Civil Liberties

FCC: The Police


The FCC has accepted the argument that (a) it's OK to broadcast the word "bullshitter" during a news interview, and (b) the category "news interview" is broad enough to include a chat with a contestant from Survivor Vanuatu.

First Amendment fans shouldn't get too excited, though. Two other indecency rulings went the other way, and Michael Powell's successor as FCC chairman, Emeric Pressburger Kevin Martin, shows no sign of retiring his role as censor-in-chief. "Hollywood continues to argue they should be able to say the F-word on television whenever they want," he said. "The commission again disagrees."

And then there's this:

Broadcasters, who had challenged the original ruling as unconstitutional, … reiterated their long-standing complaint that FCC guidelines remain inconsistent and murky.

And one commissioner, Jonathan S. Adelstein, alleged that the reversals were not made on merit but to improve the agency's chances of winning the broadcasters' lawsuit by jettisoning its weakest parts.

"Litigation strategy should not be the dominant factor guiding policy when 1st Amendment protections are at stake," Adelstein said.