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FCC's Martin Hates Regulation, Except When It Suits Him Politically

from the seven-hundred-thousand-dirty-words dept

It’s sort of funny how when it comes to things like net neutrality and line sharing, Kevin Martin and his cohorts at the FCC keep their hands out and spout a less-regulation-is-better-regulation mantra, but when it comes to things like wiretapping and “indecent” broadcasting, they’ve got no problem using the heavy hand of regulation to intervene. But Martin’s attempt at regulating morality by doling out record fines to broadcasters looks like it could backfire, as TV networks are fighting back in court. They’ve got two main arguments: first, that the FCC is toeing the line of the First Amendment, and second, that the decency standards are so arbitrarily and inconsistently applied that the FCC is overstepping its authority. It’s that inconsistency argument that many legal observers say could pose the biggest problem for the FCC, which defends itself by saying it’s only reacting to viewer complaints. It fails to note, however, that the vast majority of those complaints are computer-generated form letters and emails from “family-friendly” pressure groups, whose involvement lead to a 67,394% increase in the number of complaints received by the FCC between 2001 and 2005. The bigger question, though, is who’s selling all these easily offended people televisions that can’t change channels or be turned off?

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Comments on “FCC's Martin Hates Regulation, Except When It Suits Him Politically”

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Ben says:

Not to be callas or anything...

I thought cable tv was aloud to show whatever they wanted because the FCC has no regulations over them… am i wrong? And what ever happened to parents KNOWING what the hell there kids are watching and actually talking to them about things. I haven’t been alive that long and i dont have any kids but it seems clear that nudity and violence and obsene language really matter quite little if you know what programs have such content, and don’t let your child watch them… When i was growing up, on occation, i would glimps a bare breast on tv or hear a cuss word and it never “scared” me… atleast i dont thinik so.

charlie potatoes (profile) says:

Taliban Baptists

they don’t want to just turn it off. they don’t want me to be able to watch it either. religious fanatacism is the most dangerous form of insanity.. be it a fundamentalist any religous persuasion.. muslim, christian or jew. anyone who can’t see that pat robertson is as crazy as any ayatollah is not very bright.

mastmaker says:

Re: Taliban Baptists

Saying ‘Pat Robertson is as crazy as any ayatollah’ is an insult to those ayatollahs. Pat robertson had (presumably) secular education where he was OFFERED good and sound knowledge. Most of those ayatollahs grew up in strict religious schools where nothing but koran was taught. What is pat’s excuse?

Justin (profile) says:

I wish I could make people do what I fail to do as

Should I sue the banks because i really don’t feel like moving money from my account to the power company every month?

Maybe I could sue automakers because I fail to see why I should pay $3.50/gal. for gas.

Oh, I know, I’ll sue speaker makers because the recording industry makes bad music and shouldn’t have to hear it.

Wait, I’ve got it. I’ll sue verizon, because somene else has bad taste in music doesn’t mean I should be subjected to it when I call and get a ring-back tone.

WATYF (user link) says:


I don’t get why the “change the channel” argument is always trotted out when this comes up.

When does that line of reason end? Why not have hardcore porn on TV and if you don’t want to see it, just “change the channel”.

No… I’m not saying that these people are trying to get porn on TV or any other alarmist drivel… my point is… how can that even be used as an argument regarding decency…? In order to curb indecency, you HAVE to draw a line somewhere… Saying, “just change the channel” is the exact same thing (logically) as saying, “don’t have any restrictions regarding what can and can’t be shown on broadcast TV”. But anyone who thinks that obviousy doesn’t have children.

And don’t give me this “better parenting” crap. No matter how involved you are in your kids lives, it’s physically impossible to be standing over their shoulders 24 hours a day. If there’s smut on TV, they can very well stumble across it while you’re downstairs doing the laundry or out at the store or something… Seriously… this isn’t about good parenting (even though that’s something that’s becoming more rare these days)… it’s about having to draw a line somewhere and then enforce it.

Now… if they’re gonna make laws… then yeah… they need to enforce them consistently… and yes, they can’t just let the system get “gamed” by automatic “complaint generators” and what not. Those are all legitimate concerns… I just don’t understand why people feel the need to throw in a silly “change the channel, stupid” argument at the end of reasonable statements.


Theoden says:

Re: hrmm...

Change the channel is a GREAT argument because what you might consider “decent” could be offensive to me. Does that give me the right to keep you from seeing that which you find decent?

Better Parenting does NOT mean that you have to stand over your kid’s shoulder 24/7 – it means you TEACH them what your moral beliefs are through words and actions, and know that they will have to face things on their own one day. But if you have taught them well, they can make informed decisions rather than simply wondering where all of this indecency came from and why their mommy isn’t stopping them from seeing it.

It is the radical people who make the most noise, and they do what they can to have their views forced down everyone else’s throat. Just because they object to something, they feel that everyone else should be prohibited from seeing it, and that is WRONG. Arbitrarily deciding that something is decent or indecent is NOT the way to run things, and caving to the radical groups is not in anybody’s best interests.

And yes, I have raised children and have practiced “Change the Channel” while I explain WHY I am doing so. That is good parenting.

WATYF (user link) says:

Re: Re: hrmm...

“Change the channel is a GREAT argument because what you might consider “decent” could be offensive to me. Does that give me the right to keep you from seeing that which you find decent?”

And that’s exactly what I was talking about. If you follow that logic to its inevitable conclusion, we would have no rules whatsoever regarding what can and can’t be on TV… because there’s *gonna* be people out there who think there’s nothing “indecent” about what you and I would consider “repulsive”. I’m not saying that anything that makes me uncomfortable should be off limits to everyone… I’m saying you either need to draw a line and enforce it, or don’t bother drawing one at all. “Change the channel” is the same as “don’t bother drawing a line”.

And the idea that your kids would never disobey you is quite incredulous. Just because someone changes the channel and says “why” they did it, doesn’t mean their kids aren’t going to be mischevious or tempted to go check out whatever it is that mommy said they shouldn’t be watching, nor does it mean that they’ll automatically change the channel if they stumble on something bad. Disobedience and misplaced curiosity are some pretty common traits among kids (by nature, that is… not as the result of bad parenting).

“Just because they object to something, they feel that everyone else should be prohibited from seeing it, and that is WRONG.”

And that’s your opinion. But that doesn’t make it “wrong”. Remember.. what’s “wrong” for you might not be “wrong” for others.

We make (and observe) laws everyday made by people (on both sides of every issue) who decide what we can and can’t see/do/say/whatever based on what they consider “wrong”. There’s always someone who’s gonna disagree with a law. But you either have to decide to draw a line (whether it be regarding this or any other issue) and say, “This is the way it’s gonna be.”, or you have to decide that there will be no lines. At some point… *somebody’s* gotta make the call. And, in this country, if you don’t like the calls that are being made, vote someone else into office who’ll make the call that you agree with. (Just keep in mind that there will be plenty of people who disagree with the calls they make too.)


Carlo (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: hrmm...

There’s a significant difference between illegal and indecent content. What’s illegal is judged by established standards, while what’s indecent is judged by regulators’ personal opinion. What the FCC is choosing to enforce is merely what it sees as indecent, not what laws and courts have determined is illegal for broadcast. So telling people to ignore content they might find offensive isn’t the same thing as giving anyone free license to broadcast anything they want.

And you’re right, somebody does have to make the call — but these moral decisions are, in most cases, best made by individuals, rather than being dictated by the government.

Theoden says:

Re: Re: Re: hrmm...

Changing the channel and drawing a line are not mutually exclusive. Since there are people who find things offensive that maight not cross the line (if it is ever drawn), their choice is to change the channel. It does not mean that anything and everything should be allowed on TV, but the burden of deciding what will and will not come into my house should rest with ME, not some vocal minority.

“And the idea that your kids would never disobey you is quite incredulous.”

I never said that they would never disobey – that is part of being a kid, as you said. But with a little bit of an idea as to why they are being restricted, kids will have a chance to make up their own minds about things when they DO disobey.

My parents didn’t let my sisters and me watch the Three Stooges because they felt that we were too likely to try some of the stunts they did and end up hurting ourselves. When we got to an age where we could understand that the stunts were just that, we were allowed to watch their shows. But for my parents to have taken it upon themselves to try to ban the Stooges from the airwaves would have been taking things too far.

We all have to make decisions about what we will and will not accept. If my ideas are different than yours about what is acceptable, there should be a common ground where we can agree. When enough people agree that there is a boundary, then the line can be drawn and we can accept the fact that some of what we MIGHT see or hear will be something we would rather not be exposed to.

That is when we need to learn to change the channel.

Monarch says:

Re: hrmm...

Because if the parent has half a brain, the parent can either..,

a) Cancel Cable TV or Satellite TV

b) Use the channel restrictions that come with the Cable to Sattellite Box

c) Use the smart restrictions encoded in every TV set made in the last decade or so.

d) remove all antenae or cable connections from the premises or HOW BOUGHT remove the DAMN TV entirely from the premises!

Chief Elf (profile) says:

Hrmm... by Monarch

Monarch, when taking those tests where you read an article and then have to choose the main point of the article, did you ever get one of those right?

WATYF’s main point is, to repeat yet again, “you either need to draw a line and enforce it, or don’t bother drawing one at all. ‘Change the channel’ is the same as ‘don’t bother drawing a line’.”

Bob says:

A safe place to play

While I agree the FCC seems to lack consistency, I think the broadcast networks should be held to a certain standard. I’m referring to those channels that are “free” in that I can pick them up without a cable connection – ad supported stations like CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc. If I understand correctly (and I trust I will be corrected quickly if I don’t), the FCC fines in question have been levied against broadcast networks in regards to the decency of their prime-time content. While the fines may or may not be out of proportion, the fact that the content is regulated is perfectly justifiable.

If “it takes a village to raise a child,” then the village shares some responsibility for what’s provided to children. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to provide a safe place for my children to play, say, a public park. So I sit in the park and watch the kids play. If I find someone distributing porn on the playground, I’m going to report them to the police. That’s my job. There are zoning laws that regulate where porn belongs; let it be found there by those who seek it. Granted, if it’s just objectionable language, I’m going to take it up with those who spoke it, not run straight to the police — each infraction to its appropriate response.

As to those “family-friendly” pressure groups: if someone taps me on the shoulder, points out the porn distributor, allows me to verify that the person really is distributing and then says, “I’ve called the police day after day about this, but no one responds,” then suggests that if more people call, the police might take them seriously, I would agree. If they then offered the use of their cell phone and the speed dial number, I’d consider that a public service.

Bear in mind: the First Amendment may guarantee free speech, but not a public forum nor a captive audience.

anonymous Coward says:

The same ones complaining about the content on the air are the same ones that are too lazy to watch their own children. Bet the don’t even know what their children watched last night. No they are not consistent. I have watched shows that I felt were a bit too much for prime time television. But I have watched shows that shouldn’t of been aired afternoons, much less day time. Don’t stop us from watching the shows unless you plan to clean up the major free networks of all their smut. This includes the day time shows. Leave the pay stations alone. We pay for that smut.

Junyo says:

While I’d agree that usually parents have a simple expedient in the remote control, that’s not always the case. The simple fact is “change the channel” fails when broadcasters or performers go for shock value and insert unsuitable contents into performances (a la the Great Super Bowl Nipple Incident). Just as all of the non-Taliban (Yeah, there’s such an analog between a Baptist that wants to control what comes out of the TV and a real Taliban, who would gladly stone your teenage daughter to death for such moral outrages as daring to show her ankles in public or driving a car. And people wonder why no one takes liberals seriously.) believe in the right to see whatever they wish, other’s believe that they shouldn’t be forced to watch material they find inappropriate. It’s a simple question of choice, and not having others choices imposed upon you. Otherwise, all you’re doing is saying that your imposition of no choice is better somehow than someone else’s personal choice. Therefore broadcasters do have some responsibility to allow viewers to make informed decisions about whether a show is suitable, or to insure that once data is distributed about content, that content is what actually appears. If regulation/fines aren’t the answer, fine; then what is?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The only morality question surrounding telivision is “Is watching television a moral act?”

Television– you’re sitting on your ass looking at pictures of strangers– shouldn’t you be doing something worthwhile?

As for the Great Super Bowl Nipple Incident– I watched that superbowl– it was the first for me in at least fifteen years. The room was half-full of 30-40 somethings and half full of toddlers. NO ONE watched the half time show.

I can distinctly remember half-time starting and everyone getting up and wandering to the dining room to get more food/drink.

It was several weeks before I realized that Kid Rock was not a former Beastie Boy.

The only people offended by the nipple slip are the sad fucks who watched the halftime show.

Life is full of surprises. If you are so surprised by something that comes over the airwaves as entertainment that you have to write an angry letter to someone you are probably a worthless individual that would be better off stopping the anti-depressants and just offing yourself.

Seriously. Go to your nearest good university (this may require a trip outiside of South Carolina) and see some performance art. You will get no warning before the show that the giant dyke is going to end up naked and covered with blood talking about her pussy farts (actually happend to me). You can take it as it is– laugh, dismiss it, or be disgusted. But don’t write the FCC you passive-aggressive loser.

What’s next? You complain to the DMV when you see an old bicyclist die of heart failure on the side of the road or you see a loose dog get exploded by a truck? Do you complain to the cops when the guy they’re chasing jumps through a glass door and gets shredded? I’ve seen all those things. They were experiences. They were valuable– they were my life. They were not nits to be picked. Life is invariably fatal, and it involves a lot of sex and violence. If yours doesn’t, you are probably already dead.

If anything, you should complain to the broadcasters that there is not *more* to challenge and digust and arouse and enrage and amuse you. Or do you prefer tripe?

And no Junyo, there is not so much a difference between people who would cover a nipple and who would cover an ankle– it’s just flesh. Does a cat’s tight little bounces-when-it-meows anus entice you into beastiality? If not, then why should an intangible’s stranger’s image on the television effect you? You could actually grab the cat and duct tape it’s claws so it couldn’t defend itself while you sodomized it (this works!– I’ve heard), but that woman on the television, first you’d have to find out who she is and where she lives… and since you’re spending a lot of time watching tv, you are not likely to take any action.

Ben says:

Religion and Media Control

I am firm believer in God and the Bible, but before you ignore me and skip to the next message, just give me a sec. People who say they are christians simply are not reading their own textbooks when they desire laws to regulate what runs over the airwaves. It is not their place to attempt to control the viewing habits OR ANY OTHER part of another persons life — but nevertheless, that is what they do. I can understand some basic oppositions to indecent content on the airwaves: I (personally) don’t think porn should be viewable by any TV with an antenna and things such as that. Not because I wish to keep everyone from seeing it — but because I would prefer (and it is simply *my* preference) that my kids not be too easily exposed to that sort of thing. What my kids see is something I cannot have total control of (no matter how ANYTHING is regulated) — I can only try to protect them and teach them.

Do I think that TV content is over-regulated? Absolutely. It is easy to teach your children what you *believe* is not proper behaviour (as well as why) and show them through your choices. Ultimately — they will come to believe that you as a parent were right or wrong.

Terribly graphic sex, and the most graphic hardcore violence available is something I don’t wish my children to come across and then become confused about what they do believe — but worst of all I sometimes worry if that could leave psychological scars on them. But those are just my kids — other people are totally free to choose what they allow or encourage their children to watch — I have been taught that I am not thier ultimate judge and therefor I am not to judge them.

Wow. Leave it to “religion” to stir up/create these kinds of problems. I do not belong to any religion, I’m just a Christian. I pray often for Christ to save me from his “fanatic” followers. Sorry for the long post folks.

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