FCC Hires Law Professor Who Believes Broadcast Indecency Laws Are Unconstitutional

from the that-seems-like-a-good-thing dept

There are many people out there who are greatly troubled by the way the FCC “enforces” efforts against broadcast indecency — with some even questioning whether or not it’s even constitutional for the FCC to act as a public arbiter of indecency. It looks like the FCC has just hired one such person, in the form of Duke telco law professor Stuart Benjamin. Since I consider myself among those who question how indecency fines can fit with a First Amendment, this seems like a good thing — but the reporting on it, at the link above, only focuses on the complaints about this hire. But the complaint comes from the Parents Television Council, whose main claim to fame is flooding the FCC with bogus complaints about “indecent” programming from people who didn’t even see whatever it is they’re complaining about. So you can understand why they might complain. If they lose the ability to create moral panics, it’s harder to keep going.

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Comments on “FCC Hires Law Professor Who Believes Broadcast Indecency Laws Are Unconstitutional”

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32 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I have to say that I think that if it’s on public airwaves it shouldn’t be R rated. Maybe PG 13 at most and even then I’m not sure to what degree cuss words and bad language should make it on public airwaves. It’s one thing if it’s being broadcasted over cable lines, but on public airwaves I think that it should be appropriate for all ages.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

and exactly how different are mars and Venus? They’re both planets. They are both made of matter. Heck, their chemical composites are probably similar. Sure the surface of one is hotter during the day time, so their temperatures are different, but there are many similarities.

and do you really want your child being exposed to the violence in a movie like saving private Ryan at 8 years old or so? I would say there are similarities in what most people would deem appropriate for an 8 year old.

rwahrens (profile) says:

the point

I think Mike is making the point that the government should not be determining the standard of decency. That is a private function for each individual, and the society as a whole – as determined by the market. If people turn off lewd or less than tasteful programs, content providers will stop making those kinds of shows.

More to the point, they will group those kinds of shows with others on channels where they can be viewed by those that like them, while more “decent” shows are grouped with other “decent” shows – where people that don’t like the “indecent” shows can watch stuff they do like.

You know, the free market – where sellers respond to their customers? So, as a customer, vote with your feet – watch stuff you like and turn off stuff you don’t – and keep your kids away from stuff you think is bad for them. There ARE tools for that.

One of those tools is parental authority, and is not easy to learn, but once mastered, is a very effective one. More people should try.

. says:

What is wrong and what is right.

When you decide not to watch something is your choice.
When the government decides you don’t have the right to watch something then its their choice.

Is simple, people want to live in a world were other dictate what is better for them or they would like to live in a world that they can choose a path?

Most people that want this to be passed to the government are opening the door to others things to come down the road it won’t stop with lewd language it will become a weapon of suppression.

ps: The people in favor are probably the ones that can’t stand other peoples choices.

Anonymouse Coward says:

How do I impose my standards on a live event?

I’m all for removing things from the guv’ments greedy paws, but how do I, a concerned parent, censor a “live” event once we remove decency guidelines?

Say I want to sit down with my 13 year-old daughter and watch the AMA awards. Say I don’t feel its appropriate for my 13YO to view simulated sex acts. Or say we are watching the Super Bowl halftime show because dad’s a football nut and I really don’t want her to see Janet Jackson’s pierced nipple (yes, I know in real time you could barely see anything). Once the guidelines are gone, anything will be fair game.

This is not a troll question, but legitimately, how do I as a parent, impose “my” standards on these events when there are no guidelines? Sure I can Tivo them. How many people are going to Tivo every live event? At that point advertising dollars shrink as more “concerned” parents have to Tivo to protect their kids. Once Tivo’d, I’m skipping every commercial there is.

At least with recorded material, I can see the rating before hand and make appropriate choices. Or even set the TV to block inappropriate material.

I’m all for putting choice back in the hands of the consumer, but at least give me some tools to help me where I don’t have to watch every single live event that comes on TV just because my daughter might be in the room!

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: How do I impose my standards on a live event?

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure your 13 year old daughter has seen a nipple.

Also, what happens to a 13 year old girl when she sees “simulated sex acts” that is so harmful? You might have to talk about sex. I know, scary, right? Most middle/high schoolers (as was mentioned above) know a good deal about that subject already. It’s everywhere. You simply *can’t* hide her from it. The only way to protect your child is to arm her with a working brain and the knowledge of potential consequences.

Disclaimer: I have no children at the time of writing this comment. Maybe that will change my mind, but I seriously doubt it.

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: Re: How do I impose my standards on a live event?

Actually, even if you have no kids, you’ve hit the nail right on the head.

The ONLY way to protect kids from inappropriate content is to arm them with values and standards to begin with. Teach them what is right and wrong and WHY it is right or wrong.

Once they get into puberty you’ve lost them anyway if you’ve not done it till now, so trying to keep that inappropriate content away from that 13 year old is like trying to keep a bird from flying.

But if you’ve pre-immunized them by instilling them with values and standards, any such bad content will not matter – they’ll laugh and titter over the funny stuff and roll their eyes and change the channel when they run into stuff they know violates those standards – all by themselves, without your input. They’ll do it of their own volition, too, even if you are not there.

Or if they watch it anyway, it won’t harm them, because they now know better, because you taught them right from wrong.

If you don’t trust that 13 year old by now – its too late and you’ve missed the boat!

The whole point here is – it is YOUR place to set the standards for your family – not the government, because the guys in government that set the rules more than likely will never meet your standards.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: How do I impose my standards on a live event?

That’s just dodging the question. If I don’t want my X-year-old to see/hear A, B, or C*, how do I do that with a live event if there are no broadcast standards? The only answer I can think of is “don’t ever watch live TV with your kids”.

The entertainment industry REALLY doesn’t want that to be the answer, I’m sure, so if the FCC stops regulating this stuff I imagine they’ll come up with a voluntary system.

* it’s my business as a parent what I want my kids to be exposed to, not yours to tell me I have to let them see anything and everything that’s out there

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: How do I impose my standards on a live event?

No, its not. Part of being a parent is watching the TV guide to be certain of what’s being broadcast. That’s YOUR responsibility, not the government!

Of course, content providers will have a voluntary system of ratings, the market, unregulated as to content type, will begin to demand such a system, for just the reason you mention.

It’s easy, and best of all, isn’t an imposed restriction based upon a false sense of some mythical national moral standard, which usually works out to be based upon something cooked up by the religious right.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: How do I impose my standards on a live event?

I’m sorry, maybe I didn’t point out the flaws in that line of thinking bluntly enough. Allow me to elaborate.

how do I do that with a live event if there are no broadcast standards?

Dare I ask, sir or ma’am, how you manage to take your sweet little snowflake outside, into the real world? There could be nipples out there! Oh, the horror! What? You’re only concerned about female nipples? Well, that’s certainly strange. You weren’t too concerned when your child was an infant.

The fact that the infamous nipple occurred in the middle of a sporting even in which large men bash into each other astounds me. No one seemed to care about 2 hours of violence but half a second of a body part *everyone* has and shit hits the fan?? I really don’t understand. No sarcasm, I’m very, very confused. If you have time, please explain.

Even cartoons are violent. Unless Ninjas (Teenage/Mutant or otherwise) have a different job than I thought they did, that’s violence. Where is the moral panic?

Humans are a strange species, for sure.

The bottom line: As you said, the networks will self regulate to keep the an-ounce-of-ignorance-is-worth-a-pound-of-education type parents happy and watching the ads. We really don’t need the government to do it for us.

I, however, know that a boob has never ruined a child, but parent who over-sheltered a child has.

Sorry for the rant.

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