NRB Spotlights Indecency Rule Fix

The FCC wants to know if it should only pursue “egregious” cases of indecency on the airwaves. NRB this week firmly answered, “No!” Dr. Frank Wright, President & CEO of NRB, notes: “Families with children need a media safe harbor. From the standpoint of protecting children, there are already many dangers permitted in broadcast programs and ads. It would be egregious for the FCC to lower its standards more.” 

NRB did not stop there though. In publicly filed comments, the association specified a proposal to amend the current indecency rules in a way that may stave off some challenges that have been raised in federal courts. One of the filing’s key authors, Craig Parshall, who is Senior Vice President & General Counsel for NRB, asserted, “We believe that the rules should be enforced against all indecency between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., not just the most outrageous kind. Our children are worth protecting, and that notion has been made clear by the Supreme Court. At the same time, we are urging the FCC to establish two narrow, very limited exceptions that will help fend off First Amendment challenges.” 

NRB’s filing outlines a “live news” exception to protect broadcasters against “a spontaneous utterance or unexpected physical occurrence” in situations where that broadcaster has taken reasonable precautions against such an incident airing. Also included is a proposed exception for fleeting incidents in the context of a broadcast with "serious artistic, literary, social, political, or scientific value for children," but only if the broadcaster gives adequate warnings and the program is age-appropriate for likely viewers. 

“While our proposal could permit an image of unclothed bodies in a concentration camp as part of a World War II documentary intended for older teens and adults, or the strong language used in the Saving Private Ryan-type situation,” Parshall adds, “this exception would not excuse broadcasters airing a live rock music program during the proscribed hours hosted by a celebrity for whom profanity is practically a second language. That latter case shouldn’t pass the ‘serious value’ test.”

The FCC has received over 100,000 public comments on its “egregious” policy inquiry.  Reply comments will be accepted by the FCC through July 18.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 21, 2013