I haven’t blogged much in a while about the indecency brouhaha because I’m rather sick of it, and because the debate has gone from holding accountable the major broadcasters who rake in billions using a public resource–the airwaves–that they pay no rent or user fee on, to one about reactionary moralism. Unexpected? No. Disappointing? I guess so. Call me naive.
So, the Senate passed a defense bill on Tuesday that contained a rider to raise the top fine for broadcast indecency tenfold, from $27,500 per incident to $275,000. The bill also contains a rider the delays the implementation of the FCC’s new ownership rules, that still aren’t in effect due to a court injunction.
It’s interesting to note that there was no Senate floor debate over these riders, since they were mere backroom attachments — just like the rider that eviscerated LPFM back in 2000.
Now, it’s off to the House, where these riders have a much lower likelihood of making it through alive.
At this point I’ve ceased to care whether or not these provisions pass, since in six months it will all be ancient history, until the FCC does something stupid like fine a community radio broadcaster for playing a feminist anti-misogyny rap song. I might care more if the provision on the ownership rules rolled them back entirely rather than instituting a one-year delay.
It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy seeing Clear Channel and Infinity fined into the stone age — but that won’t happen. I don’t buy the argument that community broadcasters are in the same boat as these giants when it comes to things like indecency. This history of content regulation has always been prejudicial, political and inconsistent as hell — not to mention unprincipled. When the feds want to go after a community broadcaster airing unpopular views, they’ll do it, and use whatever rule or fine they can find that’ll do the job. If the most expeditious route is to use indecency rules, then they will. They’ll just as easily use some other rule or regulation if that’s easier.
It’s an enormous mistake to think that any logical principle is at play when it comes to broadcast regulation. So, screw Clear Channel, screw Congress and screw the FCC. Not a single one of them is actually interested in what would make broadcasting better for children, never mind all of us.