Skip to main content

McDowell Says FCC Should Act Now On Indecency Backlog

Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell told an audience of National Religious Broadcasters Thursday that the FCC should not wait, perhaps up to two years, while the courts sort out challenges to its indecency enforcement policies.

"[T]he FCC should not delay adjudicating out the mountain of indecency complaints because we are facing appeals," he said.

He conceded that the legal battle over the FCC's profanity finding against Fox was far from over--and might even take a couple of years to find its way back to the Supreme Court to resolve First Amendment issues.

But he also said that since the Supremes in April upheld the FCC in the Fox case on procedural grounds, that should be enough legal footing to start clearing up the 1.3 million backlog of complaints.

"We are always facing appeals," he said. "If we held up every bit of Commission business affected by litigation, we would never decide anything.  Whether you are a broadcaster or complaining consumer, I hope that you agree that acting on indecency cases is something we are paid by the American taxpayers to do.  It is our job, and we should do it."

He said Congress' passage in 2006 of a bill to boost indecency fines ten-fold was a clear sign from the people's directly elected representatives that the FCC should "make some tough decisions."

But McDowell also warned that if the High Court does hear the constitutional issues, the commission might be on shaky ground. "As we move forward, all of our broadcast content regulations sit on an increasingly unstable legal foundation," using that as a warning to be careful about adopting localism proposals.

“We agree with Commissioner McDowell that the backlog of 1.4 million indecency complaints demands a response," said Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council. "He is correct that it is the FCC’s job to adjudicate these complaints and we call on Chairman Genachowski to work swiftly to address the backlog."

PTC members have filed many of those complaints.