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Media Institute Files Comments on FCC Indecency Policy, Urges Full First Amendment Protection for Broadcast Content

FOR RELEASE: September 21, 2006

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute
703-243-5700

 

Arlington, Va., Sept. 21, 2006 - The Media Institute today urged the Federal Communications Commission to tread lightly in the area of indecency enforcement and to do no further damage to the First Amendment until the courts can offer clear guidance.

The Institute filed its comments as part of the FCC's review of how it applied its new, tougher indecency standards to four programs that aired from 2002 to 2004. The matter was remanded to the Commission from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The Institute said that "indecent" speech on broadcast television should receive full First Amendment protection as it does in other media, including cable television and satellite radio. If that speech were fully protected, any regulations targeting such speech would be subject to the legal standard of "strict scrutiny" and would likely face a constitutional roadblock.

The U.S. Supreme Court's Pacifica decision in 1978, which upheld the regulation of broadcast "indecency" on the basis of broadcasting's "uniquely pervasive" nature, is outdated and should be revisited, the Institute said. With the explosion in other media, the Internet, and personal digital devices, broadcasting is no longer unique or pervasive.

The Commission's latest indecency policy, announced in its Golden Globe Awards ruling, is one of its more onerous attempts to define and sanction "indecent" content. Finding a policy that is equitable and predictable remains an insoluble problem for the Commission, the Institute said.

The Institute's comments can be viewed at http://www.mediainstitute.org/broadcast.html.