Question of FCC's ability to enforce decency in the air, as decency crumbles

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The government agent, his feet thrashing in the air below him, frantically reached out for something, anything, to grab onto. Somehow, his hand found a loose tree root to clutch, just in time to prevent his plunge off the cliff.

Will he survive? Or will he fall to a sudden, certain, regulatory conclusion?

Tune in next season!


The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the Federal Communications Commission failed to give broadcast networks Fox and ABC fair warning before finding them in violation of decency rules a few years back. ABC had been fined $1.4 million for showing buttocks during an episode of NYPD Blue; Fox had not been fined, but had been cited for vulgarities on live awards shows in 2002 and 2003.

But on the precipice of a landmark ruling, the high court stepped back – artfully dodging the rather fundamental question of whether the FCC can enforce decency rules in the first place.

For now, thank goodness, it can.

The early headlines following the ruling sounded as if the FCC had been banned from policing decency on the public airwaves. Nope. The court merely – and correctly – threw out the citations in question, which will force the agency to tighten and improve its rules and expectations, as well as the due process accorded broadcasters.

The FCC’s authority to cite anyone for indecency? That will have to wait for a future episode.

It’s too bad ABC gets off the hook. It’s not as if the network had been blindsided by a foul-mouthed celebrity on live television. The network intentionally and with premeditation depicted nudity, and in prime time.

One rear end won’t a civilization crumble. But the cynical stunt was just one more push of the envelope, one more barrier that the no-walls, anything-goes crowd wants to tear down until there are no standards of decency.

The court’s limited ruling, though, was fair and necessary. If the rules of the road aren’t clear, it’s not right to hand out tickets.

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Riverman1 07/02/12 - 05:14 am
Oh, I don't know. I think

Oh, I don't know. I think it's pretty silly to penalize networks for slips of the tongue in this day and age where cable channels unleash every vulgarity under the sun and plenty of nudity. Almost everyone has cable TV now and all it really means is one channel can and one can't.

TParty 07/02/12 - 08:18 am
What ever happened to the

What ever happened to the free market, get government out of the way, regulations stifle jobs talk?

specsta 07/02/12 - 02:35 pm
More Nanny-State Coercion

Here's a solution - change the channel.

Why is the FCC trying to "protect" US citizens from making their own choices for TV viewing? If you don't like the content of a show, don't watch it.

Some folks are aghast at naked buttocks, while others are disgusted by TV preachers. Some folks love the gory guts shown on CSI, while someone else hates reality TV. It's called having a free country.

The government should not be in the business of regulating anything that is shown on TV.

eb97 07/02/12 - 04:10 pm
It is just the governments

It is just the governments job to regulate health insurance and taxing people for it. The government will now see its job as to have its hands in everything we do and placing relations and taxes on all of it.
Welcome to the new America

Conservative Man
Conservative Man 07/02/12 - 04:50 pm

Right on eb.....We want the government to leave us alone when it comes to TV, drugs, abortion, seat belts, our bedrooms, .....I could go on and on....but PLEASE PLEASE we need the all knowing, all powerful government to control our healthcare!!!Oh Happy Day!!

TParty 07/02/12 - 08:20 pm
Conservative man- You know

Conservative man- You know this editorial is complaining because they were worried the government would not be able to continue to be a nanny to us, right?

"...the high court stepped back – artfully dodging the rather fundamental question of whether the FCC can enforce decency rules in the first place.

For now, thank goodness, it can."

The FCC is a government entity, for the purpose of regulation. They may say they are independent, and self funded- but the people in charge are appointed by the President and confirmed by the senate. Their workers are considered federal employees.

This is literally the government telling the free market what they can say, and show, or be fined. And they do this as a nanny figure for us. Get rid of it.

And this editorial should print an retraction to this philosophy or I'll be forced to remind them how they want to government to tell them what is right and wrong when they are inside the privacy of their own home.

EDIT: I edited the first part to make my point.

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