Stay "Fleeting Expletives" Enforcement, Says Media Institute

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The Media Institute has asked the FCC not to punish broadcasters for "fleeting expletives" until the courts rule on broadcaster challenges to that enforcement.

It also suggested, while conceding it was unlikely, that the commission agree to a "self-imposed stay on all indecency actions."

The Institute, a first amendment think tank backed by media companies including CBS, News Corp., Time Warner, and NBC, was among the filers Thursday as the FCC closed the comment window on its reconsideration of four profanity rulings.

Unlike those who spoke generally to the FCC indecency crackdown, the Institute honed in on the four profanity findings at issue and the Golden Globes F-word ruling that they stemmed from.

The institute takes issue with the FCC's assertion that a "fleeting expletive" in this case the "fucking brilliant," which was the subject of the Golden Globe Awards FCC indecency ruling, "necessarily invokes sexual imagery." "Sometimes," it says, evoking the famous line about Freud and cigars, "an expletive is just an expletive." Same with bullshit, which it says does not always conjur up execretory images.

The subjectivity of the FCC's approach, says the Institute, which has been to apply tougher standards but in a subjective process that broadcasters say provides no roadmap to safety, has "exacerbate[d] what has been the Commission’s long-standing and insoluble problem: the practical difficulties of trying to differentiate a category of content unique to the broadcast medium (“indecent” content), and trying to regulate that content by applying standards that inevitably prove too objective or too subjective."

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