US Media Watchdog's Decency Standards Challenged

05 December 2006

NEW YORK: The moral guardian of new puritanism in US broadcasting, the Federal Communications Commission has found itself under legal fire from the nation's creative community and civil libertarians over its decency standards.

The Director's Guild of America, the Screen Actors' Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, have asked an appeal court to overturn an FCC ruling issued this year that imposed new standards for censoring indecency and profanity.

The appellants argue that the commission's "efforts to regulate in this area have proven to be constitutionally unworkable."

The groups told the court they "understand that the public, particularly parents, have legitimate concerns about the broadcasting of programming that is not appropriate for children".

"However, we do not believe the answer lies in the FCC's decision to expand its authority in a way that opens all programming to arbitrary and open-ended decision making."

The FCC has been criticized for changing a long-standing policy that held broadcasters blameless for the unplanned utterance of individual words.

The change was prompted by rock singer Bono's slip of the tongue at an awards show broadcast in 2004.

A former commissioner Glen Robinson has added his voice to the FCC's opponents, telling the appeal court he believes the commission has overstepped the mark and has launched a "censorship crusade that will put a chill on all but the blandest of program fare".

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