Walden: Supreme Court Could Nix FCC's Indecency Authority

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Greg Walden, member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, told broadcasters Tuesday that he wouldn't be surprised if the Supreme Court ultimately throws out the FCC's authority to regulate indecency.
Broadcasters have challenged that authority in court.

Walden, himself a broadcaster—though he is selling his five radio stations—supported raising the FCC's indecency fines tenfold and giving the commission more indecency authority but says the FCC's "patchwork" of confusing rulings has opened the door for the courts.

He told the broadcasters, in town for an NAB-sponsored state-leadership conference during which they meet and greet with legislators and FCC officials, to better educate Washington. "Don't assume we know anything," he said.

For instance, he said, if he had to hire someone to monitor content at his stations, "I might have to start cutting off the signal at 11 p.m."

Walden also warned that broadcasters should have their hands "near the panic button" on the issue of direct-to-consumer drug advertising. "The paternal, all-knowing government is back," he said. "The ad censors are back."

He also said look for investigations into alcohol advertising and pressure to reduce TV violence. He commiserated with broadcasters, saying they were taking the rap for content on the 400 other available channels because they are the easiest target.

Walden said that, if XM and Sirius were allowed to merge, then why shouldn't broadcasters be allowed to own more stations—a plug for loosening media-ownership rules.

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Supremes Get Earful On Indecency

Justices express concern over removing indecency safe harbor, but there is also some head-scratching over how FCC applied its standards on swearing and nudity