Author Archive

Taping the Mouth on Free Speech

March 17, 2010

“Censorship on an individual/parental level is a fundamental part of being a good parent. But censorship at a government level is an entirely different matter because it means a small handful of individuals get to decide what the whole nation is permitted to see, hear or think” –Adam D. Thierer, Director of Telecommunications Studies at Cato Institute

The conflict which is being imposed on us citizens is the censorship of  any type of obscenity, indecency, and profanity exposed to the public by media. Legislation has taken an extreme toll with the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 to add high fines on broadcasters, which amounts up to a maximum fine of $325,000 for each violation and a maximum of $3 million for any single act or failure to act, if any were to subject to inappropriate profanity and graphic violence on the air. While we may see riding the airwaves of such foul language and violence as a better good to protect our children, we are in fact depleting our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights of free speech. This conflict doesn’t only threaten major commercial stations but smaller public funded stations as well. Such actions could bring smaller broadcasters into bankruptcy so major precautions have been made by these broadcasters to censor any material that would fall under such pretenses so that these fines will not be implemented. It has come to a point where broadcasters don’t even want to take the risk of seeing if a controversial subject matter would be labeled as a violation. One example that had been given by U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders was that sixty-six ABC affiliates refused to air the movie “Saving Private Ryan” on Veterans Day for fear that they would be fined for displaying graphic material, neglecting the fact that this movie demonstrates the hardships and turmoil that American soldiers went through to fight for freedom against Hitler and Nazi Germany in WWII. It should not be the duty of the government to ensure that such legal actions are enacted but the responsibility of the parent or broadcasters to censor such material from their children and decide what material should be considered explicit. It is our divine right to have such free speech and opting these limitations with censorship will only deteriorate our freedom.

“Our programming director, and no doubt most local programmers, have become very cautious. Once the FCC starts telling broadcasters they must not use certain words or situations, programmers tend to avoid producing and airing programs with words and situations that might even come close to content that could be subject to fines.” From U.S. Rep Bernie Sanders

“It is not for this Congress to put limits on free speech. The public decides what they want to listen to and what they want to hear. They can change the channel, they can change the station, they can turn it off. It is not just speech that we agree with and we think is right that we have to tolerate. The true test of freedom of speech is if we tolerate ugly speech, obnoxious speech, and speech that we disagree with.” From Congressman Gary Ackerman

Click for Legislation Details

Scholarly Articles:

Bush Signs Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act

Oscars: Five-Second Delay “Censorship?”

Senate and House Broadcast Indecency Hearings

4 versions of Bill Number H.R.310