Fox fights back

Fox fights back

: I just got a copy of Fox Broadcasting’s rebuttal to the FCC’s record fine against Married by America. It is a great document.

I’ll proudly note first that I am a footnote for my reporting (complete with permalink).

Mr. Jarvis concludes that the “latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network . . . was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people.” Id. Mr. Jarvis further complains that “[i]t is Constitutionally abhorrent that only three people can cause the government to abuse the First Amendment and attempt to censor and chill speech.” Id.

I am honored to officially stand between the FCC and the First Amendment, even if only in a minor supporting role.

Fox added an important observation — as Mediaweek did yesterday — about the tactics of the Bozell complaint factory: “Only one complainant professed even to have watched the program.” Exactly. The FCC does nothing to confirm that these alleged complaints come from citizens or that they watched the show. Bozell apparently pays lackeys to ferret out “filth” and then uses his cult members and his FCC bitches to do is bidding. And media follow right along without asking the right questions.

Also, I never reported the audience size for this allegedly indecent show before. Fox says that 5.1 million households watched (which means more viewers than that). So it’s 5.1 million vs. 3.

Whose community standards is the FCC enforcing? Not my community’s.

And that raises another point that is the subject of my next FOIA request: The FCC, according to Fox, does nothing to discover and discern community standards. I’m going to ask to see any and all surveys, focus groups, and studies of the community and its standards used by the FCC in its enforcement of those standards.

Fox makes a number of good arguments in its 77-page filing against the FCC’s continued censorship. Among them:

: The FCC is enforcing an indecency standard that the Supreme Court specifically rejected in the Communications Decency Act.

… the Supreme Court in Reno v. ACLU ruled that the indecency standard that Congress proposed for the Internet in the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) was unconstitutional. The CDA’s definition of indecency was nearly identical to the broadcast standard

  • Jaybird

    Like Ashcroft was the best thing that ever happened to the ACLU, the complete and total dismissal of the people who complained through the PTC is the best thing that has ever happened to the coffers of the Parents’ Television Council.

  • Joe

    The complete and total dismissal of the PTC complainers by the FCC would be a much, much better thing to happen for American television viewers and free speech in general. Of course, since that hasn’t happened yet – since the FCC is listening so intently to the voices of a very vocal advocacy group, the rest of us (including Mr. Jarvis) should be screaming at the top of our lungs to stop them for damaging our First Amendment freedoms.

  • matt

    jeff in your UPDATE to your post “The First Amendment gets its day in court” on dec 5, i think you have it right. i believe that the FCC will back down in the case on Fox, either dropping the issue altogether, or reducing the fine to a reasonable level. i only believe that they will do this because it’s the only way that they could possible retain the influence over the broadcast media that they have now. isn’t the maxim, “the object of power is power”?
    in proceeding with this case there are maybe 3 possible outcomes.
    1. the FCC actually is given the power to oversee cable, satellite, and whatever other “broadcast” media it sees fit. (this is the least likely outcome in my opinion)
    2. the FCC losses control of any regulation, outside of strict obscenity requirements, of broadcast media. (not very likely given the power games that go on in DC)
    3. the FCC is required to specifically codify it’s interpretation of indecency standards. this would actually not be a bad outcome in regards to the first amendment and broadcast media, but it would reduce the amount of “threat” that the FCC can wield, therefore i don’t consider it a win for them.
    given the three possible outcomes, and the likelihood of each, the only possible way for the FCC to win this battle is not to play the game at all.

  • Seppo

    Mr. Jarvis, any chance that your enthusiasm for free speech might someday include the intent of the gentlemen who passed the first amendment: free political speech?
    No, that would mean opposing the McCain-Feingold gift to the media companies, instead of cheerleading whatever salacious chatter trips your particular trigger. Couldn’t have that.

  • The problem is not choosing the shows with a V-chip; it’s screening the ads and promos.
    There needs to be an alternative to the PTC that doesn’t look to the government as a solution to this, but doesn’t try to beat on the iron door that is the networks either. Hmm…

  • Ripley

    Jeff, not sure if you’ve ever covered this before but I was wondering if you could fill us in on exactly where the $$ from these fines goes. Is Michael Powell running a one man collection dept. to balance the budget? If that’s the case, maybe we all owe him an apology and a hug. (The question is serious, though, and really begs an answer.)
    Has Powell had any closed-door meetings with Jerry Falwell to discuss the outrageous and offensive Teletubbies – you know what I mean.
    Gotta run – think I hear the Thought Police knocking……

  • Michael

    Ripley, I think the fines go into the general treasury, which is the large pot of money that tax revenue falls into.

  • – Looks like the smarting over the Sinclair smackdown the liberals on the FCC commission had to endure from the tens of thousands of really nasty Emails from Conservatives is rearing its ugly vengefull head…. The FCC’s going to lose this one too…..Bush needs to clean house in the FCC and get them back on track…..As it stands the partisanship is so blatent they might as well let CBS run it…..Well the old CBS anyway….After fridays report and the ass kicking smoke settles we’ll have to see if upper management still thinks media bias sells…..

  • ZL

    You have a lot of good arguments. All the sadder then if you overdo it and start using terms like ‘jihad’ which, after all, has a more serious connotation these days.

  • Seppo, the problem is, who decides what the line is between political and non political speech? The solution, as difficult as it may be, leave speech alone, period. Personally, I think Television is a wretched influence on kids, not because of any erotic or profane content, but because of all the commercials which encourage them to be insecure about how they look while turning them into obsese diabetics. As with these problems, restricting free speech is not the solution.

  • Chap