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Nets Prepare Profanity Defenses

Networks were working on their indecency remand responses--"scrambling" was how one network Washington type put it--to meet the Sept. 21 deadline.

A federal court granted the FCC's request to take a second look at four profanity rulings it made last March, but the FCC promised to do it all in 60 days, hence the narrow comment window. It announced the two-week window Sept. 7.

The FCC did not make the decisions available for comment the first time because it took no enforcement action, instead saying these were words--"fuck" and variants of "shit"--it would find indecent in these particular contexts going forward--two music awards shows on Fox, a CBS morning show broadcast, and NYPD Blue. Broadcasters sued and the FCC said it had made a mistake not giving an opportunity to comment.

One group already on the record is free market think tank, the Progress and Freedom Foundation, which filed its comments Wednesday.

Not surprisingly, Senior fellow Adam Thierer used the opportunity to argue that the FCC shouldn't be in the programming content regulation business period.

Saying there were sufficient blocking mechanisms and educational programs so that "the traditional rationales the agency relies on to regulate broadcast content--hat it is 'uninvited' into the home and that parents are powerless to control it--have been rendered moot."

And even if parents aren't availing themselves of options like the V-Chip or channel blocking on cable, Thierer argues that "their inaction should not be used to justify government regulation of programming as a surrogate for household/parental choice."

Thierer argued that the current "community standard" of acceptable programming has been outstripped by technology and should be replaced by a "household standard," which essentially means every home for itself.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.