Indecency on Television

Should the FCC crack down or give up?


The protracted legal fight over broadcast indecency is continuing after the Supreme Court wiped out penalties against three TV networks but left the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Commission's policy unresolved. Now, the FCC faces pressures from broadcasters and free-speech advocates on one side and anti-indecency groups on the other over how to deal with a backlog of 1.5 million pending complaints about sex and vulgarity on radio and television. Federal law prohibits obscenity, indecency or profanity on broadcast channels, though not on cable or satellite systems. The FCC tightened its policy in recent years to prohibit even a “fleeting” use of the F- or S-word and began imposing costly penalties against stations in indecency cases. Broadcasters say the policy limits their ability to compete ...

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