This week, a federal appeals panel struck
a blow against the FCC's ability to censor "obscene"
content on television and radio. The FCC (though they may be
exaggerating their case) fears that the opinion "could gut
the ability of the commission to regulate any speech on
television or radio".
I've never understood the FCC's prerogative when it came to
regulating content for moral reasons. Nor have I understood
(or agreed with) the Court's first-amendment jurisprudence
when it comes to "obscenity" and "community standards".
The airwaves belong to the public. The first amendment
grants us freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Case
closed, as far as I'm concerned.
Community standards and obscenity are noticeably absent from
the Constitution -
probably invented from the ether by some of those "activist
judges" that today's Republicans get so up-in-arms about.
The government has already mandated that all televisions
contain a V-Chip and
that broadcasters rate their content according to the amount
of "language", violence, sexuality, and etc. that it contains.
I am in favor of warning labels. For example, I'm quite happy
that products list their ingredients and nutritional value.
Whether these labels are government-mandated or come about
"invisible hand of the market", they help make me a
more informed consumer.
I am generally in favor of personal choice. True choice can
about when you have informed choosers.
So, with these ratings (assuming that they are roughly
accurate) and V-Chip-like technology, we have the ability to
self-censor anything that we wouldn't want to watch (or more
often, wouldn't want our progeny to watch).
So fsck community standards, and fsck the FCC. Get out of
the business of fining Howard Stern and Opie and Anothony
for the garbage they say on the airwaves. If FOX wants to
hardcore pr0n channel, fine. Let them. So long as these
broadcasters are required to accurately rate their content
and we, their potential audience, have the ability to filter
out undesirable content, I don't see the harm. (Though I
also don't see the harm of a kid accidentally seeing a
breast on TV our hearing a "naughty" word. But that's just me.)
The FCC should have never been permitted to police
"community standards" in the first place. Maybe it was
"necessary" for a while before we had V-Chip technology. But
the technology has been mandated for 7 years now, and in
light of this, the
FCC's policing is wholly unwarranted.
The agency still
does some useful things, like certifying that electronic
devices don't interfere with one another. Let them do that,
and get out of our radios and television sets. The
government and my community have no right to
legislate what I choose to see and hear, nor do they have
the right to legislate what these broadcasters might wish to
say (absent, perhaps, making knowingly factually inaccurate
claims in order to deceive the public).