Passions Flare in Public Comments on FCC's Indecency Policy

Thursday, 20 Jun 2013 01:37 PM

By David Alan Coia

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Thousands of individuals and organizations have asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject a policy that would allow bits of nudity or isolated cursing on the public airwaves.

The remarks were made following an FCC request for comment on "whether the full commission should make changes to its current broadcast indecency policies or maintain them as they are."

By the June 19 deadline, 101,525 comments had been filed with the FCC. Among those reported by The Washington Times:
  • "Don’t allow trashier trash to be aired. Please," wrote a Utah woman.
  • "Please set a higher standard. We have compromised far too much already,” said a woman from Fairfax, Va.
  • "My concern is that … every show in prime time will likely have some incident of profanity or indecency, like nudity. And the networks will be jumping over each other to top each other," said Patrick Trueman, president and chief executive of Morality in Media. "The language they are proposing is ambiguous and ambivalent."
Among the issues of interest to the FCC were how to treat isolated incidences of expletives and whether the commission should "treat isolated (non-sexual) nudity the same as or differently than isolated expletives."

Traditional-values groups asked the FCC to maintain current standards and "to penalize both isolated and egregious instances of obscenity," The Times said.

Broadcaster trade associations said that such an approach would discourage them "from airing live events and deprive the public of valuable programming" and that news and public-affairs programming should be exempt from indecency regulation, according to the newspaper account.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in September instructed the agency's staff to start "a review of the commission's broadcast-indecency policies and enforcement to ensure they are fully consistent with vital First Amendment principles," according to an FCC public notice filed on April 1.

"In the interim, the chairman directed the [FCC] Enforcement Bureau to focus its indecency-enforcement resources on egregious cases and to reduce the backlog of pending broadcast indecency complaints," the FCC said.

The order for the review followed an 8-0 Supreme Court ruling in which Fox News was excused from paying a fine because the regulations at the time did not cover "fleeting expletives."

Many of the comments are available on the FCC website.

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