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Statement of The Media Institute in Response to Senate Commerce Committee's Hearing on Broadcast "Indecency"

FOR RELEASE: December 5, 2005

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute
703-243-5700

 

Arlington, Va., Dec. 5, 2005 - The Media Institute released the following statement today urging Congress not to extend "indecency" regulation to cable and satellite, and to reevaluate proposed stricter regulations on broadcasters. Joining in the statement were 12 members of the Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council, listed below.

Statement of The Media Institute in Response to
Senate Commerce Committee's Hearing on Broadcast "Indecency"

It appears that Congress remains all too willing to regulate the content of television and radio programming in ways that exceed current law and that raise serious First Amendment concerns. At a day-long hearing Nov. 29 billed as an "Open Forum on Decency," members of the Senate Commerce Committee expressed interest in expanding the scope of "indecency" regulation to include not only programming carried by over-the-air broadcasters, but also programming delivered by cable and satellite outlets.

Such a move would have serious First Amendment implications and almost certainly be found unconstitutional. Cable and satellite are both pay services invited into the home, and just as easily banished. Neither one is a "pervasive" medium, and neither is "scarce" -- criteria once used to justify extensive regulation of broadcasting.

Moreover, the indecency standard itself has long been constitutionally suspect as ambiguous and paradoxical, since indecent speech is otherwise protected by the First Amendment. Thus, any extension of indecency regulation to other media would only burden a large amount of additional speech by placing it under an untenable regulatory regimen.

We strongly urge members of Congress to stifle the impulse to expand "indecency" regulation to cable and satellite. At the same time, we recommend that Congress re-examine its recent support for constitutionally suspect legislation that would arbitrarily impose onerous fines and other penalties on broadcasters in the name of "decency."

Patrick D. Maines, President
The Media Institute

Richard T. Kaplar, Vice President
The Media Institute

Members of The Media Institute's
First Amendment Advisory Council*:

Floyd Abrams, Esq.
Cahill Gordon & Reindel
New York, N.Y.

Robert Corn-Revere, Esq.
Davis Wright Tremaine
Washington, D.C.

Lucy A. Dalglish, Esq.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Arlington, Va.

Kevin Goldberg, Esq.
Cohn and Marks
Washington, D.C.

Nat Hentoff
Author and columnist
New York, N.Y.

Adonis Hoffman, Esq.
American Association of Advertising Agencies
Washington, D.C.

Tony Mauro
American Lawyer Media
Washington, D.C.

Prof. Robert M. O'Neil
School of Law
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Va.

Bruce Sanford, Esq.
Baker & Hostetler LLP
Washington, D.C.

Dean Rodney A. Smolla
T.C. Williams School of Law
University of Richmond
Richmond, Va.

Kurt Wimmer, Esq., Chairman
Covington & Burling
Washington, D.C.

Prof. Laurence H. Winer
College of Law
Arizona State University
Tempe, Ariz.

*Organizational affiliations are noted for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily represent an endorsement of this statement by any of the organizations listed.