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FCC is warned about the side effects of indecency policies

May 7, 2004

Broadcasters are now joining other critics of the FCC’s hard-line indecency initiative in warning that the crackdown is going to affect the quality of over-the-air programming.

In a filing with the FCC, CBS affiliates say that unless the commission changes its prohibition of on-air profanities, many stations will have to stop doing news outside of the 10 p.m. — 6 a.m. safe harbor for indecent speech. The CBS stations warned there would be an end to many morning and afternoon newscasts.

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“Live newsgathering outside of the safe harbor will be a risk that many licensees can’t take,” the affiliates wrote the FCC. "The indecency crackdown will fundamentally alter the manner in which local broadcasters engage in newsgathering.”

Public stations also argued that the FCC’s decision has caused them to significantly self-censor their broadcast content for the first time. The American Association of Public Television Stations wrote the FCC that its producers are now engaging in “significant self-censorship out of fear of government penalty.”

The stations argued that their category of programs requires a faithfulness to the sometimes painful reality of the subjects on which they report in news, science and documentary programming. "Our commitment to ensuring that our programming is tasteful and not offensive must not prevent our programming from achieving its core mission of educating and enlightening,” the stations said.

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