Manassas, VA – Today, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) filed Comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to improve and tighten its current indecency regulations for broadcasters. After two Supreme Court decisions dealing with the FCC’s rules against over-the-air smut, with NRB filing legal briefs in both, the Commission has sought public comment on its suggestion that it should now crack down only on the most “egregious” cases of indecency.
NRB disagrees with that approach. Craig Parshall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for NRB, wrote in the Comments that “a diminishing of the civility and decency of discourse and imagery during children’s viewing hours will diminish families, children, and our culture, and will impair the public interest.”
Dr. Frank Wright, President & CEO of NRB, notes: “Families with children need a media safe harbor. From the standpoint of protecting children, there are already many dangers permitted in broadcast programs and ads. It would be egregious for the FCC to lower its standards more.”
Parshall describes NRB’s suggested rule changes this way: “We believe that the rules should be enforced against all indecency between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., not just the most outrageous kind. Our children are worth protecting, and that notion has been made clear by the Supreme Court. At the same time, we are urging the FCC to establish two narrow, very limited exceptions that will help fend off First Amendment challenges: first, a ‘live news’ exception, which would cover a ‘spontaneous utterance’ of profanity as happened when stations covered a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park, and Red Sox player David Ortiz used a four-letter word when referring to the recent Boston Marathon bombing.”
NRB is also proposing a second exception for fleeting offensiveness when it appears during a broadcast that has "serious artistic, literary, social, political, or scientific value for children," but only if the broadcaster gives adequate warnings and it can also show little chance that children for whom the program would not be age-appropriate might be in the listening or viewing audience. This would help to clarify past FCC rulings in these areas.
“While our proposal could permit an image of unclothed bodies in a concentration camp as part of a World War II documentary intended for older teens and adults, or the strong language used in the Saving Private Ryan-type situation,” Parshall adds, “this exception would not excuse broadcasters airing a live rock music program during the proscribed hours hosted by a celebrity for whom profanity is practically a second language. That latter case shouldn’t pass the ‘serious value’ test.”
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