• The FCC: Tool of Those It’s Supposed to Regulate?

    by  • April 3, 2013 • Broadcast Decency • 0 Comments

    On April 1st, the Federal Communications Commission – the agency charged since 1927 with enforcing the requirement that broadcasters operate “in the public interest” — announced its preference henceforth to ignore the concerns of millions of American citizens, in favor of those of the entertainment cartel.

    Regrettably, this was not an April Fool’s joke. Under the new system, the FCC would investigate only “egregious” indecency violations, ignoring those it considers insufficiently serious. The agency refused to state precisely what would constitute “egregious” indecency – thus giving the FCC far more leeway to dismiss complaints from the public. Already, the government agency claims it has swept aside 70% of the complaints filed by Americans.

    For over a decade, the broadcast networks – Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and CW – have fought against any and all restrictions on indecent content. They pushed an absurd legal distinction, claiming that “fleeting” profanity should not be actionable. But isn’t all profanity – indeed, all verbal speech – by its very nature “fleeting”?  The industry also claimed that a scene of a naked woman standing in front of a little boy was not indecent, and that showing a person’s naked rear end was somehow neither sexual nor excretory.

    fccPlansThe American people own the airwaves. The broadcast networks do not. The American people graciously permit these privately-owned mega-corporations to use a public utility, for free — and the networks make billions of dollars a year in profit by doing so. It is hardly unreasonable for Americans to demand that the networks adhere to certain minimal standards in return.

    But the networks have consistently refused to do so. Every time there is another celebrity using the f-word, or another scene of nudity, or another mishap at the Super Bowl halftime show, the networks respond predictably. They do not apologize, pay a fine, and do their best to ensure it never happens again. Instead, they take the FCC to court, arguing absurdities and dragging cases out for a decade…and all the while, they continue to air ever-more offensive content. By doing so, they “move the goalposts” so that, by the time the case DOES come to trial, they can argue, “But that complaint is obsolete. There’s much more extreme material on television now!”  And there is…because the networks themselves are constantly “pushing the envelope,” dumping more and more explicit content into homes over the airwaves the people own.

    The broadcast networks and entertainment industry have made clear their agenda to deliberately expose all Americans – even children – to as much extreme content as possible, and it is clear they are doing so without apology or regret. In such circumstances, the FCC MUST serve as the American people’s “last line of defense.” Yet, this agency of the federal government has now announced that it would rather be the servile tool of the entertainment cartel, rather than stand up for rights of the American people.

     

     

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    About

    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

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