On the First Amendment front

A few bits of news on free speech:

: CBS, thank goodness, is going to make a court challenge to the FCC on the Janet Jackson case that supposedly had American culture tripping over its fallen knickers. At long fucking last. As Mel Karmazin, former head of CBS, has said: The reason CBS and other networks did not challenge indecency rulings in the courts was because the FCC blackmailed them by holding up licensing. So the indecent indecency laws have not been challenged since the ’70s. It is high time for a court case. If only they’d had the sense to mount this case before the last Supreme Court appointments.

: PBS is also ready to fight for the freedom to say a supposedly nasty word in Ken Burns’ new documentary on World War II. The occasional bad word can only liven up a Burns show, I’d say. Said Paula Kerger, CEO of PBS:

“To be able to see a documentary and to be able to let people tell their own story and not censor the words that are coming out of their mouths is tremendously important. That’s why this is such a big issue for us, and that’s why it is important for public broadcasting not to just roll over, but to be very clear that, in order to tell some stories, we may need to use language that, at the moment, the FCC is not sure they feel is appropriate for broadcast television.” . . .

Kerger said that reading recent FCC decisions on obscenity fines doesn’t help. “It’s a moving target. It’s hard to figure how to navigate through these decisions because there’s no clear guidance. We certainly have a couple of cases coming up that I hope we as an industry will stand together on and be bold.”

PBS could avoid a battle over “The War” by airing it after 10 p.m., outside the FCC’s so-called safe harbor of early prime time.

“I think this is going to be one of the seminal works of his career, and it deserves to be seen by the broadest possible audience,” Kerger said of the Burns documentary. “This is not just about Janet Jackson. This is about filmmakers with powerful stories who are not being allowed to tell those stories on public television or on broadcast television.”


: But Steve Yelvington alerts us to the next fight for free speech.

Our nannies in the House of Representatives officially declared war on social networking yesterday, overwhelmingly passing a law that would prohibit public schools and libraries from allowing anyone not an adult to use “chat rooms” and “social networking” sites. The definition is so broad that most of the Internet could be blocked.

The law, titled “Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006,” could block not only MySpace, but also Amazon.com, most major newspaper sites, Wikipedia, personal weblogs published on sites like Blogger.com.

The standards, according to cnet:

(i) is offered by a commercial entity;

(ii) permits registered users to create an online profile that includes detailed personal information;

(iii) permits registered users to create an online journal and share such a journal with other users;

(iv) elicits highly personalized information from users; and

(v) enables communication among users.

The bill now advances to the Senate, where it can be voted on by boobs who think the Internet is made out of tubes.

This is clearly a First Amendment matter. In all the talk about the digital divide, the point is made that anyone can go to a library to use the internet. But if this is enacted, they won’t be able to go to a library to publish. Their speech will be cut off.