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Fox vs. The FCC: Just what is indecency anyway?

by Jay Black, posted Dec 27th 2006 8:32PM
Love and Marriage and Toilet Humor... it's an institute you can't disparage!Interesting article up at Ars Technica regarding the FCC's curious habit of not publishing what its indecency rules are. Fox is challenging its fines saying that it's unfair that they should be penalized for not following unpublished rules. The FCC's stance is that if they published a rulebook regarding what you could and couldn't say on broadcast TV, they'd be censoring people. By leaving it unpublished and only reacting when there's a complaint, they're encouraging self-censorship and I guess can sleep easy at night knowing that the first amendment is kinda, sorta still in place.

I personally think the self-censorship thing is splitting hairs and it's hard to justify any need for the FCC at all except for its original purpose: the regulation of broadcast licenses. It makes sense that everyone can't broadcast at the same frequency, but beyond that the FCC should have no say whatsoever in what people can and can't say on the airwaves. To put it another way, having the FCC police the airwaves is kinda like having the DMV police the highways. Giving the guy who takes your license picture a squadcar and a gun makes about as much sense as letting the head of the FCC determine how much of Janet Jackson's nipple is indecent.

(Further irony in having the FCC regulate indecency: it's supposed to grant licenses based on whether a broadcaster meets the public "interest, convenience, or necessity." If the public they're talking about in that statement is the same one I hang out with, it's a public that loves pornography and dirty words!)

Ultimately, though, I think the best summary of indecency is that of the famous philosopher, Kyle Broflovski: it's either all okay or none of it is. Where do you stand?

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The FCC policing the broadcast networks is a joke. It's kind of like having the FDA regulating the prescription drug industry or the House and Senate ethics committees policing the government. Oh, wait a minute... I guess they do. Oh my. We're in deep shit.

December 28 2006 at 3:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The original rationale for the "public interest" regulation was the "scarcity" of the public airwaves. Today with digital compression, you can fit three or four channels in the space where one previously lived. With thousands of channels on satellite and cable, video on demand, YouTube and almost limitless numbers of other distribution channels on the Internet, suddenly the FCC begins to look more irrelevant than ever.

I'm tired of three angry hausfraus with a fax machine telling me what I can or cannot watch, which is why more and more I turn to HBO or FX for programming that's actually, you know, GOOD.

December 28 2006 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the best part about this fight is on the Fox network, the "most scandalous" according to the bible-farkers at PTC and their ilk, and the same aforementioned sheep all turn to Fox News to find out who to hate and protest.

I've long held the belief that the Fox network exists to give evidence of the boogiemen of secular humanist communist naked people wanting to make your kid gay that the Fox New audience is always on the lookout for.

December 28 2006 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The FCC are so hypocritical. They say that the reason they can and do fine for indecency is that the airwaves belong to the public. However, they don't allow the public to have access to those airwaves because they have allowed so many mergers and the radio and television stations are all run by large corporations. Maybe if the same 4 companies didn't own the vast majority of television channels and 3 companies didn't own the vast majority of radio stations then they FCC might be able to say that they have the public interest in mind with a straight face.

December 28 2006 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The biggest problem with the FCC is no one knows who these people are. They are not elected, they are not voted on. They just are there bitching about what's on TV. You don't like it change the channel. We have ratings, if parents would do things with their children we wouldn't be a country of fatass pigs and the FCC wouldn't be needed. Oh no, I said ass, guess thats a million dollars to the FCC.

And CBS is sueing the FCC over their fine. The fine would be much cheaper than the lawsuit, but BCS is pissed off. I so go CBS and go Fox!

December 28 2006 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I want to watch what I want to watch. Period. I don't care if "Family Guy" is found to be indecent, I personally think it is funny. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that I will let my 6 year old watch it.

I think it is great that FOX is taking on the FCC.

The government in all forms are taking away "liberities" from us. If you don't like what is being shown here is an idea.... Turn it off. Do the responsible thing and think for yourself instead of leaving it up to others to think for you.

December 28 2006 at 11:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bill Robinson

Hmmm,we may be missing the point. If the Supreme Court refuses to define the line between good-taste and obscenity because it would conflict with the first amendment to do so, why should the citizens allow another another government entitiy to do so? The FCC cannot publish a set of rules because to do so would be to open themselves to a judicial review of these rules for constitutionality. It is not likely that any set of "rules" would pass a first amendment test. Therefore the FCC is doing it's rather nebulous "duty" to police the airwaves by punishing those it views as offenders with fines. As long as these so-called offenders pay the fines the FCC is safe. As soon as one of these so-called offenders refuses to pay the fine the FCC has a problem. They are not the IRS. They will have to use the legal system to collect the fine, or the will have to carry through on a threat to suspend a broadcast license. Again the consitution is likely to raise it's lovely head.

As the airwaves belong to the people, not the government separate from the people, it is up to us to regulate content. Perhaps, and only "perhaps" a time delay form of censorship may be the least dangerous we can hope for. It may prevent the more impressionable among us from the shock of seeing an unexpected naked breast. If we want the broadcasters to implement a time-delay we can force them to do so. The sponsors react directly to pressure from any group that they believe can effectively alter their bottom line.

Beware though of being too eager to let the great unwashed masses do your censorship for you. They have a history of being short-sighted.

December 28 2006 at 10:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why hasn't this been done before? I'm surprised whatever network aired the wardrobe malfunction would have done this. I hope fox wins. Oh and whats the difference between regulating and censoring?

December 28 2006 at 5:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christopher J. Arndt

The problem with the FCC is that they aren't toothless but they are amoral.

They have no consistent philosophy on the books for their applications and activities and basically they act and react based on who or what (or what institution) is appealing to them to go after someone or something else.

December 27 2006 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That was my favorite part of Studio 60. :)

The FCC is Bullshit, and Penn and Teller did an episode about cenorship and the lame FCC. I can't wait until the day when all new TV shows are just online and you watch it that way every week. The the FCC can spend all their time screwing themselves.

December 27 2006 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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