I’ve been keeping an eye on the Federal Communications Commission’s proceeding on its indecency rules. It’s not looking good, from a First Amendment standpoint. Most of the comments seem to support more censorship.
Some background: The FCC has been asking for public feedback on how stringently to enforce its broadcast indecency regulations since the Supreme Court knocked the agency’s strictures against “fleeting expletive” broadcasts on their heels. Basically a thou-shalt-not against potty talk said on the fly, as in Cher’s “fuck ’em” declaration at a Billboard Music Award ceremony, the Supremes ruled that broadcasters lacked fair notice as to what was really forbidden.
“Regulated parties should know what is required of them so they may act accordingly; and precision and guidance are necessary so that those enforcing the law do not act in an arbitrary or discriminatory way,” the court declared.
I had hoped that more radio people would file with the new proceeding and urge the FCC to regulate on the side of free speech. After all, during oral arguments before the Supreme Court, a Department of Justice advocate warned that radio is supposedly where all the “vile and lewd” material can be found. Broadcasters don’t need this kind of big brother regulation. But the docket is filling up with remarks that pretty much repeat the suggested “action alert” comments of the Parents Television Council, word-for-word: “I oppose any changes to the current FCC indecency standards. The FCC must continue to vigorously oppose ALL indecent content, even if brief or ‘fleeting’.”
To be fair, some pro-fleeting expletive ban commentators have been more creative. Here’s an excerpt from a particularly florid filing:
I’d like to voice my opposition to any proposed changes in indecency standards that would permit more expletives and nudity, even if brief or fleeting. There are two reasons:
1) Every regulatory agency or body derives its ultimate authority from God — whether that authority’s leadership acknowledges the fact or not. Thus, all of us ought to consider the nature and responsibilities of our relationship to each other based not on the changing winds of social customs, but rather on the basis of principles that have defined our country from its beginning.
Indeed, at times like this, it’s helpful to consult the Bible to see what our Creator — the one referenced in our Declaration of Independence — had to say about authorities and people like me who are under authority.
Here is what it says: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:13-14.
Anyway, you get the idea. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you’d like to urge the FCC to regulate on the side of free speech, use this form and input 13-86 in the first field (“proceeding”), or use this page for longer comments. I did find one pro-free speech commentary among the filings. Here’s some of it:
In Radio Broadcasting adults talking to adults will sometimes slip, and the bleep on some words breaks the flow of thoughts when the host says that the word cannot be used on public airways, though it can be heard used by 70 and 80 year old women in parking lots at nearly any mall you care to choose. It may not be ‘polite’ and it may be ‘profane’, even VERY inappropriate, but the words are heard in public conversation in public places every day.
It is up to the parents, not the government to become responsible for their children, and monitor their watching and viewing habits.
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