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PTC Celebrates Pacifica by Chiding Nets

The Parents Television Council used the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Pacifica decision Thursday to call on the broadcast networks to drop their challenge to broadcast-indecency laws.

The July 3, 1978, decision upheld the Federal Communications Commission's indecency-enforcement powers on the grounds that broadcasting was uniquely pervasive and accessible to kids.

The Pacifica case was the result of the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" routine of late comedian George Carlin.

“The broadcast medium remains uniquely pervasive, and if the networks think otherwise, then they should readily relinquish their broadcast licenses," PTC president Tim Winter said in a statement. "If broadcasters want to use the public airwaves -- public property -- to deliver their product to every home in the country for free, then they must abide by the indecency law as prescribed by Congress, affirmed by the Supreme Court and enforced by the FCC. On this 30th anniversary of the Pacifica ruling, it’s time for the broadcast networks to obey the law instead of undermining it.”

The PTC's call comes in the wake of a host of filings by the networks and ABC stations two weeks ago in a Second Circuit Court of Appeals challenge to the FCC's indecency finding against an episode of NYPD Blue.

The ABC affiliates aren't challenging the indecency law in the NYPD Blue case, only the way the FCC is applying it, which they said is overbroad, arbitrary and capricious.

The networks pushed the issue further, saying that the court could go beyond this case to ponder the constitutional issue of the FCC's indecency-enforcement regime. But they also said the court does not have to strip the FCC of its indecency powers to find that, in this case, the commission has abused them.

But there are numerous other challenges, as well.

CBS appealed the Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show fine in Federal Court, and it is challenging a fine against Without a Trace at the FCC.

NBC is still waiting for an answer on its appeal of the FCC's decision that Bono's swearing on an awards show was indecent.

The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear the FCC's appeal of a lower-court decision that its indecency finding against Fox for swearing on another awards show was arbitrary and capricious.