Fox to FCC: Get Out of Indecency Regulation (Updated)
As other broadcasters urged the Federal Communications Commission to ease up on indecency regulations, Fox urged it to quit regulating broadcast indecency altogether.
"Fox urges the commission to conclude it is legally required and logically bound to cease attempting broadcast indecency limits once and for all," Fox Entertainment Group and Fox Television Holdings said in a filing Wednesday.
"Time and technology have moved inexorably forward, but the commission's untenable effort to define indecent content through a hodgepodge of inconsistent and uneven rulings remain stuck in a bygone era."
Fox also said that if the FCC "defies the Constitution and common sense" and continues to regulate indecency, it should do so narrowly.
The comments were filed as the FCC considers how to revise its rules in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that rejected the agency's attempt to step up its policing of potentially offensive content. Several broadcasters urged the FCC to exercise caution in indecency enforcement, but didn't go quite as far as Fox.
CBS and NBC affiliates' associations in a joint filing questioned the FCC's attempt to step up enforcement against fleeting expletives and nudity in live programming, saying the policy could threaten stations' abilities to carry live events.
(Update: CBS in comments filed late Wednesday night also cited the FCC's "disarray" in indecency enforcement and urged the FCC to abandon its zero tolerance approach and instead adopt one focused on egregious content.
("More restrained enforcement is necessary if any order is to be brought to the chaotic state of indecency regulation," the network said.
("A government agency should not be distinguishing between the isolated words of bull**t in a police drama and much stronger language in an Academy Award winning movie or CBS's Peabody Award winning documentary about Sept. 11," said the network.
(It also warned the agency, that it needs to have a policy that withstands political pressure.
("An appropriately restrained policy regarding indecency enforcement will also require the commission to resist the temptation—and political pressures—to act as the ultimate arbitrator of whether a program has been too frank in the depiction of sexuality."
(And NBC Universal said the FCC's indecency enforcement suffers from "fatal constitutional flaws." It questioned whether the agency's original justifications for the rules -- because of broadcast TV's "uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of Americans" and because of its unique use by children -- is still true. NBCU also contended the commission's rules are "vague."
("Broadcast TV is not a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of 21st Century Americans; it is just one among many methods by which viewers access the programming they prefer. Nor is broadcast television uniquely accessible to children. The Commission cannot ignore these fundamental changes. Unless it can establish any other legitimate basis for singling out broadcast for second-class constitutional protection, the Commission cannot continue to regulate broadcast indecency without demonstrating that its policy is the least restrictive means to achieve a compelling governmental interest," said NBCU.)
(Also late Wednesday, Fox's comments drew fire from the Parents Television Council.
("It is pathetic that the best they can do is muster up the same arguments they lost on at the Supreme Court," Dan Isett, director of public policy told TheWrap. "These guys need to accept reality and stop airing indecent content. Consumer groups TechFreedom, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation said that the FCC enforcement policy is hurting broadcast TV.
("Broadcasting is no longer the cultural force it once was—or an "intruder in the home," the consumer groups contended. They suggested that given the number of other places consumers can find similar content without restrictions, limiting content on broadcast TV "is neither sound policy, nor constitutionally defensible.")
Though broadcasters urged the FCC to ease indecency rules, the FCC has received more than 100,000 comments urging it to step up enforcement. Several groups that want stepped-up enforcement have urged their members to write to the commission.