PTC, Others Push Hill to Pressure FCC on Indecency

The Parents Television Council has joined with Morality in Media and close to a hundred other groups to try and put congressional pressure on the FCC to back off of its proposal to codify its pursuit of only "egregious" indecency complaints.

The groups sent a letter to the committees overseeing the FCC Wednesday asking them to oppose any change that would weaken enforcement.

They are concerned that the FCC will pursue only "deliberate" and "repetitive" expletives, rather than all of them. "We urgently request that you do all you can to stop the proposed enforcement standard, including opposing any nominee to the Federal Communications Commission who supports changing the current standard."

The direction from the chairman to only go after egregious cases, which B&C reported back in February, followed the Supreme Court decision in FCC v. Fox decision that the FCC's fleeting indecency and profanity enforcement policy, at least as applied, was too vague. The court did not find the regime unconstitutional, but said it was applied with insufficient notice, which violates administrative procedure.

The current FCC has spent several years defending previous efforts to regulate fleeting nudity and profanity. But last September, the commission dropped its pursuit of Fox over nonpayment of a 2003 indecency fine for Married by America, dismissing a suit in D.C. district court.

In March, the FCC put out a public notice seeking comment on whether that "egregious" standard should be adopted as the FCC's new approach post-FCC v. Fox.

It also asks whether it should revert to its policy of requiring repeated rather than isolated utterances for an indecency finding, or treat isolated, "non-sexual" nudity different from isolated profanity. While the FCC is gathering comment for a possible future decision, the "egregious" policy remains in place.

The notice does not define what the FCC has been considering "egregious" in determining what meets that standard, but a spokesperson did refer to this 2001 guidance from the commission, signaling that the examples there met the standard. The notice also makes clear that the FCC will review and take action against such egregious complaints.

John Eggerton

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.