TV Writers: Phase Out Indecency Regs In Prime Time

Argue "e-blast" activists have heckler's veto over broadcast content
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In comments to the FCC on indecency, the
Writers Guild of America, West, (WGAW) says that rather than adopt an
"egregious cases" indecency policy, the FCC should phase out
application of indecency regs entirely, particularly programming in prime time.

The FCC adopted the
new "egregious cases" policy--as contrasted with its earlier pursuit
of adjectival cussing and fleeting nudity--to work through a backlog of a
million-plus complaints. But WGAW says even that standard should go.

In its comments, the
writers argue that judging community standards by "e-blast" activists
produces a warped picture.

"In an
enforcement regime that focuses on egregious cases, such as the one in place at
the Commission since September 2012," the group writer, "silence may
be taken as community approval while complaints would be evidence that content
violates a community standard. Such measurements of community standards,
however, are inherently unreliable in an age of coordinated e-activism."
It points to the Parents Television Council by name, saying such a policy gives
"the most vocal minority, which may or may not have even watched the
program," a "heckler's veto."

WGAW says that veto
gives such groups "the ability to manipulate the complaint process
contributes to the lack of clarity on indecency standards, which has a chilling
effect on content."

The FCC is currently
considering whether to adopt the "egregious cases" policy or some
other approach. For WGAW, the "some other" they favor is phasing out
indecency regs, and at least doing so in prime time as a way to strike a
balance between "children's access to content and free expression."

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