The government’s crackdown on indecency threatens not only Bono and Janet Jackson, but high-brow artists like Emma Thompson too, say two free-speech lawyers in a new paper published by industry think tank The Media Institute.
“The government’s new enthusiasm for regulating the content of the broadcast spectrum is a terrible idea for several reasons,” warn attorney Bruce W. Sanford and his colleague Mark I. Bailen.
For starters, the government's high-profile effort "legitimizes the public’s sanctimonious scapegoating of the media." Also, it deflects attention from trends in society that are merely echoed in the media.
By "blowing fog" into First Amendment law, the lack of regulatory certainty will make producers question every bit of envelope-pushing programming including shows of unquestioned artistic and cultural merit. That fear of punishment "inevitably leads to a product more obnoxious for its mindlessness and vacuity than any possible titillation."
Their paper is titled “How the Government’s Crackdown on Broadcasting Threatens Emma Thompson and All of Us,” referring to the star of literary screen adaptations such as Sense and Sensibility and Angels in America.
Sanford chairs the nationwide media practice of law firm Baker & Hostetler, and Bailen is a member in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.