Calling the Federal Communications Commission's ruling vague, chilling, overbroad and unconsitutional, the Media Institute has joined the growing list of those fighting back against the commission's decision to make the "F-word" and other profanities off-limits to broadcasters. It argued that the FCC ignored its obligations to "tread lightly" in the content area.
The Washington-based independent First Amendment think tank, which is partially funded and/or support by the major networks and other large media companies, says live programming, including news and documentaries, is threatened by the FCC ruling, which came in response to Bono's F-word on NBC's Golden Globes and was a reversal of an earlier decision that the broadcast was not indecent.
In comments being hand-delivered to the commission today, the institute says the commission's decision creates an "ominous scheme of speech regulation that will punish even isolated or fleeting expletives without regard to their context, take a "new approach to profanity," and give the commission broad latitude to arbitrarily define offensive speech."
The institute was filing in support of an earlier petition by the American Civil Liberties Union, Viacom, Fox and others (NBC filed separately). Specifically, it said, it wants the commission to study whether there is any way it can enforce an indecency policy "in the context of the current media landscape and social climate that does not run afoul of the First Amendment."
The petition was signed by the institute, as well as the members of its First Amendment advisory group, including new additions and noted First Amendment experts attorney Floyd Abrams and columnist Nat Hentoff.
ABC alone among the major networks has not filed comments on the issue. Although it provides operational support to the Media Institute, it was said not to be aware of today's filing.