perspectives: First Amendment Analyses of Communications Policy Issues." The first, by media attorneys Bruce Sanford and Mark Bailen of Baker and Hostetler in Washington, D.C., examines the FCC's crackdown on broadcast indecency.

For more information about The Media Institute, visit