What happens now that Congress has given the FCC an indecency club 10 times bigger than its old one, but no direction on how to use it?
“It’s all going to be much more like a Kafka novel — no one knows what the crime is, but the consequences are fearsome,” says veteran communications lawyer John Crigler.
The FCC has said it’s okay to say “fuck” when “Saving Private Ryan” airs, but then fined a pubcaster for the same word in a Martin Scorsese-helmed doc on the blues. More perplexing, the agency once said that “fucking,” uttered as an exclamation on an NBC awards show, was OK — but then reversed the decision.
Even Rep. Gary Walden (R-Ore.), who voted June 7 for the indecency bill that has raised fines from $32,500 to $325,000 per infraction, admitted he’s “a bit confused” about what constitutes indecency.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who led the House crackdown on indecency, said the next day that he’s going to seek an indecency summit with the FCC to try clearing up the confusion.
But industry insiders aren’t hopeful. As one put it, “Every time the FCC tries to clear it up, they only make it muddier.”
The only thing to do now, as another says, is “wait for the next (fine) to come out, challenge it and take the new legislation to court.”