Media Institute: Go Slow on Indecency


"Congress and the FCC are on a fast track to make a bad regulatory situation even worse,"  The Media Institute said Wednesday in a statement on the government’s push for stricter indecency enforcement.

The institute, an industry backed First Amendment think tank in Washington, traditionally weighs in on the issues of the day via hosting monthly speaker luncheons and through seminars and policy papers. But in a statement released Wednesday, it said that it was particularly concerned with attempts to bring cable into the indecency regulatory regime and to add violence regulations. "The notion of extending the broadcast indecency standard to cable television is highly egregious and fraught with problems," it says, adding "it is unrealistic and almost certainly unconstitutional."

The Institute urged Congress "to refrain from passing legislation without the benefit of full and extensive hearings," and urged the FCC "to refrain from changing its enforcement policies without the benefit of a full rulemaking proceeding."

The Senate yesterday passed indecency legislation that contains provisions targetted at violence, media ownership and cable. Tomorrow the House is scheduled to vote on its indecency enforcement bill.

Some of the media companies that contribute funding to the insitute or have representatives on the board of trustees are the same ones who sent representatives to Washington a couple of weeks ago to argue that, among other things, indecency enforcement should include cable and satellite.

The Institute’s Richard Kaplar points out that it is independent. "We’re not just speaking for one segment or another. We often do things that don’t sit well with one constituent or another."

Kaplar conceded the policy statement was unusual, saying the institute traditionally issues press releases that touch on policy. "This has become a hot-button issue," he says, "and a catalyst for pent-up feelings about program content. We don’t think this can be written off as election-year politics. It has longer-term implications and we are concerned with a situation where Congress and the FCC are willing to take fairly drastic steps without apparent regard for the First Amendment."