US Media Watchdog Progresses Broadcast Indecency Law

24 July 2007

WASHINGTON DC: The ongoing armwrestling between US broadcasters and the 'new puritans' who want to curb indecent output on television and radio, has taken an interesting turn with the approval of legislation that allows media watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission, to penalise fleeting profanities.

The Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act was passed by Congress on Thursday with barely a murmur of opposition.

The proposed law attempts to overturn a decision last summer by a New York appeal court which threw out the FCC regulation that a fleeting expletive can incur an indecency fine for broadcasters.

At the time, appeal judges ruled the FCC had not adequately, or constitutionally, explained its retrospective censure of several Fox Television programs and ordered it to rework its regulations. It called the commission's policy on fleeting expletives "arbitrary and capricious".

The FCC welcomes the new bill. Says chairman Kevin Martin: "Significantly, members of Congress stated once again what we on the commission and every parent already knows: even a single word or image can indeed be indecent."

The reception from the National Association of Broadcasters is distinctly cooler. Ripostes NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton: "This bill is premised on the completely false notion that broadcasters are clamoring to air 'f-bombs' and 's-words.

"Stations go to great lengths to prevent such language, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise."

The bill now goes forward for approval by the Senate.

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff