Fear of U.S. regulators drives self-censorship

Jacques Steinberg makes a connection between corporations intent on staying in the good graces of a U.S. Federal Communications Commission. saying they have little choice but to practice a form of self-censorship, the FCC and Congress have put them on notice that even the unintentional broadcast of something that could be considered indecent or obscene could result in stiffer fines or even the revocation of their licenses. Shows from Rush Limbaugh, to PBS are being affected. The Real Price of Censorship says The problem with trying to regulate speech is that once started there's no place to stop. One More Article on a $3 Million lawsuit between a D.J. and Citizens for Community Values of Illinois.

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Censorship

Let's step out of the box for a minute. How do the super bowl event, Howard Stern, and self-censorship all relate? Censorship is historically related to the suppression of ideas and a totaliterian environment. The protection of tasteless and offensive materials exists but that does not mean it has to be in our face. Howard Stern pushes the envelop and I can choose to not listen or watch, but the raunchy bawdy materials do set trends and styles and even mores. Isn't it the right of every American to live free. Freedom of expression to promote pornographic like materials does impact even on those who choose not to watch. Many of these ideas find themselves in advertising in magazines, busses, and train stations and airports. I think it is a poor comparison to bemoan those who wish to spread tasteless and offensive materials to those who spread ideas of freedom, democracy, and moral character. Howard Stern is not Tom Paine.

Re:Censorship

What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.

- Salman Rushdie, quoted in Library Juice 7(10), May 14, 2004

Re:Censorship

Oh, I don't know. Censorship doesn't have to come from a totalitarian environment. This is censorship because it is coming from the government.


I think the big thing is that the courts have decided that the public airwaves (broadcast radio and broadcast television) can be regulated by Congress which has delegated the power to the FCC. Broadcast television and radio are unlike cable television, which has shows that show and say more.

Botom line, the FCC can and does regulate content on broadcast television and radio because those are public airwaves.

Re:Censorship

You are correct censorship doesn't have to be totaliterian. Perhaps my example was too drastic. At any rate, it seems that the problem is that in the PC world censorship has become a bad word.
In answer to the Rushdie comment, there has to be some middle ground and moral judgement. To say that freedom of expression dies if we don't offend is a ticket for creating an atmosphere of disrespect and lack of consideration of other people's sensitivities. There is offending and there is offending. Does it depend on whose ox is gored.

Re:Censorship

Botom line, the FCC can and does regulate content on broadcast television and radio because those are public airwaves.

Actually, no, the FCC cannot regulate content. It can, however, regulate material under the reasonable time, place, or manner restriction of the Safe Harbor provision. If something broadcast over the air is not appropriate for younger viewers, the FCC can say that it has to be broadcast between 2200 and 0600. They can fine a station for violating the Safe Harbor provision. They cannot stop a station from airing anything, however. At least not legally. They already tried it and the U.S. Supreme Court told them were forbidden to, but that such material could be reasonably restricted to hours when children were least likely to be watching, and hence the safe harbor was created.

How do these things relate?

How do the super bowl event, Howard Stern, and self-censorship all relate?The answer is right there:The connection is between corporations intent on staying in the good graces of a U.S. Federal Communications Commission. By saying they have little choice but to practice a form of self-censorship, the FCC and Congress have put them on notice that even the unintentional broadcast of something that could be considered indecent or obscene could result in stiffer fines or even the revocation of their licenses. They then adjust what they can say based on people appointed by the current admistration, they are then worried about offending the current administration.Step out of the box for a minute and imagine Hilary Clinton is in the White House and has appointed Roger Moore to head the FCC, would you want every business that needs the FCC to operate to answer to Moore? You think they would draw the line where you want it?It shouldn't matter which side you're on here, you should be able to see why this is a bad idea, regardless of who is in the White House. Media needs to operate independantly from the White House, it's the FIRST Amendment for a reason, even back then they could see what troubles will come of it. The line for free speach needs to stay unmoved.

HA! I meant Michael

Doh! I meant Michael Moore of course, not Roger Moore. Probably nothing wrong with James Bond runing things in Washington.

Re:Censorship

If something broadcast over the air is not appropriate for younger viewers, the FCC can say that it has to be broadcast between 2200 and 0600.

I agree with your analysis; however, this is not a content-neutral restriction. If it is inappropriate for children then isn't that a content-based decision? I think the Supreme Court stated in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation that the FCC could regulate content (indecent materials which is more constitutionally protected than obscene material) by requiring a time restriction.

As I recall, time, place and manner restrictions are traditionally viewed as content-neutral. For example, a time restriction is limiting someone from expressing their views via loudspeaker at 2:00 am. A manner restriction is preventing someone from turning up the loudspeakers to "eleven". A place restriction is you can't go marching into the mayor's office or you have to get a permit to march in the park (regardless of the reason for your march or protest).

You could view it as a hybrid, content-based restriction mixed with a time, place and manner restriction.

Re:HA! I meant Michael

Probably nothing wrong with James Bond runing things in Washington.


You mean he's not?!?

Re:Censorship

They can fine a station for violating the Safe Harbor provision. They cannot stop a station from airing anything...

Sure, the First Amendment has a presumption against prior restraint.

Once it is said, then they may be subject to the wrath of the FCC. We can agree that fining someone is regulating someone.

Oh, it's full of nasty habits ...

And how, pray tell, do a classic rock station playing a 30-year-old Elton John hit and Rush Limbaugh saying "damn" promote "pornographic like materials"? The point of the linked articles is that some media companies are going way overboard in yanking content to avoid the risk of being fined under unclear government regulations.

On the other hand, banning Elton's '80s and '90s songs from the airwaves might not be a bad idea.

Re:Oh, it's full of nasty habits ...

"On the other hand, banning Elton's '80s and '90s songs from the airwaves might not be a bad idea."While I know you're being funny there, you're also making a good point:Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's no good for anyone.

Re:Censorship

I agree with your analysis; however, this is not a content-neutral restriction.

You make a very fine point here.

The keyword is "reasonable", though. Also, I don't think we are using the term "regulate" in quite the same fashion. Generally, when I think of the term I equate it with "rules of use". The FCC can't dictate how a producer can use indecent material, only that such material be scheduled during the safe harbor. Most likely just a nit-picky point.

Re:Censorship

I think you miss the distinctions among ideas that offend, indecency, and obscenity.

I'm sure my ideas offend Castro, but I am neither obscene or indecent. Of course Castro does not offer me freedom of expression.

2 Portland DJ's make light of American's murder

A recent article noted that two Portland area DJ's played an audio tape of Nick Berg's beheading, provided a 'play by play' and then made jokes about it.


Too bad they didn't censor themselves.

http://www.nbc10.com/news/3306574/detail.html

Re:2 Portland DJ's make light of American's murder

There has been much discussion about freedom of expression. Is spoofing a heinous crime freedom of expression? What about other people's feelings about the tragedy. A person can either be for or against the war but that does not impact on this terrible murder. What about yelling fire in a crowded theatre? Having rules and guidlines does not have to compromise freedom of expression, however poor taste on a terrible family and national tragedy is not expression it is vile. Did anyone spoof the twin towers?

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