Media Groups Want FCC Ruling Reversed

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON – Following the Federal Communications Commission tough stance on indecency, certain members of the media including Fox Entertainment Group, Viacom, Radio One, and People for the American Way have asked the agency to reconsider a recent ruling that they feel creates a "chilling effect" on their industry and stifles free speech.

A petition filed early this week with the FCC comes on the heels of major policy changes that not only increase the indecency fine from $27,500 to $275,000 per infraction, but that will also include a list of certain words that will be permanently banned from the airwaves. The FCC has also begun issuing fines on a per-violation basis, as opposed to fining broadcasters per show or program.

The FCC is also considering levying additional fines against the performers who violate indecency laws over the airwaves.

The spark that drew the flame came in March of this year when the FCC reversed an earlier ruling regarding the use of the f-word by U2 front man Bono at a live tapping of the Golden Globes.

The FCC originally decided that Bono's use of the expletive was not an act of indecency given the context. However, under intense pressure from family advocacy groups like the Parents’ Television Council, the FCC reversed the ruling, setting a precedent for other media outlets in terms of the use of "indecent" words.

But a group of broadcasters, unions, and performers have filed a petition with the FCC asking it to change the ruling based on its potentially dire financial consequences for media companies and performers. The petitioners are asking the FCC to reconsider its approach to regulating broadcast indecency as well as its profanity standards.

The petitioners are also calling the FCC ruling "unconstitutional" because of its adverse affect on performers.

"The Commission's decision that the isolated use of an unplanned and unscripted expletive is both 'indecent' and 'profane' represents an unconstitutional expansion of the government's intrusion into broadcast content," the petition stated.

Among the media figures calling on the FCC to loosen its indecency standards are Penn & Teller and comedienne Margaret Cho.

According to reports, the petition will be reviewed by the FCC's enforcement division and will then be presented to the FCC commissioners for a vote.