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FCC and networks take indecency case to Supreme Court

Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 8:54 am

General Manager/Editor Ron Schott

The United States Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments from television networks and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that could change broadcast television forever.
Since broadcast television started in the 1920’s, the eventually established big three networks of CBS, ABC, and NBC were regulated by the FCC. This meant the networks had to play by the FCC’s rules, most notably  those regarding obscenity, indecency, and profanity.
During the past two weeks, the Supreme Court has been hearing testimony from both FOX and ABC regarding cases where the FCC has fined them for violating a law regarding obscenity, indecency, and profanity.
FOX’s case involved Cher’s expletive on the Billboard Music Awards show in 2002 and ABC’s involved a 2003 NYPD Blue scene with nudity.
A couple of Supreme Court justices noted the FCC’s problem to set up clearly defined rules and their questionable choice to fine in these two cases but do nothing when it comes to movies shown with nudity like “Saving Private Ryan.”
With the advent of cable and satellite television, which are both deregulated, along with the death of the analog signal the past two years, the true definition of a broadcast station is more unclear than ever before.
Along with the FCC’s failure to in detail specifics of its law to an industry looking to push the envelope much more than in the first 50 years of television, some Supreme Court Justices are also questioning the legality of the law in the first place.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elaina Kagan both feel what the FCC has been doing for the past 50-60 years is actually infringing on the First Amendment rights of the broadcast networks.
If they and the major networks get their way, none of us will ever be able to watch a show the same again on the major networks. This could result in a deregulation of the networks, which would essentially allow them to have shows and commercials filled with obscenities, indecencies, and profanities on a level that has never hit the airwaves.
It’s bad enough I have to pause a commercial with my DVR for some movie trailer during a football game or another beer commercial that I don’t want my kids to see. An overruling of the FCC’s law will negatively influence our society like never before and will put our children at risk of being exposed to things that quite frankly they shouldn’t ever be exposed to.
I want to encourage all Vandalia Leader readers to contact their legislators to let their voices be heard on this controversial issue now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Baltimore Ravens
Though I was just frustrated at how my Ravens lost in the AFC Championship game this past weekend, I quickly had a smile on my face thanks to the quick wit of my two sons. Just as soon as Billy Cundiff shanked the field goal to lose the game, my oldest son Isaiah came into the living room pretending to play his small violin with the intention of rubbing in the loss as he doesn’t like the Ravens. My 4-year-old then grabs the violin and sings “The Patriots Win, The Patriots Win.”
Finally, Isaiah asks me if I want him to get a baby bottle for me that we own with the Baltimore Ravens on it. Their sense of humor, which they of course get from their dad, helped me get over the loss rather quickly. Go Ravens!