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April 28, 2004
The Broadcast Flag vs. Indecency Enforcement
So, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the FCC's indecency enforcement lately, and it just struck me how the broadcast flag will inhibit enforcement of the prohibition on obscene, indecent, or profane depictions on broadcast.
According to the FCC's page for indecency complaints (Obscene, Profane & Indecent Broadcasts), complainants are asked to provide the following:
Information regarding the details of what was actually said (or depicted) during the allegedly indecent, profane or obscene broadcast. There is flexibility on how a complainant may provide this information. The complainant may submit a significant excerpt of the program describing what was actually said (or depicted) or a full or partial recording (e.g., tape) or transcript of the material.
In whatever form the complainant decides to provide the information, it must be sufficiently detailed so the FCC can determine the words and language actually used during the broadcast and the context of those words or language. Subject matter alone is not a determining factor of whether material is obscene, profane, or indecent. For example, stating only that the broadcast station discussed sex or had a disgusting discussion of sex during a program is not sufficient. Moreover, the FCC must know the context when analyzing whether specific, isolated words are indecent or profane. The FCC does not require complainants to provide recordings or transcripts in support of their complaints. Consequently, failure to provide a recording or transcript of a broadcast, in and of itself, will not lead to automatic dismissal or denial of a complaint. [emphasis in original]
Although a recording is not strictly required, obviously it would be very useful to have one when making a complaint. "Did I just hear/see what I thought I heard/saw? Let's go to the tape (or more likely, the hard drive)." However, if copying the broadcast is prohibited (as enforced by the FCC itself), it will be very difficult for average citizens to make recordings to make transcripts and to bolster their complaints about indecency.
I can imagine broadcasters inhibiting copying of "racy" shows in order to reduce the possibility of being fined for indecency violations. Heck, I can imagine broadcasters having "do not record buttons" in place of "bleeping." That way, when someone displays something on broadcast the FCC might think they shouldn't, the broadcaster can ensure that no copy is made by the average citizen.
Of course, who expects the FCC to be consistent and have coherent policies?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcast Flag | Freedom of Expression
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