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Indecency Foes Press Senators on Wheeler Stance

A collection of groups that have historically pushed the FCC to crack down on indecency are trying to pressure senators to oppose the nomination of FCC chair nominee Tom Wheeler unless he agrees to spearhead a "vigorous effort" to enforce the "decency law."

Many of the same groups had asked that Wheeler's position be pinned down during his confirmation hearing, but were not satisfied with the results of that line of questioning.

At that hearing, Wheeler did not commit one way or the other on his approach to indecency enforcement, though he suggested content could be improved and that the chairmanship was a bully pulpit from which to call for that improvement.

Outgoing FCC chair Julius Genachowski last fall adopted an approach of only pursuing egregious cases, and teed that up for public comment as a possible path forward for dealing with complaints, including the million-plus the FCC has worked through under that new standard.

That approach was widely criticized by groups like Parents Television Counsel, Morality in Media and others who, in a letter to senators Monday (Sept. 9), said Wheeler needed to stand up for the FCC as the "guardian of decency." They cited as evidence that the issue was a critical one for the public the fact that more than 100,000 comments were submitted to the FCC on whether the new "egregious" policy should be the new approach or whether it should be the old policy, or some variation.

In the letter, which Morality in Media said was hand delivered to Senate offices, the groups say that current law prohibits indecency and profanity on broadcast TV and radio, but as the FCC reads and enforces the law, indecency is only prohibited during hours when children are most likely to be in the audience, which the FCC has determined is 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. After that, broadcasters are free to air content comparable to that seen on cable or satellite or in a hotel VOD lineup.