The Daily Stern

The Daily Stern

: FIGHTING BACK: At last, media companies are fighting the FCC on indecency and profanity. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The crackdown by federal regulators and lawmakers aiming to impose stricter decency standards on the public air waves will face its first major challenge today, as a group comprising media and legal organizations, broadcasters and entertainers seeks to reverse a ruling against rocker Bono of the group U2.

Broadcasters Viacom Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group Inc., the Screen Actors Guild and the magician duo Penn & Teller are among those petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to overturn its March ruling finding Bono “indecent” and “profane” for using the term “f-ing brilliant” at a live awards show in January 2003. Bono, who has apologized for the incident, hasn’t signed the petition.

An official at NBC, the unit of General Electric Co. that aired the show, said that the company is filing its own petition today seeking a similar review by the FCC. (NBC said its chairman, Bob Wright, has written an opinion piece scheduled for today’s Wall Street Journal in which he expresses concern that creativity could be stifled by an over-zealous approach to regulating content and urges lawmakers to exercise restraint.)

Initially dismissed as election-year politics, a spate of FCC fines and hearings as well as pending legislation by Congress are stirring fears among broadcast-media companies, entertainers and free-speech advocates that the efforts could put them at a competitive disadvantage against cable networks, satellite and other media not bound by indecency laws. The Bono ruling has stoked those fears, as have proposed fines as high as $3 million a day in what these parties see as an expanding interpretation of existing indecency law.

The FCC’s crackdown “has sent shock waves through the broadcast industry, and the lack of clear guidelines, coupled with threats of draconian administrative action, has forced licensees to censor speech that unquestionably is protected by the First Amendment,” the petition says in part. In the Bono decision, the five-member commission reversed an earlier ruling by its own staff attorneys, as well as years of legal precedent finding that fleeting, nonsexual use of the word spoken on air by the Irish rock star didn’t violate federal law.

: UPDATE: Ernie Miller sends a PDF link to the Robert Corn-Revere filing with the FCC seeking to overturn the Bono ruling.