Morality in Media wants FCC nominees quizzed

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Congress should make President's Bush's FCC nominees voice their opinions on enforcement of broadcast indecency law, the watchdog group Morality in Media said Tuesday.

The group has complained repeatedly that the FCC is shirking its enforcement duties and says the incoming commissioners should be required to reverse the trend. "Radio stations that provide national and local platforms for grossly vulgar `shock jocks' have little to fear from the FCC; and no broadcast TV station has paid an indecency fine in over 20 years," the group wrote in an open letter to members of Congress.

The group also criticized as too lax long-delayed indecency guidelines the agency published April 6. Under a 1995 court decision, broadcasters between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. are forbidden from airing "indecent" content that "describes or depicts" sexual or excretory organs or activities in a way that is "patently offensive" by community standards. Obscene programming is forbidden entirely. Identifying what truly constitutes indecent or obscene programming has always been difficult, however.

Besides making the latest batch of FCC nominees give their take on the current status of airwave indecency, Morality in Media also called for Senate hearings on the issue. Specifically, the groups urged lawmakers to examine why the FCC took six years to issue indecency guidelines, why so few fines are levied for indecent broadcasts, and whether the FCC can better monitor TV stations' compliance.
- Bill McConnell