Skip to main content

Producers, Writers Take On FCC Indecency Regime

Some big-time Hollywood producers and writers said the Federal Communications Commission's content-chilling regime needs to be reined in for the sake of viewers, content creators and the First Amendment, but reining in consolidated media rather than content might be the solution to the FCC's "understandable" concern about some objectionable TV content.

The Hollywood-backed Center for Creative Voices in Media made that and other points in a brief filed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in support of ABC stations' challenge to the FCC's NYPD Blue indecency fine.

The coalition's position is no surprise given that NYPD Blue creator Stephen Bochco is on the group's board of advisors. Another advisor is Vin Di Bona, whose America's Funniest Home Videos was cited by the FCC as part of an indecency complaint investigation but escaped an indecency finding for a clip showing a pacifier lodged in a baby's behind.

The coalition said the FCC's indecency crackdown not only hurts viewers, who are denied access to content, but is a financial hit for content creators, who face six-figure fines if they guess wrong about what the FCC will find indecent. Some have even had to take out indecency insurance, the group added. And others may be "denied the broadcast forum entirely," it argued.

The Center -- which filed in conjunction with the Future of Music Coalition -- combined those groups’ desire for protection of content with their opposition to media consolidation, framing the indecency crackdown as another example of the FCC "violating the rights of viewers to access diverse information from a diversity of sources," the same criticism they level against consolidated media companies.

The group took aim at complaints, saying that the process was flawed and "fraught with abuse."

In a release accompanying the filing of the brief, Center executive director Jonathan Rintels also said some of the complaints about TV content were well-founded and the group understood the FCC's desire to address them. But Rintels added that the answer wasn't censoring speech, but doing something about media consolidation.

"There are also regulatory remedies for addressing the issue of objectionable television programming other than censoring the content of television shows," he said. "In broadcast television, the increasing consolidation of television-station ownership has made stations operated by non-local owners unresponsive to local community concerns about coarse content."