Clay Calvert


This article examines the FCC's vigorous new approach to indecency and profanity determinations, including both the legal issues and the greater cultural, political, economic, and social contexts in which that approach is developing. Part I describes the FCC's initial decision regarding the Golden Globes' 2003 broadcast and then compares it with the March 2004 reversal. In the process, Part I lays the historical framework for the FCC's power over indecent expression on the public airwaves. Part II then contextualizes the FCC's new course of action within the framework of the ongoing cultural wars and political battles in the United States and suggests that the FCC and Congress have unfairly singled out broadcasters for attack with an underinclusive approach to addressing what supposedly ails the nation. Part III more thoroughly addresses the negative ramifications of the FCC's actions and argues that the Commission must temper its approach lest the contentious concept of the "public interest,, which has long been left to marketplace forces, be dictated by the political forces that influence the five FCC commissioners and inevitably shift with the hot-button cultural movement of the day. Finally, the Conclusion calls for the FCC to abandon its new line of "profanity" enforcement and for Congress to cease being guided by election-year politics when it foists new obligations on the Commission. First Amendment rights must not be sacrificed for the short-term political gain of pandering politicians.