Friday, July 20, 2007

New censorship threat introduced by Rockefeller

Watch your tongue. A "fleeting expletive" -- a singly naughty word or image -- broadcast over whatever media the FCC makes rules for could be deemed illegal, under a bill introduced by US Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Forget about context, because it wouldn't count. If George Bush tells Tony Blair that Syria should get Hezbollah to "stop doing this sh--," as George did over a live mike while his mouth was full, any station broadcasting those remarks could be in deep sh--.

The Center for Democracy and Technology contends there may be an upside to Rockefeller's delusional fantasy of controlling individual words and images.

...with Congress effectively knocking a key contextual factor out of the indecency analysis (i.e., whether a word was repeated or fleeting), it increases the likelihood that courts will have to address the issue of whether it is constitutionally permissible to regulate isolated utterances of questionable language. Having this issue finally addressed by courts will — we hope — be a good thing for free speech jurisprudence, particularly because we think that the FCC’s constitutional authority to regulate broadcast content is weak – and weakening.

As technology continues to advance, the time is coming when the constitutional question will not be, “to what degree may the FCC regulate indecent speech?” but rather, “can the FCC regulate indecent speech at all?” In Pacifica and other cases, the Supreme Court argued that government regulation of broadcast content is constitutionally permissible because of the medium’s unique “invasiveness.”

The CDT may be putting too much faith in the federal courts, since so many of them have been converted into conservative sychophants by the Bushies. It's better to kill this bill now, before it can be used to knock off another piece of the Constitution.

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