The J Curve

Thursday, August 26, 2004

FCC Indecency & Howard Stern

I forgot to comment on the remarkably candid interview that FCC Chairman Michael Powell gave last month on the topics of broadband policy, industry transitions, regulatory philosophy, Skype and VOIP, censorship and Howard Stern. While the streaming video has been available, the transcript proliferated in the blogosphere:
Denise Howell captured the most salient parts of the broad discussion.
Marc Canter covers Powell’s further ruminations on indecency.

At minute 25:08 (and into the Q&A), I ask about the recent FCC crackdown on indecency. I had two pages of questions from Howard Stern (who has no great love for the FCC), and in a burst of recursive irony, I self-censored the indecent ones (like PBS recently). Here are some of the questions from Howard, and I only got to the first one in the interview:

“Aside from Oprah, who else will you NOT fine?”
“What makes the FCC qualified to determine what is indecent?”
“What role should religion play in determining indecency standards?”

The FCC answer points to the number of complaints as the motivation for the crackdown. This sounds like a voting system of “majority rules”…. which seems to run counter to the spirit of the First Amendment and the protection of minority voices.


  • David Reed's case for Open Spectrum policy can be found here. As they say on /., +5 Insightful read.

    The FCC distinction between "cable" and "air" is getting obsolete really fast. How do they legislate line-of-sight transmission between two points, does it count as "over the air"? What about multipath receiving which would not require line-of-sight?

    Paul B.

    By Blogger Paul B., at 10:43 AM  

  • An agency taking enforcement action based on receiving complaints is very rarely a matter of "majority rule." It is more like (1) finding an excuse for something you already wanted to do; (2) pleasing a base constituency; or (3) greasing squeaky wheels. My guess is that (1) and (2) are the usual explanations.

    By Blogger David Giacalone, at 2:14 PM  

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