Media Groups and Libertarians Fight FCC 'Indecency' Rules

21 April 2004

Bedfellows as unlikely as News Corporation, Viacom and the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking the body to reconsider its recently imposed 'indecency' rules.

In all, twenty-four disparate organizations -- among them the largest union representing TV performers, the three Hollywood guilds representing actors, directors and writers, even individual entertainers -- put their names to the document.

NBC filed a separate petition in protest against the FCC's ruling that it had transgressed by airing a single adjectival obscenity (as uttered daily by just about every fifth grade school kid) by the singer Bono during a live awards program.

Depending on the outcome of FCC's review -- and few petitioners believe the decisions will be reversed in the prevailing neo-puritan ambience that currently governs US broadcasting -- the case is likely to be appealed in court on First Amendment grounds.

NBC chairman Robert C Wright said in an interview on Monday that his goal in challenging the FCC decision is "to get some people thinking about this issue." He pointed out that that in its seventy-five year history, NBC has never been fined for any reason.

F William LeBeau, senior regulatory counsel for NBC, called the change signaled by the FCC ruling "sweeping and unprecedented in the annals of First Amendment law."

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff