Monday, April 8, 2013

FCC takes another stab at Indecency

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned two cases where FCC imposed fines for indecency - but stopped short of ruling that the FCC actions were unconstitutional.  One case should have been pretty obvious, where the FCC suddenly found indecency in a case where it had already ruled was not a violation (after some astroturfed outrage).  But the biggest problem for the Court was the vagueness of the rules and definition of "indecency," and its possible conflict with First Amendment free speech rights.  That conflict is more likely to occur in the case of unintentional expletives or fleeting partial nudity,
  While the cases were under review, the FCC put a hold on handling any new allegations of indecency.  Considering that a Supreme Court ruling could have forced a reconsideration of any applied standard, the FCC's decision to delay review was reasonable.  But with the rulings in, and new guidance from the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, the FCC's been working on the backlog of 1.4 million complaints.  (After the FCC instituted a streamlined process for filing complaints online, groups could organize complaint filings, and for many incidents there are thousands of identical complaints - often from people who couldn't have personally heard or seen the "indecent" act.)  The FCC's Enforcement staff started by culling out complaints older than the statute of limitations, or beyond the FCC's authority.  (The FCC's authority over "indecency" only applies to radio and television stations - not cable or satellite networks or the Internet.)  As of last week, the FCC had resolved more than 70% of complaints.
  Still, there is concern that the "vague" standards might lead to further challenges, so the FCC is considering applying the indecency rules only to more "egregious" cases - taking the step of putting out a request for public comment on the proposed new rules.  Specifically, it's seeking public comment on how to treat the use of "expletives and brief non-sexual displays of nudity."  It can be a long process of proposed rulemakings and public comments, so don't look for a resolution until well after the President replaces the two departing FCC commissioners (including the Chairman, Julius Genachowski).

Source -  FCC mulls relaxing policy for TV indecency, The Hill

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