Media Institute Objects to Senate's 'Indecent' Proposal

A Washington, D.C.-based think tank specializing in First Amendment issues has fired off a letter to Congress, urging legislators to reconsider its proposals on indecency regulations.

The Media Institute was responding to a proposal that emerged from a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing in which committee members expressed interest in expanding the scope of indecency regulation (see Lawmakers Send Decency Dispatch: Self-Regulate or We'll Legislate ) to include not only over-the-air broadcasting, but also programming delivered via cable and satellite.

"Such a move would have serious First Amendment implications and almost certainly be found unconstitutional," the organization said. "Cable and satellite are both pay services invited into the home, and just as easily banished."

The organization added that although the indecency standard itself is constitutionally suspect as "ambiguous," the First Amendment protects some types of indecent speech. "Thus, any extension of indecency regulation to other media would only burden a large amount of additional speech by placing it under an untenable regulatory regimen," the organization.

The Media Institute also asked Congress to re-examine its recent support for legislation that would impose large fines and other penalties on broadcasters that allow indecent material to air.