US Broadcast Indecency Probes May Demand Taped Evidence

09 July 2004

Following the US government clampdown on broadcast indecency, it is now considering whether to force broadcasters to keep programme tapes, providing evidence for any future indecency inquiry.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission depends on complaints from concerned members of the public, who must supply a "significant excerpt from the program or a full or partial tape or transcript". If this is absent, the complaint is often dropped.

Michael Copps, a Democrat commissioner who suggested the idea, has been campaigning against broadcast indecency for three years and welcomes the recent government interest.

Although broadcasters are expected to argue that keeping the tapes is just too much red tape, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief David Solomon stresses that such "an accurate factual record" could also act as the broadcaster's defence in certain cases.

It remains to be seen if theory will be put into practice, but a similar law in the 1970s against the Public Broadcasting Services was rejected as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff