FCC seeks comment on broadcast indecency policies

The FCC announced April 1 it was seeking comment on whether the full commission should change current broadcast indecency policies or keep them as they are.

In making the announcement, the FCC noted that following the September 2012 FCC vs. FOXTelevision Stations ruling from the Supreme Court, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski directed agency staff to launch a review of the commission’s broadcast indecency policies and enforcement to ensure they are consistent with the First Amendment.

While that review was ongoing, Genachowski directed the FCC Enforcement Bureau to focus its resources devoted to the indecency issue on egregious cases and to clear the backlog of pending indecency cases. To date, the bureau has cleared 70 percent of the 1 million broadcast indecency complaints and continues to investigate egregious indecency cases, the FCC said.

In announcing its latest effort, the commission said it is looking for comment on its overall approach to broadcast indecency. Should it treat isolated expletives in a way that is consistent with its decision in the Pacifica Foundation Memorandum Opinion and Order, in which the agency said that if a complaint focuses solely on use of expletives that “deliberate and repetitive use in a patently offensive manner is a requisite to a finding of indecency”? Or, should it use another standard? The commission also wants to know whether it should treat isolated, non-sexual nudity in the same way that it treats an isolated expletive, or should it treat such an instance differently?

The FCC also is inviting comments on “other aspects of the Commission’s substantive indecency policies.”

The deadline for comments is 30 days after publication of the public notice in the Federal Register; reply comments are due 60 days following that publication date.