Media Institute Backs Indecency Challenge


First Amendment think tank The Media Institute, whose backers include some major media companies and braodcast groups, has come out in support of judicial review of the FCC's long-standing indecency policy.

In response to the Networks and their affiliates's lawsuits against the FCC over its indecency standards, specifically profanity, the institute said in a statement:

"The FCC now finds itself locked in a battle with the television networks and their affiliates over a matter of program content: specifically, how to define the words and images that will be considered indecent or profane.  The Supreme Court addressed this issue in the 1978 Pacifica radio case.  Given the changes in social mores and technology that have occurred in the intervening span of almost three decades, however, this appears to be an opportune time for the courts to revisit this matter. 

"The judiciary could: (1) define the scope of the FCC¹s authority to regulate content; (2) determine if the FCC should clarify its standards for television so that broadcasters can predict how the standards will be applied; (3) consider the impact of new technologies that permit parents to determine what their children can watch; and, most importantly, (4) evaluate the applicability of First Amendment protections."

The Institute is laying out possible options for the judiciary, according to the institute's Richard Kaplar, rather than prescribing them. The institute's board includes CBS parent Viacom and Fox's parent, News Corp.,  Cox, Tribune, Time Warner, Gannett, Belo, and LIN TV.

NAB also supports the challenge, though it has not put out any public statement, choosing instead to let the networks and their affiliates take the lead.