FCC Accuses CBS of Disclosing Secrets in Indecency Fight

Jul 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The fight between the Federal Communications Commission and broadcasters over indecency violations intensified Monday as the FCC accused CBS of publicly revealing confidential discussions and breaking court rules.

“CBS has committed a serious violation of this court’s rules regarding the confidentiality of pre-argument conferences,” the FCC said in its filing with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, calling the disclosures “an apparent effort to gain a tactical advantage” and “particularly unfair, misleading and in several respects inaccurate.”

CBS responded in a statement, saying while it disagreed with the commission’s filing, the network would delete the references to which the agency objected.

The agency had also nudged the court to sanction CBS and its attorneys.

The latest skirmish comes as the FCC tries to persuade the appeals court to hand back to the agency part of a March 15 indecency ruling that set guidelines on use of the S-word and the F-word. Last week Fox, CBS and NBC asked the court to prevent the FCC from reclaiming the case unless the agency also suspended enforcement of fines against the stations that were penalized.

In today’s filing, the FCC rejected CBS’s charge that it was trying to “manipulate the appellate process” and said “improper disclosures of confidential discussions pervade CBS’s opposition.”

The FCC last week took the unusual step of asking to take back the case because of concerns the agency hadn’t provided adequate due process to some stations that were accused of running four programs that had been ruled indecent.

The four programs were ABC’s “NYPD Blue” (July 1 and 3, 2003), CBS’s “The Early Show” (Dec. 4, 2004) and Fox’s 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards. The stations complained they weren’t given the normal chance to respond to the decision and suffered an injury even though they weren’t fined for the violations.