End Censorship on the Airwaves
July 22, 2008
Irvine, CA--The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a $550,000 indecency fine against CBS Corp. for the infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. The Court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in issuing the fine.
"In fact," said Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute, "the government should put an end to the non-objective 'indecency' laws that permit the FCC to dictate what Americans can say and hear on the airwaves.
"The Supreme Court has defined 'indecency' as speech that 'depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities and organs in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.' But which Americans count--and don't count--as part of the community? Why are they king? And how are broadcasters to divine their supposedly shared standards?
"As the history of the government's anti-indecency regime has shown, these questions are unanswerable. The only way for broadcasters to play it safe is to engage in self-censorship, cutting any material regulators might declare indecent.
"And once the government becomes the enforcer of 'community standards,' no speech is safe. How long until the courts start rubber-stamping the Bible Belt's efforts to suppress the theory of evolution on the grounds that it is offensive, corrupts young minds, and undermines community values?
"It's time for the government to stop telling Americans what we can say and hear on the airwaves, and to protect our Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech."
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