KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The struggle over indecent broadcast programming will continue until violations are defined more clearly and program ratings drop, the acting head of broadcasting at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville said Friday.
Dr. Barbara Moore said a recent federal court ruling does not resolve the controversy over indecent programs and free speech.
The U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Commission’s policy of fining stations which violate decency standards.
The ruling comes less than a month after the same court broadened federal power to limit the hours of indecent programs.
The recent actions do not signal a resolution to problems surrounding indecent programming, Moore said.
“The debate will continue because (indecent programming) is profitable,” Moore said.
“Usually the stations that get in trouble are the ‘shock jock’ type programs. The FCC doesn’t like what they are saying on the air, but the listeners do. These programs are bringing in big revenues. Most stations will think the profits from high ratings is worth the loss from FCC fines.”
The legal definition of indecent material is that which is described in patently offensive terms, as measured in contemporary community standards. Unlike obscenity, indecent speech is protected by the Constitution.
Moore said the definition is confusing and will lead to further controversy in the future. The FCC currently has 84 pending cases involving allegedly indecent broadcasts.
“Its hard to imagine how you’re going to come up with a definition that fits every possible situation,” Moore said. “As long as its profitable to get on the air and say things that shock people, and as long as there is an element of uncertainty, you’re going to see (broadcasters) pushing that envelope.”
Contact: Dr. Barbara Moore (615-974-4291)