TV Writers: Phase Out Indecency Regs In Primetme

In comments to the FCC on indecency, the Writers Guild of America, West says that rather than adopt an "egregious cases" indecency policy, the FCC should phase out application of indecency regs entirely, particularly programming in prime time.

The FCC adopted the new "egregious cases" policy--as contrasted with its earlier pursuit of adjectival cussing and fleeting nudity--to work through a backlog of a million-plus complaints. But WGAW says even that standard should go.

In its comments, the writers argue that judging community standards by "e-blast" activists produces a warped picture.

"In an enforcement regime that focuses on egregious cases, such as the one in place at the Commission since September 2012," the group writer, "silence may be taken as community approval while complaints would be evidence that content violates a community standard. Such measurements of community standards, however, are inherently unreliable in an age of coordinated e-activism." It points to the Parents Television Council by name, saying such a policy gives "the most vocal minority, which may or may not have even watched the program," a "heckler's veto."

WGAW says that veto gives such groups "the ability to manipulate the complaint process contributes to the lack of clarity on indecency standards, which has a chilling effect on content."

The FCC is currently considering whether to adopt the "egregious cases" policy or some other approach. For WGAW, the "some other" they favor is phasing out indecency regs, and at least doing so in prime time as a way to strike a balance balance between "children's access to content and free expression."

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.