FCC Adjusts Indecency Enforcement

As the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its legal pursuit of an indecency fine against FOX stemming from a nudity complaint in a 2003 episode of “Married by America,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski signaled an adjustment in FCC actions against broadcast indecency.  He declared that following the recent Supreme Court decision on the subject, “[T]he Commission is reviewing its indecency enforcement policy to ensure the agency carries out Congress's directive in a manner consistent with vital First Amendment principles.” The Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this summer that released the FOX and ABC networks from penalties for three violations of FCC indecency rules. However, the Court was careful not to weaken the FCC’s role as an enforcer of decency on the airwaves.

Chairman Genachowski added, “In the interim, I have directed the Enforcement Bureau to focus its resources on the strongest cases that involve egregious indecency violations.  We also will continue to reduce the backlog of pending indecency complaints." The FCC has approximately 1.5 million indecency complaints still pending.

Earlier this year, NRB filed an Amicus Curiae brief with the Supreme Court supporting the FCC's prohibition on broadcast indecency during children's viewing hours. NRB President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright declared, “NRB has been a staunch defender of the First Amendment…. At the same time, we recognize that great responsibilities come with such a valuable freedom…. We don’t believe that the values of both free speech and fundamental decency are inconsistent.”

  • Find out more about this announcement.
  • See NRB’s Amicus Curiae brief on behalf of the FCC’s indecency rules.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations

Published: September 28, 2012