Thursday, December 21, 2006

What The #@$!!

A lawyer for Fox (I’ll try to forego the snark, but I’ll probably fail) argued recently in a federal appeals court that the FCC’s rules on profanity (re: indecency) are unfair (and remember that, according to the Supreme Court, there is a legal difference between indecency and obscenity).

I would be heartened about this development except for the fact that it arises from grievances on the part of Cher and Nicole Richie from their words on the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards programs broadcast on Fox. The network is unhappy because the words for which they were fined were also used in the broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan” (or so they allege).

I along with most other human beings with a pulse can recognize the very different contexts between a film about World War II and a television show featuring fatuous celebrity self-indulgence, but I was still concerned when government lawyer Eric Miller said that C-SPAN, the network broadcasting the legal proceeding in which the words of Cher and Richie were quoted in open court, would not be fined because a news broadcast would not be intended "to pander or titillate."

This is typical of Bushco’s nanny-state mentality on these matters (and I know from whence I speak on this a bit as a resident of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania).

I mean, suppose we have C-SPAN on as we often do and the young one happens to wander into the room in search of whatever new Bionicle creation he has concocted. At that moment, the lawyer for Fox happens to quote Cher or Richie and the young one hears it and repeats it at school the next day.

I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I’m saying. I just think it’s more than a little funny that the network mouthpiece for the Republican Party is actually in a position now where they’re complaining about the policies of the regime that they support and helped to install.

And I thought these comments were instructive from Bruce Fein, found in the Moonie Times of all places.

Five commissioners in Washington, D.C., however, have but the faintest idea of what passes for patent offensiveness outside their own parochial experiences. They make indecency rulings more by visceral reaction and political calculation than by evenhanded and predictable standards. The commission's wildly inexact definition smacks of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's befuddlement in seeking to define obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964): "I know it when I see it."

That definitional elusiveness invites discriminatory enforcement by the commission to retaliate against political opponents or adversaries. Media owners who support the president or commission policies will be treated with kid gloves. In contrast, the government's detractors will be required to incur enormous legal fees and suffer damage to reputation in fending off trivial indecency allegations. The free marketplace of ideas will be chilled and the media's constitutional role to scrutinize and scold government will be crippled.
And as the story notes, Fein was former FCC general counsel under Reagan.

Well, if the fines get lowered against Fox for the outbursts of Cher and Richie, it can only help in what may yet emerge as the next battle in this “war” (perhaps a silly way to describe it), and that is the one led by nutjobs like Ted Stevens to limit Internet “indecency.”

God, what bullshit :- ).

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