Chernin Warns Against Overdoing FCC Indecency Enforcement

Oct 21, 2008  •  Post A Comment

News Corp. President-Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin is unleashing a broad defense of broadcasters against FCC indecency enforcement and warning starkly about the danger that a Supreme Court case could pose to First Amendment freedoms.
Honored Tuesday night at the Media Institute’s annual Friends & Benefactors event with the group’s Freedom of Speech Award, Mr. Chernin said there could be devastating repercussions to the wrong ruling in a case in which the FCC found Fox stations’ airing of Nicole Richie’s and Cher’s live profane comments in two Billboard Music Awards in 2002 and 2003 amounted to indecency violations.
In prepared remarks, he called the case—slated to be heard by the high court Nov. 4—“an absolute threat to the First Amendment.”
The case “hinges on utterances that were unscripted on live television. If we are found in violation, just think about the radical ramifications for live programming—from news, to politics, to sports … in fact, to every live broadcast television event,” he said. “The effect would be appalling.”
The court case stems from the FCC’s attempt to ramp up indecency enforcement by starting to regard fleeting expletives as indecent. The FCC generally had overlooked expletives uttered in live unscripted shows in the past. The commission didn’t fine Fox stations.
In the high court case, the FCC is appealing an appellate court ruling that overturned the FCC’s policy change.
Mr. Chernin conceded that he is defending some less than ideal material in the high court case and others, including one over episodes of “Married by America” that showed strippers.
“I’ll admit some of the content we are defending is not particularly tasteful: the expletives, the brief nudity, the carefully placed whipped cream and, of course, the pixels,” he said. “I would not have allowed my own children, when they were younger, to watch some of these shows.”
Still, he said, his company has no choice because the government is trying to act as censor.
“I vow to fight to the end our ability to put occasionally controversial, offensive and even tasteless content on the air,” he declared.
“As a media company, we have not just a right but a responsibility to stand up to the government when it crosses that First Amendment line in the sand—even if the content we are defending is in bad taste. And in the indecency context, that line has not only been crossed, it has been obliterated.”
Mr. Chernin warned that if the government “gets its foot in the censorship door with respect to unpopular entertainment content, it is the beginning of the steep slide toward censoring unpopular political content. And we have seen the beginnings of this downward slide in a recent case where the FCC initially found indecent content in a news program. If we allow our government to intrude into the creative process to censor the ‘bad words’ at issue in the Fox case, I am afraid we will soon reach the bottom of the slide—to America’s detriment.”
Mr. Chernin also accused groups claiming to be interested in “protecting children” of “helping the government in its attempts to censor television.
“The job of protecting children is far too important to leave to government bureaucrats or so-called public interest groups,” he said. “The job of protecting children lies with parents.”
He said that with the FCC acting on indecency, the government “has succumbed to the view of a particularly vocal minority.”
“Quite simply, it is time for the government to get out of the business of regulating ‘indecent’ speech on broadcast TV. The threat it poses to core First Amendment values cannot be justified in our technologically diverse world. Parents have the tools to decide what is appropriate for their children.”
The Media Institute also honored Andrea Wong, president-CEO of Lifetime, with the American Horizon Award.


  1. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here 🙂

  2. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

Leave a Reply to Buy Links Cancel Reply

Email (will not be published)