ACTION: Questions for Senate Commerce Committee for FCC Picks

Posted by Morality in Media | June 12, 2013
Pic_FCC_ObamaandWheeler

CONTACT SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE AND REQUEST THEY SECURE A COMMITMENT FROM FCC CHAIRMAN NOMINEE TOM WHEELER TO ENFORCE BROADCAST DECENCY STANDARDS.

You can find the members of the committee here. You can call each at 202-224-3121.

BELOW ARE POSSIBLE QUESTIONS YOU CAN SUGGEST.

 

Background:

The FCC’s standard of decency enforcement was the subject of two U. S. Supreme Court decisions since 2009, the latest decided June 21, 2012, FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 2307, 2317–18 (2012).   In that decision, the high court invalidated FCC enforcement actions for lack of proper notice but it refused to overturn it’s previous ruling in FCC v. Pacifica, 438 U. S. 726 in 1978, which upheld the FCC’s power to regulate indecent broadcasts under the federal indecency law, Title 18 U. S. Code Section 1464.  There has been no doubt since that decision that the networks have proper notice of the FCC’s enforcement authority and its standard of enforcement, which includes even fleeting expletives and any incidences of indecency. 

The U. S. Senate Commerce Committee will begin hearings on President Obama’s nomination for the new FCC Chairman next Tuesday, June 18. The man nominated is Tom Wheeler who has no track record on TV decency so I fear he will be no different than Genachowski. Contact the members of the Senate Commerce Committee NOW and tell them to grille Wheeler on whether he will vigorously enforce the federal decency law under the current standard (not the proposed one). You can find the members of the committee here. You can call each at 202-224-3121. If you get a positive response from any committee members and they agree to question Wheeler on decency enforcement, you can feel free to pass along the attached suggested questions for them to ask.

Questions:

1.) The underlying federal criminal statute that prohibits indecency on the public airwaves is found at Title 18 U. S. Code Section 1464.  Have you read this law?

(“Whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”)

 

2.) Are you familiar with the FCC’s working definition of the term “indecent”?

(“Language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”)

 

3.) Do you think there should be a time during the day when indecent or profane programming should be prohibited on broadcast TV?

 

4.) The FCC is the guardian of decency on the public airwaves yet it has not brought an enforcement action against any program in more than four years.  Do you think the FCC is doing a good job on this?

 

5.) In response to its request for public comments on a proposed weakening of decency enforcement standards, nearly 100,000 Americans submitted comments recently opposing such changes.  Only a handful of comments supporting the weakened standard were received.  What message would you draw from this?

 

6.) Under the standard proposed by the FCC, the agency would not enforce the federal decency law when the violation is a so-called “fleeting expletive” or isolate incident of so-called “non-sexual” nudity during hours when children are expected to be in the audience, between 6 AM and 10 PM.  If the FCC were to announce that such a standard would prevail at the FCC, what signal do you think this would send to broadcasters and wouldn’t you expect to see more fleeting expletives and more nudity on broadcast TV?

 

7.) The FCC’s decency enforcement standard, articulated in 2004, was challenged in court by the networks and it was eight years before the Supreme Court in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 2307, 2317–18 (2012) finally settled that the standard is sound.  Don’t you believe it is unwise for the FCC to propose a new standard now, which would be challenged for years in the courts?

 

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