Court Issues “Anti-Family” Ruling on FCC Indecency Policy

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Parental rights advocates, anti-pornography activists and at least one current member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are condemning as “anti-family” a decision by a federal appeals court that declared the FCC’s ban on “fleeting obscenities”during prime-time hours as unconstitutional.

According to a report by, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit declared the FCC policy of fining broadcasters for indecent language or programming during prime-time viewing hours as “unconstitutionally vague,” and saying it had a “chilling effect” on broadcasters.
“Under the current policy, broadcasters must choose between not airing or censoring controversial programs and risking massive fines or possibly even loss of their licenses, and it is not surprising which option they choose,” wrote Judge Rosemary Pooler.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps condemned the decision as “anti-family.”
“I am shocked by such an anti-family decision coming out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals,” Copps said in a statement. “Sadly, the court focused its energies on the purported chilling effect our indecency policy has on broadcasters of indecent programming, and no time focusing on the chilling effect today’s decision will have on the ability of American parents to safeguard the interests of their children.”
Patrick A. Trueman, former chief of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, told CNS the decision by the New York-based court seems “foolish on its face.”
“How is the American public to understand that federal judges don’t know that use of the ‘F-word’ is indecent during prime-time television?” Trueman asked. “This ruling only increases the public’s belief that government is out of touch with the public and out of step with the U.S. Constitution.”
Timothy Winter, president of the Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council, was equally incensed. “Let’s be clear about what has happened here today,” he said. “A three-judge panel in New York once again has authorized the broadcast networks unbridled use of the ‘F-word’ at any time of the day, even in front of children,” Winter said. “The Court substituted its own opinion for that of the Supreme Court, the Congress of the United States, and the overwhelming majority of the American people. For parents and families around the country, this ruling is nothing less than a slap in their face.”
Both Winter and Copps are calling on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the Obama administration to immediately appeal. Copps went even further.
“I call on this Commission to move forward immediately to clarify and strengthen its indecency framework to ensure that American parents can protect their children from the indecent and violent images that bombard us more and more each day,” Copps said. “These parents — millions of them — are waiting.”

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