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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  1. identicon
    Bob, 19 May 2006 @ 1:56pm

    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.

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