FCC indecency regs challenged

Federal Communications Commission procedures for penalizing broadcasters accused of airing “indecent” programming violate the Constitution, a coalition of broadcasters, film studios and journalist orgs charged in a suit filed in federal court here yesterday.

The suit, filed just one day after the U.S. Court of Appeals here “stayed” the effective date of new FCC broadcast indecency rules, claims broadcasters are unfairly placed at the FCC’s mercy once they have been fined for indecency.

“These procedures fail to afford broadcasters any assurance of prompt FCC action or, even more important, any means of obtaining prompt judicial review,” the lawsuit stated.

Plaintiffs in the case include the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the National Assn. of Broadcasters and the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as two radio broadcasters facing indecency fines: New York-based Infinity Broadcasting and Irving, Texas-based Evergreen Media Corp.

Tim Dyk, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said there are no “constitutional defenses” for broadcasters accused of indecency. For that reason, the vast majority of broadcasters cited for alleged violations simply FCC pay the fine, rather than face the “enormous time and expense” fighting the case.

Plaintiffs have asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the FCC from continuing its indecency fine practices.

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