Media Watchdog Calls for Enforcement of TV Indecency Laws

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A New York-based media watchdog group is calling on two congressional subcommittees to challenge a government policy it says "virtually ensures that there will be little or no enforcement of Broadcast Indecency law violations by TV stations."

Morality In Media (MIM) told CNSNews.com that it is calling on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications and the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications to challenge what it sees as a failure by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce indecency laws against TV stations that broadcast smut.

Under current policy, the FCC will act on complaints of indecent broadcasting only if the complaint is documented. The agency requires complainants to supply a tape or transcript of the material they find offensive.

"Since viewers seldom have prior warning of indecent TV programming and are therefore unable to set up a video recorder in advance to copy the broadcast, what we have is an FCC policy that hamstrings enforcement of the indecency law," said Patrick McGrath, MIM communications director, in an interview with CNSNews.com.

"We're trying to persuade the FCC to change that policy, but they've been rather resolute in not carrying out any indecent enforcement unless they have the aggrieved person provide the tape. So, we're trying to lean on them through the medium of congressional oversight so that they drop this requirement. They've been able to enforce this in the past without this requirement, and we'd like for them to return to this standard," McGrath said.

As part of "Turn Off TV Day" on February 14th (Valentine's Day), MIM is asking viewers fed up with indecency on TV to write Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC) on the Senate side and Representatives WA Tauzin (R-LA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) in the House, the chairs and ranking minority members of their respective committees.

"No one expects the FCC to investigate every indecent complaint," MIM president Robert Peters said in a statement to CNSNews.com. "Many complaints lack necessary information or describe programming that is clearly not 'indecent' under the law. But to refuse to investigate all complaints unaccompanied by a tape or transcript is arbitrary and does not fulfill the commission's responsibility to 'execute and enforce' the provisions of the Communications Act."

"On behalf of America's children and the majority of adults who do not choose to be assaulted in the privacy of their homes by broadcast indecency, Congress should challenge the FCC failure to enforce the indecency law before the precipitous decline in decency standards becomes a total collapse," Peters said.