January 28, 2004

MIM commends FCC for enforcing broadcast indecency law against Clear Channel Communications


NEW YORK (January 28, 2004) — Yesterday, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability against several subsidiaries of Clear Channel Communications for apparently airing indecent material over several broadcast stations during several days. The forfeiture is the highest ever proposed against a broadcast licensee.  In response, Clear Channel issued a release calling on the FCC to “convene an industry-wide ‘Local Values Force’ to develop indecency guidelines.”

Robert Peters, president of MIM, had the following comments:

“The FCC is to be commended for this latest indication that violators of the broadcast indecency law will no longer be able to treat violations as a readily affordable ‘cost of doing business.’ Last fall, in a Notice of Apparent Liability issued against Infinity Broadcasting for apparently airing indecent programming in connection with the ‘Opie and Anthony Show,’ the Commission indicated that it will, in appropriate cases, commence license revocation proceedings.

“The argument that a restriction on indecent language in broadcasting undermines the First Amendment is just plain nonsense. As Supreme Court Justice Stevens noted in FCC v. Pacifica, 438 U.S 726, at 743, n.18 (1978):

‘A requirement that indecent language be avoided will have its primary effect on the form, rather than content, of serious communication. There are few, if any, thoughts that cannot be expressed by the use of less offensive language.’

“I would add that indecent language is also prohibited on the floor of Congress, where more speech at the core of First Amendment concern takes place than almost anywhere else.

“Were the FCC to heed Clear Channel’s call to convene an ‘industry-wide task force,’ the result would in all likelihood be an indecency ‘standard’ that would provide about as much protection for the public—and children in particular—as the next-to-worthless TV ratings, which were developed by a self-serving TV industry and MPAA.

“If the ‘industry’ means business, let ‘the industry’ sit down and adopt a sound voluntary code, which will take into account, among other things, the content of communication (e.g., serious v. trash talk), the time of day when published, and the nature of the medium—e.g., basic cable v. subscription channel. The best way to reduce government is to reduce the need for it.”

Author: MIM   01/28/2004

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