Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FCC Fleeting expletives decision upheld

A couple of weeks ago the Supremes delivered one of their more dismaying decisions. As this Register editorial explains, they upheld the decision by the Federal Communications Commission to ban what are called fleeting expletives, nasty words (as defined by the FCC) that occur accidentally (at least as far as the producers are concerned) in live broadcasts rather than in a scripted piece. Stupid decision, one that shows a proclivity by some conservatives to be censors despite the First Amendment.

To be sure, the Supremes stayed away from the First Amendment, deciding the case on the narrow technicality that the FCC had issued sufficient justification for changing its policy from one in which fleeting expetives were ignored. However, as I daresay the Register was the only newspaper to point out, the problem is deeper, going to the very existence of an FCC in a country with a First Amendment. They talked about the need to regulate access to the spectrum back in 1934 to get their noses under the tent and start regulating content, but that issue was mostly phony and the content regulation is utterly unjustified. Electronic media are the press with new technology, and the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law" restricting freedom of the press. The FCC should be abolished yesterday.

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