Skip to main content

Media Institute Weighs In on Indecency

The Media Institute joined a growing throng of commenters asking the Supreme Court to rethink the "uniquely pervasive" and "uniquely accessible to kids" rationales for indecency enforcement.

The media-backed First Amendment think tank and its new partner, the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Free Expression, jointly filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court Friday in the Fox profanity-case appeal.

"There seems little doubt," they argued, "that time and technology have undermined whatever logical support the Pacifica ruling might have merited three decades ago … Moreover, the always tenuous assumption that licensed broadcasters were uniquely capable of inflicting harm on unwary young listeners and viewers has long since been undermined if not wholly repudiated."

Pacifica was the case in which the Supreme Court upheld the FCC's indecency finding over a radio broadcast of George Carlin's "Filthy Words" monologue on the grounds that broadcasting was uniquely pervasive and uniquely accessible to children.

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and a host of former FCC officials all called on the court to get the FCC out of the indecency-enforcement businesses.

The Supreme Court elected to hear oral arguments on Election Day, Nov. 4, in the FCC's challenge to a lower-court ruling that its indecency finding against Fox's Billboard Awards broadcast was arbitrary and capricious.

The court could decide by the end of the year, but a decision will more likely not come until the first quarter of 2009.