As many of you are aware, the FCC in the last few years has spent an awful lot of time on television indecency issues -- though they seem to do so not because of any real offense, but because certain family groups flood the FCC with complaints, often long after a TV show actually aired. The FCC refuses to give TV broadcasters any guidelines or preview any content, noting that that would be "censorship." Instead, they give vague guidelines and will only fine you if you fail to meet the hidden standards. The networks are fighting back in court, and it looks like the FCC isn't looking very good so far. In court hearings yesterday, the 3-judge panel blasted the FCC on a variety of points, noting that their hidden standards are really no different than censorship -- and, if anything, are worse, because it's just a game of "gotcha." However, even more to the point, the judges questioned why the FCC feels the need to take over the parents' role in policing what children see on TV, noting that it's the parents' responsibility to monitor what their kids watch. Basically, they say that if parents are worried about what kids are watching in their bedrooms, the parents shouldn't allow TVs in kids' bedrooms. In other words, it's the parents' responsibility to protect the children, not the government's. The judges also point out how silly it is to hold a separate standard for broadcast TV (the only thing the FCC really has the authority to regulate), when there's so much more on cable and satellite which the kids are probably watching anyway. While that could just open up the FCC to pushing for greater authority over cable and satellite TV (as some politicians would like), it's worth remembering that the FCC's mandate is only over public airwaves -- not private ones, and any change would face tremendous resistance. While the case is still ongoing, it certainly looks like the court took a pretty hostile view to the FCC's usual reasons for fining broadcasters over indecency.
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