The FCC has a positive role to play in the world of media, but not through antiquated indecency regulations for broadcast.
As Congress considers Obama’s nomination for FCC chairman, it is a natural time to also consider the ongoing role of the FCC. Many laypeople think of the FCC as the language police, or the nudity czar, but regulating content is only a small part of its job. The FCC was created to regulate communications in the public interest – does that mean it should control the content of broadcast programming? Even if content restricting rules were once appropriate, has their relevance gone away given the new realities of the communications marketplace?
These questions were raised before the Supreme Court last year when Fox challenged the FCC’s latest indecency regulations, which were being used to fine Fox for “fleeting expletives.” Public Knowledge, together with other organizations, submitted a brief asking the Court to limit the FCC’s authority to regulate indecent content in broadcasts, which is out of step with modern technological realities and inconsistent with the First Amendment.