I’m behind on commenting on this, but I was quite pleased at the smackdown handed to the FCC in its indecency ruling against Fox. It’s nice to see that fighting back against Constitutional abuses can succeed. (I’m assuming the Supreme Court won’t reverse the decision.) The court’s arguments throughout the last thirty years have been absurd, despite the limited and “public” nature of broadcasting at the time of Pacifica. With the rise of cable and the Internet, among other sources of entertainment, government meddling in content is simply unacceptable. The First Amendment says what it says.
What’s most useful to read into the decision is the reaction.
“I’m disappointed in the court’s ruling,” FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said in an interview. “I think the commission had done the right thing in trying to protect families from that kind of language, and I think it’s unfortunate that the court in New York has said that this kind of language is appropriate on TV.”
It’s his job to “protect families”. The government should not be in the nannying business. And notice his obfuscation of the ruling. The court did not rule that swear words are “appropriate” on television, only that the FCC went too far in the way it applied it its vague, unclear rules in the case at hand. It said the FCC’s behavior was inappropriate. The decision of what’s “appropriate” on television is up to broadcasters and viewers. The free market can decide, as it’s already doing on cable. There are more than enough channels offering a wide-range of programming, along with the technology to block anything unwanted.
The Parents Television Council, which has sent hundreds of thousands of indecency complaints to the FCC in recent years [ed. note: many of them form letter duplicates from people who never saw what they complained about], criticized the ruling. The group’s president, Tim Winter, said in a statement that “a court in New York City has cleared the way for television networks to use the f-word and s-word in front of children at any time of the day.”
A court in New York City didn’t do that. “Blame” the framers of our Constitution. It also bears repeating here that, while the way is allegedly cleared, market demands will still restrain what shows up on television. Maybe the Parents Television Council could divert some of its attention from bombarding the government with pleas for force to networks with declarations that “indecent” programming will be met with the “Off” button on the television.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps warned in a statement, “any broadcaster who sees this decision as a green light to send more gratuitous sex and violence into our homes would be making a huge mistake.”
I would love to come up with something witty, but I’ll point to Jesse Walker’s reaction:
In real life, Michael Copps has five children. In his mind, he has 83 million.
I might even up that fantasy to 300 million.