Abernathy urges restrained indecency enforcement

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Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy said Wednesday that the Federal
Communications Commission should tread lightly when carrying out its statutory
obligation to punish indecent broadcasts.

'I will not shy away from our responsibility in this area,' she said in a
speech to First Amendment think tank The Media Institute.

But, she added, 'can I, as a commissioner, go beyond this mandate to censor
material I personally find offensive or tasteless? Would I want to set a
precedent for future commissioners to impose their likes and dislikes on the
public? The answer is clearly no.'

When dealing with fine-line cases, she said, the FCC should consider market
factors such as audience ratings to determine whether a broadcast is indecent by
community standards.

This approach, she added, would have allowed the commission to avoid having
to rescind a fine levied against Colorado stations for airing an edited version
of Grammy Award-winning Eminem's 'The Real Slim Shady.'

'I would be troubled if the FCC began to substitute its judgment for that of
broadcasters and their communities,' Abernathy said.

Parents concerned about what children are exposed to can turn the dial or use
the V-chip, she said, adding that digital cable and TV program guides will offer
additional protections.

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