NAB, WGAW, NPR, PTC Among Latest Reply Commenters In FCC Indecency Proceeding
August 6, 2013 at 8:32 AM (PT)
The avalanche of public reply comments continue in the FCC's indecency rules review proceeding, and the NAB and WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, WEST are among the parties filing comments in recent days.
The NAB wrote, "the record here thus demonstrates that the Commission’s indecency rules and policies must, at a minimum, be reformed to adhere to the constraints of PACIFICA (although the NAB later notes that changes in the media landscape have made PACIFICA's scarcity rationale "increasingly suspect'). NAB accordingly reiterates its proposals, supported by numerous commenters, that would: (i) confine regulation to material that actually falls within the FCC’s long-established indecency definition; (ii) clarify that fleeting expletives and images are not actionably indecent; (iii) establish greater consistency, clarity and predictability; and (iv) show appropriate deference to the artistic judgment and editorial discretion of broadcasters and program providers."
The WGAW filing reiterates its initial filing's assertion that "the dramatic changes in the video distribution market that have occurred since 1978 require modernization of the FCC’s indecency regulations... indecency regulations should be phased out of application, particularly to programming broadcast during primetime hours." The guild says that the "contemporary community" standard is "too vague and susceptible to manipulation," and singles out PARENTS TELEVISION COUNCIL in particular as a group using e-blasts to mobilize electronic complaints, allowing a "vocal minority, which may or may not have even watched the program" to wield a "heckler's veto." The filing cites a 2004 MEDIAWEEK piece saying that 99.8% of indecency complaints filed in 2003 came from the PTC, and suggests a correlation between PTC mobilizations and complaint volume, such as a MARCH 2009 campaign against FOX's "FAMILY GUY." And the guild notes that the PTC formerly "advocated against the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) characters and relationships on broadcast television," which, the WGAW alleges, would have stymied inclusiveness on television if the PTC had its way 10 years ago.
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, calling for reform of the process, noted how some licensees have only discovered indecency proceedings against them when they inquire why their license renewal applications have not yet been acted upon, a situation that occurred with the license renewal for MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO noncommercial News-Talk KNOW/MINNEAPOLIS over a listener complaint filed in 2010 of which it was not notified (the listener misheard the word "flunked" in an NPR show, and the commission has yet to dismiss the case).
PATRICK TRUEMAN of MORALITY IN MEDIA insisted in his reply to network comments that the public "has a right to decency on broadcast TV and radio" that is "continually undermined" by TV networks and a lack of FCC enforcement. TRUEMAN invoked the Founding Fathers in his argument, quoting WASHINGTON and ADAMS on the link between religion, morality, and liberty, and asserting that "the regulation of indecency on broadcast media sits well with our Founder’s notions of free speech. They did not approve the First Amendment as a free-for-all speech protection clause."
COLLEGE BROADCASTERS, INC. wrote in its reply, "A fleeting expletive policy... with a lack of clarity of what is and is not actionable and with the potential for enormous forfeitures (not to mention the cost of legal representation), unnecessarily puts these Educational Stations in a very precarious position." The group is calling for lenient treatment of first-time offenses by educational stations.
THE PARENTS TELEVISION COUNCIL also filed reply comments in the FCC proceeding (13-86) about its proposal to focus on "egregious" broadcast indecency complaints, with PTC President TIM WINTER saying "The FCC asked for the public’s comment, and they got it. By a margin of nearly 1,000 to 1, the American public told the FCC to enforce existing broadcast indecency law, and not to weaken it. The only question now before the FCC is whether to heed or disregard the public’s comments that they, themselves, asked for."
He continued, "The broadcast networks and their agents continue to cloud the issue at hand by arguing against the very existence of the broadcast indecency law. They are trying to re-litigate the Supreme Court cases that they lost, rather than focus on the FCC’s proposal to focus only on ‘egregious’ instances of indecency. It is essential for the FCC to remember whose interest it is that they are mandated by Congress to serve. The sheer volume of public comments -- over 102,000 comments that were individually filed by individual Americans, and were roughly 1,000 to 1 in favor of keeping existing indecency standards – speaks louder than the broadcast networks that want to dismantle the law."
WINTER concluded, "The American people have spoken. We call on the FCC to hear and to heed the public’s overwhelming support for the existing broadcast indecency law. And we call on the Commission to reject the proposed change to the law as crafted by its outgoing and now-departed chairman."