07.17.2006 11:50 AM
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
FCC continues aggressive indecency campaign

In what appears destined for a courtroom showdown, the FCC's broadcast indecency campaign continues in high gear. The commission has now requested numerous recordings from broadcasters that might include cursing by coaches, athletes and fans at live sporting events.

Reuters reported that the FCC targeted live broadcasts of football games and NASCAR races where the participants or the crowds may have used prohibited language. One unidentified broadcast executive told the news agency that the FCC had asked for 30 tapes of live sports and news programs.

“It looks like they want to end live broadcast TV,” the executive told Reuters. “We already know that they aren't afraid to go after news.”

Under new FCC rules approved in 2004, virtually any use of certain expletives is considered profane and indecent, even if it is a slip of the tongue, Reuters said.

Meanwhile, broadcasters have split over whether the commission should be allowed to remand cases back from a federal appeals court in New York. FOX and its affiliate group, CBS and NBC have opposed an attempt by the FCC to rehear several indecency cases after admitting it made errors in deciding them last March.

The broadcasters — who believe the FCC has overstepped its authority — want the stiff fines in front of a court as soon as possible.

“The commission's motion is a transparent attempt to continue its practice of shielding its new indecency enforcement regime from judicial review despite the persistent chilling effect the new regime is having on broadcasters' First Amendment rights,” FOX attorneys told the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

At issue are broadcasts that include the “2002 Billboard Music Awards” on FOX, “The Early Show” on CBS and “NYPD Blue” on ABC.

Attorneys for CBS argued that the courts “routinely deny” motions like that of the FCC when they are “filed for tactical reasons or to evade review, or where delaying judicial proceedings would serve no purpose.”

The network argued that imposing the new rules would put them at risk if, for example, a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan uttered a bad word during a broadcast.

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